Everything he touches turns to excitement! - Goldfinger reviewed
"You like a close shave, don't you?"
It always makes me groan when someone connected to a new James Bond
film entering production inevitably expresses a desire to return to the
down to earth Sean Connery films. What down to earth Sean Connery
films?! The Connery era was pure escapism, with lasers, ejector seats,
gadgets, colourful villains with metal hands, hollowed out volcanoes,
jet packs, grand scale battle sequences, eye-popping production design,
double entendres, quips and a cool, unflappable hero who wanders around
constantly amused by himself and his surroundings, safe in the
knowledge that the opposition don't stand a chance! In a word it was
FUN. 1964's Goldfinger, probably the best known and iconic film in the
series, nailed down the James Bond 'formula', set the blueprint for the
franchise and launched Bondmania. Sean Connery, the original and
greatest James Bond, must have felt like the fifth Beatle at times. I
may have watched Goldfinger 37 million times since I was a child but
it's still great fun and it still looks terrific.
Goldfinger's pre-credit sequence is one of the coolest and most
effective in the series and firmly established the tradition of a stunt
or action scene before the titles in Bond films, often in isolation to
the actual plot of the film. In the Goldfinger PTS, James Bond (with
the sleek retro hums of the 007 music) plants some explosives in a
factory type facility to destroy a Drug lord's HQ ("At least they won't
be using heroin flavored bananas to finance revolutions") and then
unzips his black jumpsuit to reveal a white tuxedo. It's a classic and
iconic moment. 007 then electrocutes someone in the bath, follows with
a very, very, very famous quip and we move into a wonderful title
sequence (designed by Richard Brownjohn) backed by the atmospheric
Bondian strains of Shirley Bassey's familiar theme.
The film starts in Miami after the titles. Bond is keeping a watch on a
certain Auric Goldfinger at a beach resort. Goldfinger is a shady gold
obsessed millionaire and during his surveillance Bond discovers that
Goldfinger, despite being a tycoon, is cheating some poor fellow at
cards. 007 rumbles him by seducing Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), a
woman who has been helping Goldfinger to cheat by using binoculars to
watch his opponent's cards and a radio device to communicate into the
ear-piece Goldfinger is wearing. Bond takes Jill back to his hotel but
his plans are interrupted by a karate-chop from Oddjob (Harold Sakata),
Goldfinger's memorable korean henchman with the razor brimmed derby
hat. Bond wakes up to find that Jill is dead and lying on the bed
covered in gold paint. It's a warning for Bond not to pry too deeply
into Goldfinger's affairs.
007 returns to London and has a testy exchange with M who he feels has
been keeping him the dark regarding his objectives. His task is
explained in clearer terms. How does Goldfinger move his gold around
the world? Bond plays an amusing game of golf with Goldfinger with one
or two twists and turns and threats using a bar of gold supplied by the
British government to pique Goldfinger's interest and gamble with.
After watching Oddjob behead a statue by using his hat as a frisbee,
Bond plants a homing device in Goldfinger's car and then picks up the
trail which leads him to Switzerland and the United States.
Why is Goldfinger working with the Chinese? What is 'Operation Grand
Slam'? And how does Fort Knox fit into this puzzle? It's up to James
Bond to find out...
Goldfinger is in many ways the quintessential James Bond film. On my
list it ranks second behind On Her Majesty's Secret Service in the
series as a whole. Classic bits? Too many to mention but the Aston
Martin DB5 (("An ejector seat? You're joking!") chase in Goldfinger's
factory, the stylish scenes in Switzerland that remind one of a
Hitchcock film, and the pre-credit sequence immediately spring to mind.
Plus of course Honour Blackman as Pussy Galore. As far as Bond girls
go, Blackman is right up there with Diana Rigg and Ursula Andress.
Pussy is an ace pilot who is crucial to Goldfinger's plans and the
cool, feisty Blackman is more than a match for 007. Harold Sakata is
also unforgettable as the silent, menacing henchman with the steel
brimmed hat and his battle with Bond later on in the film is great fun
and superbly staged.
Goldfinger has some incredible production design by Ken Adam and I have
to mention the Fort Knox sets, which look amazing. Even though it was
made in the early sixties, Goldfinger still has a slightly futuristic,
heightened sense of reality, like a retro vision of the future. John
Barry's second contribution to the world of James Bond produced a
wonderful, atmospheric score and the film has a classic villain in
German actor Gert Frobe was dubbed by Michael Collins but you'll hardly
notice. It always amuses me when the villain begins or ends a sentance
with 'Mr Bond' and Goldfinger does it a lot in this film. He has some
excellent lines throughout the film. "Man has climbed Mount Everest,
gone to the bottom of the ocean," says Goldfinger in a great sequence
where his explains his masterplan to a group of criminals in a
high-tech room with revolving walls and maps. "He's fired rockets at
the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human
endeavor... except crime!" I should mention of course probably the most
famous scene in the film where Bond is strapped to a table with a laser
heading towards a place that he probably wishes it wasn't. The exchange
between Bond and Goldfinger in this wonderful scene is probably the
most oft-quoted in the series. I also love Goldfinger's dry; " Forgive
me Mr Bond, but I must arrange to seperate my gold from the late Mr
Solo." Goldfinger is a great villain because he's ingenious and
outwardly composed but he can get flustered.
The plot sticks reasonably close to the novel but they did change the
actual method of Goldfinger's scheme in an inventive way for the film
version. In my opinion it made for a more exciting and clever
Goldfinger is very well cast and in addition to all of the above there
are welcome appearances from Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, and Desmond
Llewelyn, all of whom would become fondly remembered regulars in the
series. Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson (Jill's revenge obsessed
sister) also makes an impression. Sean Connery as James Bond walks
around looking constantly amused, safe in the knowledge that he is the
coolest man in the world. He's just incredibly suave, handsome, witty,
tall and charismatic. He makes Daniel Craig resemble a man who has just
climbed out of a white van with a copy of the Daily Star tucked
underneath his arm. I enjoy Connery's performance in Goldfinger a lot
because he seems to be having a lot of fun.
Goldfinger is a wonderful piece of entertainment. The film doesn't
actually have that many different locations, especially compared to
later entries, but it still has a sense of scope and ambition that
lifts the franchise to new heights. In fact, you could say that
Goldfinger was the first modern action film and that a lot of the stuff
it introduced is still being riffed on today. It must have been an
amazing experience to go to the cinema in 1964 and watch this for the
first time on a big screen. All in all you'd have to have a heart of
stone not to enjoy this film.
Goldfinger is stylish fun and highly recommended.