Goldfinger (1964)

GoldfingerA review by Ross Joseph

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Harry Saltzman & Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn
Based on Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
Starring Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata
Music by John Barry

Goldfinger, he’s the man, the man with the Golden Gun…umm no.

Growing up, I always confused Goldfinger with The Man with the Golden Gun and I have no idea why. Well, apart from the Gold aspect. Still, they starred two very different Bond actors, two very different villains and Goldfinger is easily the better film. WAY better.

Awkward silence. For my thoughts on The Man with the Golden Gun you will need to wait many months… so while you wait, check out all my other James Bond reviews. Oh man, that took ages didn’t it. Sorry. Trying to attempt to add a little more humour into the review. Speaking of adding humour, Goldfinger.

After a pre-credit scene that has no relevance to the rest of the film, James Bond conveniently stays at the same hotel as Auric Goldfinger, and M says to keep an eye on the gold-loving man. Being the pesky agent that he is, Bond sleeps with Auric’s gal pal, Jill Masterson and forces Goldfinger to lose at a game of cards he was cheating at. When Auric’s henchman Oddjob kills Bond’s newest squeeze by covering her in gold paint 007 wants answers.

Bond’s mission should he choose to accept it (enough of the lame jokes), is to figure out how Goldfinger is smuggling his gold internationally. Sounds simple, right? Q branch outfits Bond with the latest gadgets and vehicle in the form of a 1963 Aston Martin DB5. Thanks to his charm and skills James Bond figures out how Goldfinger is smuggling gold, and his plans for Operation Grand Slam are revealed at the 11th hour where the film concludes in big battle.

Okay, why the lame jokes and attempts at humour? This plot is utterly ridiculous. I have major issues from the get go. Jill Masterson is gorgeous and, even in gold paint, still very attractive. She and Bond share a connection for a single night, if that. He beds her, grabs a drink from the fridge and wakes to find her dead. Suddenly he’s pissed off. I’m not saying 007 doesn’t care about the ladies but he has known her for a few hours at best, and now I’m meant to believe he cares for this woman enough to raise his voice to his superior?

Lets say you don’t find that so crazy and want more. The plot itself has James Bond being tasked with figuring out how Goldfinger smuggles gold internationally. Really? SPECTRE is a massive organisation and you’re worried about a gold smuggler? I just find it so nuts 007 is given this mission. Clearly this is something Felix and the CIA could handle on their own but nope, MI6 is needed.

Oddjob and his hat, I’m not joking. He throws his hat with perfect precision and has the strength to crush a golf ball in his hands. I am not making this up people.

This entire film is like a kick in the nuts especially after the serious and dark From Russia With Love. A few gadgets here and there but nothing I can’t see being actual and current in this day and age. Goldfinger on the other hand is just—so far from the previous two movies.

But then I watch the film again and again. My thoughts on the film continue to change each time and each time it’s so much more positive. I no longer care about any of the far-fetched plot elements and the over-use of gadgets. I don’t mind the motivations James Bond has at the beginning because it’s quickly apparent that Sean Connery is having so much fun. And, frankly, so am I.

Goldfinger is the most fun you can have up to this point. Keep in mind Dr No and From Russia With Love were both more serious in tone. So the lighter mood and injected humour is pleasing here. Like stepping into cold water, it’s a shock at first but upon multiple viewings I love it.

There is a reason Goldfinger is often cited as the best James Bond film of all time. Even to this day, theme songs and films are still compared to Goldfinger because it has 95% of the Bond formula here. Iconic villain. Check. Gadgets and tricked out car. Check. Iconic henchman with gimmick of some kind. Check. Aston Martin. Check. Charm and humour. Check. Bond girl with corny name. Check. Big end battle. Check. The elements are all there. Especially the banter and play between Bond and villain. In this case, a game of golf.

Bond and Goldfinger play a simple game of golf and it’s here that each person figures out whats going on. Goldfinger doesn’t like to lose and Bond has the upper hand. And Oddjob grunts and cheats. Plus he still crushes things with his hands and his hat is pretty awesome.

I really like that during this film Bond is an absolute pest. He teases and plays with Goldfinger to just piss him off. He pretends to know what Operation Grand Slam is and, if it wasn’t for that, he’d be dead. I just love it. It’s all about gold. You can easily see why people love this film so much and hold it so high on any 007 list.

Character-wise, all the familiar faces return. M is here for a few short scenes to get Bond on his way. He has a few lighter moments and even gets upset with Bond’s over-knowledge of everything including Brandy. Moneypenny always looks beautiful and the flirting with Bond is set to high. I always want more of her scenes. Sean Connery has never looked more at home in the role. I know he still has a few more films as James Bond to go but here, with the added bits of humour, he really gets to roll with the punches (pun fully intended). One of the best parts has James Bond in a prison under the guard of Goldfinger’s men. 007’s form of escape is downright brilliant and his method for making the guard enter the room always has me laughing. This couldn’t have been pulled off without Connery’s charm.

Another returning character is Q played by Desmond Llewelyn. This time he just doesn’t really like 007. Previously Q was always very respectful of James Bond but now he just can’t be bothered dealing with the man. I really love the scene in Q branch. Desmond Llewelyn plays the part perfectly and you really feel for this guy. He spends so much time and effort making these amazing devices and James Bond treats them with no respect. You can understand why Q is more than a little upset with 007. Their chemistry is utterly fantastic and a great new addition to the formula.

Auric Goldfinger is played by German actor Gert Fröbe. Obsessed with gold and a pudgy figure, Goldfinger is a really rememberable villain. Physically he is no much for Bond but intellectually he out-runs 007, almost. Because of his fairly thick German accent, Gert was dubbed throughout Goldfinger by Michael Collins. I never knew this fact until delving into the bonus features and audio commentaries. It is such a perfect job you would never know. My only down side is that Goldfinger just lets Bond live for far too long. So many chances to kill him but he always lets him live. It’s explained in the film why, but I never accepted that reasoning.

Since James Bond needs a physical threat to battle, Olympic silver medallist weightlifter Harold Sakata was cast as Oddjob. Stocky henchman to Goldfinger. A man with the strength to turn a golf ball to powder and the ability to throw his metal rimmed hat with perfect precision. Apart from a few grunts and hums, Oddjob never speaks throughout the film but his figure poses a threat Bond needs to take seriously. A great addition to Goldfinger and iconic in his own right.

Did someone say iconic? To round out the new characters in the film is Pussy Galore. I’ll give you a moment to get over the name. The producers obviously did because they were almost forced to rename the character for fear the censors would have issues, but thankfully, Pussy Galore lives. Thanks to the excellent casting of Honor Blackman, already famous from The Avengers, the TV show not the Marvel film, Pussy Galore will forever go down in film history. She is sexy, deadly and a strong female character. Although beginning as a threat to Bond, his charms quickly win her over—in a scene I’m not too fond of.

SERIOUS TALK HERE

I may be reading too much into this, so I apologise in advance. I’m probably one of the only James Bond fans that have never read the original Ian Fleming novels. My James Bond is that of the films and my knowledge of the books is next to zero. I am aware, though, that in the book Pussy Galore is a lesbian. In the film, however, it’s hinted at upon her first meeting with Bond, where she mentions his charms won’t work on her. It’s implied, without being said.

The whole lesbian/not lesbian angle doesn’t bother me at all. She’s a great character either way. My issue is during her walk with Bond in the stables. After being asked to change into ‘something more suitable’, Bond and Pussy get into a playful fight, tossing each other into the hay. When Pussy is on her back, Bond moves on top of her while she tries to force him off. Even while kissing her, Pussy fights him, but eventually gives in and embraces him passionately leading to sex—implied of course.

It’s probably not meant to be thought of the way I did—but I just felt a little uncomfortable on these latest viewings. It’s never come across this way before, but sadly now, I couldn’t see it without thinking it.

END OF SERIOUS TALK

As I said, that was the serious talk. But we’re back now. What would James Bond be without his Aston Martin DB5? The very first appearance and easily the most recognisable 007 vehicle to ever grace the screen. Tricked out courtesy of Q branch, The DB5 looks absolutely stunning on screen and has a classic look that, even to this day, feels right at home in a 007 film. Even in the recent Skyfall, memories of 007 driving through Switzerland came to mind. Its presence in the film was a stroke of genius on the part of the producers and Aston Martin working together. A job very well done.

John Barry returns for another amazing soundtrack and special credit must be given to everyone in the sound department. Like an orgasm for the ears.

Final thoughts on the film are easy. I really enjoyed Goldfinger. Easily one of the better 007 films and clearly made a major impact on the franchise as a whole with everyone on screen having so much fun that it oozes out to the viewing audience. Yes, the film as a few issues, but what film is ever without fault? I wouldn’t rank it above From Russia With Love as that continues to hold strong as my favourite, so far, of the Connery era film, but Goldfinger is one entertaining movie.

A must watch and the easiest James Bond film for anyone wishing to get into the franchise.

James Bond will return in Thunderball