Bondathon #3: Goldfinger (1964)

Posted: March 14, 2016 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goldfinger (1964)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Starring: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe

In the case of most of my favorite film franchises, I have no recollection of how, when or with which film my love affair for the series got started. Not so with James Bond. Sometime during the Pierce Brosnan era (we’ll get to him soon enough), I got my first taste of 007, with Sean Connery in the role, in “Goldfinger.” Before I had even begun my marathon run of the Bond films, I already had Shirley Bassey’s title tune stuck in my head. But the appeal of Bond’s third big screen adventure goes far beyond its catchy soundtrack. Take into account the action-packed story, the cool gadgetry and the iconic imagery, throw in the series’ first strong Bond Girl for good measure and it’s no wonder why this is often seen as the most influential of all Bond films.

With SPECTRE still licking its wounds, MI6 agent James Bond is instead left to deal with an independent megalomaniac in the form of Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Bond is put on the case in Miami Beach, where Goldfinger and he just so happen to be staying at the same hotel. Bond introduces himself by sabotaging a game of gin rummy, which Goldfinger had been cheating to win. He then doubles down by bedding Goldfinger’s employee, Jill Masterson. Goldfinger retaliates by sending in his henchman, a mute Korean assassin named Oddjob, who knocks out Bond and murders Jill. Their next encounter occurs in London, where Bond is to learn of Goldfinger’s method of international gold smuggling. Bond once again catches Goldfinger in the act of cheating, this time in a game of golf.

Following Goldfinger to Switzerland, Bond is unexpectedly met with Jill Masterson’s sister, Tilly, whom he believed was trying to kill him. Not so. Seeking vengeance for her sister, Tilly’s actual target is Goldfinger. She’s just a really poor shot. It is also in Switzerland that Bond overhears a plot of Goldfinger’s named “Operation Grand Slam.” Bond lacks more details, but has to bail before he can discover more. A chase ensues, ending with Tilly dead and Bond captured. With what I’m sure had to be the first usage of a frickin’ laser beam as a weapon in a movie, Bond comes dangerously close to being cut in half before convincing Goldfinger that MI6 knows too much about his plans, and would simply keep sending agent after agent in pursuit of him if Bond were to be killed.

Bond wakes up over Fort Knox, Kentucky on board Goldfinger’s private plane where he meets the pilot, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), whose self-introduction produces my personal favorite Connery Bond one-liner: “I must be dreaming!” As much of an expert in judo as Bond, Pussy is no one to be trifled with. However, contrary to her claims, even Ms. Galore is not entirely immune to the charms of Agent 007. A quite literal roll in the hay helps her see things his way. That alliance plus a little help from Bond’s American friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, will be vital in putting a stop to Operation Grand Slam.

It turns out that Goldfinger plans to break into Fort Knox, but does not plan to steal the gold. Instead, Goldfinger desires for his own gold supply to increase in value, which it allegedly will should the gold in Fort Knox happen to become irradiated for the next 50+ years by an atomic detonation. Just as Bond allowed for Goldfinger to believe he was successfully cheating at golf before pulling out the proverbial rug from underneath his feet, so too is Goldfinger allowed to believe the break-in is all going according to plan. This includes all the CIA and military personnel playing dead, acting as though they’ve been killed by the nerve gas that Goldfinger thinks Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus is spraying over the area. In reality, everyone is lying in wait for Goldfinger to activate the device, to which Bond is handcuffed. Bond frees himself and electrocutes Oddjob, but does not know how to stop the bomb. That’s what Leiter brought his bomb specialist for. A fairly rushed and anti-climactic battle with Goldfinger on his jet finishes things up.

While “Goldfinger” lacks a more satisfying ending, and while the train sequence in “From Russia with Love” is nearly impossible to beat, I find that it is “Goldfinger” which remains my favorite of the Connery Bonds. I’ve gone back and watched it time and again, more than the majority of others in the series. A large part of this is its role in providing a mold for the series to follow from here on. You have the first appearance of Bond’s gorgeous Aston Martin. There’s the series of gadgets provided by Q including but not limited to the car’s weaponry, a pre-credits sequence that has little or nothing to do with the rest of the film, and a henchman with certain definable attributes and skills. “Goldfinger” also sets another standard: the presence of not one but two main Bond Girls in the story. Always, one will either die and/or turn out to be evil. It’s also not an overly complicated plot. But what really helps settle the matter is Honor Blackman. In most cases, the best Bond films also have the strongest Bond Girls, and Pussy Galore is one of the greatest examples. Blackman’s “Avengers” credentials (the British spy series, not the Marvel Comics franchise) helped get her the job, but her chemistry with Connery also cannot be ignored. It’s a pairing that, more than fifty years later, still strikes gold.

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Comments
  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Nicely done, CEWIII.

  2. sexylilshedevil says:

    Nicely done. U must be a Brit. The book wasn’t as good

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