Goldfinger (1964)

Film #14: Goldfinger (1964)

James Bond film #03 (Sean Connery Bond)

Goldfinger, the third in the Eon Productions James Bond series, sees Connery return to the role for what many consider the quintessential 007 film. Amidst the usual babes and bad guys, Bond is after eponymous villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), who plans to attack the United States’ gold depository at Fort Knox. Goldfinger takes the formula that From Russia With Love established and adds many things that would become staples of the series. It’s also chock-full of iconic lines and scenes. Many things that spoof Bond pull dialogue and imagery from this third installation, so if you’re watching this for the first time (like I was), you’ll undoubtedly be stricken with a constant sense of déjà vu.

Goldfinger starts with a great opening sequence that ends up being entirely unrelated to the rest of the film. In that sense, it works as a sort of 007 short film, even foreshadowing the way Bond eventually disposes of Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob. It’s everything you want in a Bond film condensed into 5 minutes – judo, explosions, hot women, and a tuxedo beneath a dry suit. It even takes the cake for the film’s cheesiest Bond post-kill line. After this exhilarating cold open, we are treated to one of the best cinematic theme songs of all time, sung by a throaty Shirley Bassey accompanied by a memorable wailing brass section. With all of this out of the way, we finally move onto Goldfinger proper, starting with the Act I template that most Bond films hereafter will follow (I believe – I haven’t seen most of them).

That template includes Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and his gadgets, introduced properly in FRWL but fleshed out to their full extent here. Q begins his dry, friendly antagonism with Bond, asking him to return all of the gadgets in vain, while the gadgets themselves get upgraded both technologically and in their importance to the plot. The modified Aston Martin DB5 is used to great effect in the obligatory car-chase scene, and a homing beacon allows Bond to track Goldfinger after a not-so-friendly game of golf. That golf scene actually seemed a bit out of place to me. It was pretty long and uneventful, and the information acquired through it could have easily been gathered in a much more interesting way. Overall, I felt like Goldfinger, while not boring by any means, toned down the non-stop action that was a feature of From Russia With Love.

Not the sexism, though. It actually boiled over for me early on, when Bond literally slapped a girl on her ass as he pushed her out the room, explaining that it was time for “man talk”. That just went above and beyond the cheeky chauvinism that I can tolerate in a Bond flick. Honor Blackman plays Goldfinger’s personal pilot, a strong female character (for once), but one whose strength is taken away by her name (Pussy Galore – sorry, it’s too unlikely a name for me to accept) and the fact that Bond pretty much rapes her in a barn. Overall, not a lot of good stuff in the whole “women are people too” department.

Whatever social commentary the movie may provide, one thing clearly makes Goldfinger stand out, and that’s Auric himself. While Dr. No was a phantom until the final stages of the first movie, and FRWL featured more of a cabal of SPECTRE higher-ups than any one focal villain (don’t argue for Red Grant, dude was pretty milquetoast), Goldfinger finally gives us an evil mastermind. Even his scheme is way better than anything from the first two films; he wants to make the US’s gold supply radioactive to help the Chinese and make his own gold that much more valuable. What a dick. An awesome dick, who delivers what is probably the greatest super villain line ever (“No, Mr. Bond – I expect you to die!”). And lest we forget, he also has one of the most memorable henchmen of all time, the silent Korean Oddjob, who goes around breaking peoples’ necks with his bowler hat. Between Goldfinger’s nefarious cunning and Oddjob’s freakish brute strength, the antagonists of Goldfinger are what make this Bond film stand aside the greats that preceded it.

  There’s a little less action and a little more sexism than what From Russia With Love offered, but Goldfinger‘s villains and more mature plot make it just as excellent as the previous Bond films will have led you to expect.

Final rating: 8/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • Cheesy Bond Post-Kill Line of the Film: (after electrocuting a man in a bathtub) “Shocking. Positively shocking.”
  • There were some BEAUTIFUL zoom shots in the Swiss mountains there, when Tilly was shooting at Goldfinger. I can’t even imagine how long that lens must have been.
  • Jump effects used all over the opening sequence, so still on the lookout.
  • I can’t recall if Bond actually wore a hat in the film itself (though I’d bet that he did), but he does in the gun barrel silhouette in the opening.
  • I guess I’m obligated to say something about Jill Masterson’s iconic death. Hey, there’s a chick covered in gold here. And I guess that killed her via “skin asphyxiation”. Sure, all right.
  • That’s how Goldfinger goes out, really? I kind of wish he had escaped to scheme another day.
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