Goldfinger (1964)

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Goldfinger (1964)

Post  BoG on Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:21 pm

BOND#3: an Odd Obsession With Gold

SEAN CONNERY is! James Bond 007 in GOLDFINGER also starring
Directed by
MASTER PLAN: use a dirty bomb to irradiate Fort Knox, thereby increasing one's personal wealth of gold. This is the Bonder where the franchise became a phenomenon, not just a good spy series. It was the stuff of fantasy yet grounded in some hyper-reality. It moved a bit sharply into the realm of science fiction (lasers, atomics, you name it). It shocked, amused, astounded and thrilled, sometimes all in the span of a minute of screen time. It made a lot of money - about $375 million if adjusted for today's dollars, or about the biggest film of the year (grosses for Bonders of the past two decades do not compare, just for reference).

How good is the film Goldfinger? Enough that nearly every Bond film after this copied the formula - but none could, of course, completely match it. The now-requisite action teaser was itself imitated by James Cameron for his parody True Lies 30 years later. It's a great showcase for Bond's 'infiltrate & destroy' abilities, complete with a fun fight scene and deadly pun thrown in. This also had the first song sung over the credits, by Shirley Bassey - quite possibly the best of the series, as well (though Live and Let Die by McCartney gives it a run for its money).
The first post-credits sequence is in a spectacular version of Miami, where Bond seems to be vacationing. However, though apparently off duty, he has his first run in with the villain of the title (played by Gert Frobe) and his 2nd meet with CIA liaison Leiter (a different actor from Dr. No's Leiter, as would usually be the case in the series). The actor Frobe's voice was dubbed over by another actor, but it worked exceptionally well. This entire portion in Miami has a relaxed quality, almost whimsical, but it ends on a pretty grim note; that famous shot of the girl on the bed after Bond regains consciousness still sends chills down my spine, even after seeing it numerous times. The filmmakers remind a relaxed audience: hey, this is Bond's world; it's weird, it's scary; it's surely fantastic. Don't let your guard down. Expect the unexpected. And watch out for the man with the hat.

Where as Connery was the new breed in Dr. No and the consummate professional solidifying his status in From Russia From Love, here he is already the familiar superstar, possibly the greatest star of the sixties at this point. His Bond is by now ingrained in the public's perceptions and can do no wrong. But, he's still a coiled spring, a waiting tiger, certainly not sleepwalking through an old role. When he's close to death, which as expected, does happen a few times during the course of this adventure, we still tense up, thanks to his performance.

He does have some new toys to play with in this one, moving the Bond thriller away from the strict espionage tactics of the previous film. After the (extended) meeting with M, here is the prototypical instruction scene with Q, where he introduces Bond to his new, fully-equipped auto. This set the standard for the rest of the Bonders, but still outshines them all. And, check out the tour of the testing facility (we had a tour of SPECTRE's digs, a similar layout, in the previous film).
The title villain follows Dr. No as the latest wealthy megalomaniac, but here he's much more colorful and deals with Bond throughout most of the film, unlike Dr. No's late appearance in the earlier film. And there's Oddjob, the brutish henchman; he has also never been equaled in terms of style and menace (Jaws came close in The Spy Who Loved Me over a dozen years later).

Why has Goldfinger and its far-out elements never been surpassed? Well, how can it be? How do you top someone like Oddjob, that living brick of a thug and his hat? (How do you even just top the hat? - a hat from some mad sci-fi universe). How do you outdo the ingenious yet simple plan against America's gold reserve, a combo of elegance and sheer audacity that must have sprung from the mind of the world's biggest egoist? How do you better a name such as Pussy Galore?

It's all here: the larger-than-life villain; the unbeatable henchman; the classic femme fatale - she's depicted as Bond's equal, rather than as another Bond girl. The actress, Blackman, was not a simple young thing, like most of the Bond girls and was about a decade ahead of her time. There are also several classic scenes, now embedded in the minds of fans everywhere: the laser beam threatening Bond where it really hurts and Goldfinger's classic line come to mind, besides the one already mentioned with the girl on the bed.

Everything came together splendidly in this one, including Bond's climactic battle with Oddjob (how do you beat an unbeatable foe? - it's staggering to think that the final combat here was edited down for the final version; there exist stills of Oddjob swinging Bond around like a toy, all deleted). And, the main villain's final scene: who could forget such a demise (in the novel, it was Oddjob, not his boss, who met his end on the airplane). Obviously, much of this par excellence is due to the source material - Ian Fleming's novel. On the downside, this film started the trend to basically remake this with each new Bond film, but it can't take anything away from this one. Bond would return in Thunderball.

BoG's Bond Scores: Bond:10 Villain:10 Femme Fatale:10 Henchman:10 Leiter:7 Fights:10 Stunts/Chases:9 Gadgets:9 Auto:10 Locations:9 Pace:9 overall:9.5
Golden Trivia: Oddjob's hat was parodied in the early 1st season episode of Get Smart, School Days (aired in 1965)
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