Al does Goldfinger

goldfingerposter2“No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to die!”

The Scoop: 1964 PG, directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, and Harold Sakata

Tagline: Everything he touches turns to excitement!

Summary Capsule: It’s Operation Grand Slam vs Operation Gland Slam, as Bond matches wits against the latinum-obsessed Ferengi, Auric Goldfinger.

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Al’s Rating: The man with the Midas touch, a spider’s touch…

Al’s Review: Goldfinger is regarded as one of the great Bond films, often as the great Bond film. And I agree with that, mostly. However, something happens near the end of this film that stops me from loving it unconditionally and I feel like I have to get it out of my system before I can talk about anything else.  All throughout the movie, James Bond flirts with one of the classic Bond Girls, Pussy Galore. She playfully sasses him back, for the most part, but makes it clear that she is “immune” to him. Now, as everyone barrels toward the movie’s climax, Bond and Pussy find themselves alone in a barnyard stable. He makes an advance and, for the umpteenth time, he is turned down. He does it again. She rejects him again. Finally, he grabs her by the wrist and she tries to fend him off. Bond eventually gets the better of her, judo flipping her into a pile of hay. He then lowers himself on top of her, with Pussy fighting him all the way, and kisses her against her will. After a moment, she melts into the kiss, the scene fades to black, and fourteen year-old Al is left feeling very confused about what he just witnessed.

The scene tries very hard to lighten the mood with screwball comedy-style violins and it attempts to show you that Pussy has succumbed to Bond’s charms (or whatever) after the kiss, but there’s no denying that the audience just watched our hero force himself on a woman. I’ve talked to people who have tried to justify it, but the fact that we even need to have the conversation means that a line got crossed. There’s a level of misogyny that I am willing to accept in the early Bond films, and mostly I can laugh it off as “oh, those crazy baby boomers,” but this scene is just dark and weird and way out of my comfort zone.

It’s a real shame, too, because the rest of Goldfinger is exactly as good as you’ve heard. This is the film that turned James Bond into a household name and right from the beginning it’s clear you are watching a classic.  Now three films into the series, Sean Connery has perfected the blend of humor, darkness, danger, and sex appeal that would define Bond for the next fifty years. He’s cool and caustically funny; something carnal lurking behind every movement. He drips with an attitude that says he doesn’t give a baker’s damn, and he’s just as likely to screw you as kill you.

Equally iconic is Bond’s adversary this time around, the devious millionaire industrialist, Auric Goldfinger. I said in my Dr. No review that Julius No set the standard for what a Bond villain ought to be (and it’s true), but if the good doctor shows what a villain should be, then Goldfinger exemplifies everything a Bond villain could be. He’s a larger-than-life man with larger-than-life plans. He sports futuristic laser™ technology and employs the deadly-hatted Odd Job, first in the franchise’s long line of weird henchmen. He is James Bond’s first real mastermind, replete with golden tuxedos, miniature models that rise from the floor, and convenient expository monologues.

For my money, though, the real reason Goldfinger endures as a villain (and Goldfinger ultimately succeeds as a film) is that he’s simply better than Bond. He’s savvier, he’s better equipped, and he doesn’t like to lose. Early on in the film, Bond beats Goldfinger resoundingly—he makes him lose at gin rummy and then sleeps with his girlfriend. In retaliation, Goldfinger spends the entire rest of the movie getting even. Yes, he’s in the middle of enacting a master plan that will render him the richest man in the world, but every single move is marked with a personal “gotcha” against 007. For every tactic Bond employs after that first small win, Goldfinger is already two steps ahead of him. Each tiny victory for Bond is met with a crushing setback by Goldfinger. Heck, Bond spends the majority of the film imprisoned on Goldfinger’s ranch. Think about the later Bond films: is 007 ever imprisoned for longer than thirty seconds? Even in the famous “tied-spread-eagle-with-a-laser-headed-toward-his-crotch” scene, Bond doesn’t escape. Goldfinger chooses not to kill him. This movie certainly has its’ share of action, but the constant one-upmanship is the real driving tension. Right down the end, you can’t help wondering exactly how Bond is going to be able to beat this guy.

More than just a great villain, though, Goldfinger introduces most, if not all, of the tropes that the world has come to associate with James Bond: it opens with the first pre-credit action sequence, we get our first tour of Q branch, our first Bond car (the famous Aston Martin DB5), our first gaggle of Bond girls, and, of course, the first *real* James Bond theme song. Nearly everything audiences expect from a James Bond movie was crystalized in Goldfinger and carried off in serious style.

The movie has some problems: a gaping plot hole toward the end, a slightly silly denouement, and, as I said at the outset, a rather disturbing non-consensual love scene; but I don’t believe that means this is a film you’re not allowed to enjoy. Goldfinger is Bond done right. It’s a classic film, but even more than that, it’s a trend-setting film. Like seeing The Matrix or Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood; when you watch Goldfinger, you instantly understand why it’s a flick that launched a thousand knock-offs. Blemishes and all, this is the gold-standard for fans of Bond, fans of action movies, and fans of a good time.

"Sir, if you'll not be needing me, I'll close down for a while."

“Sir, if you’ll not be needing me, I’ll close down for a while.”

Intermission!

  • The Name is Bond, James Bond: No new re-occurring characters, but we do have an old one with a new face.
    • Cec Linder takes over the role of FBI Agent Felix Leiter from Jack Lord, who played him in Dr. No two years earlier. Linder is the second actor to play Felix Leiter.
  • License to Boink: 007 gets his first proper crop of Bond Girls in Goldfinger. He only sleeps with two of them for sure, but it’s a fair guess that he slept with the third. The only one he didn’t sleep with he ends up getting killed, so I’m counting her, too.
    • Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore. Blackman is the oldest Bond Girl to date, being 37 at the time of filming.
    • Margaret Nolan as Dink. Nolan also plays the bikini model in the opening credits of the film.
    • Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson
    • Tania Mallet as Tilly Masteron
  • License to Orchestrate: Like everything else in this movie, Shirley Bassey’s brassy, ballsy theme song sets the standard against which all others are measured. Maurice Binder’s titles  have scenes from the film projected onto gold-painted, bikini-clad models. Lots of hand and face closeups.
  • Your Parents Named You WHAT?: Goldfinger also gives us our first of many, many strangely-named characters.
    • Auric Goldfinger: “Au” is the elemental symbol for gold and an “auric” is another name for an ion on gold. Goldfinger was the last name of Ian Fleming’s next-door neighbor, the Modernist architect Erno Goldfinger, who threatened a lawsuit.
    • Pussy Galore: A completely unsubtle reference to the character’s implied sexuality.
    • Oddjob: Not his real name, of course. According to the novel, he Goldfinger’s “handyman”, named by Goldfinger in a way that describes his functions on Goldfinger’s staff.
  • …And It Makes French Fries in Three Different Ways: We get the series’ first visit to Q Branch, where Bond’s gadgets are developed.
    • Bond receives his first and most famous car, the Aston Martin DB 5. According to Q, it has revolving license plates (valid in all countries), a deployable smoke screen and oil slick, a rear bullet-proof screen, left and right front wing machine guns, a homing tracker (usable once Bond plants the included homing device on a target), and a passenger-side ejector seat.
  • Opening Gambit: The franchise’s first post-gunbarrel, pre-credits action sequence. No big stunts, but Bond does wear a duck on his head, he has a fun visual gag where he changes from a jet-black wet suit to a bright white tuxedo, and he finishes by killing an assailant after seeing his reflection in a woman’s eye.
  • Groovy, Baby: And the Austin Powers gags continue to roll in…
    • The villain, Auric Goldfinger, is the nominal template for Goldmember, the villain (and title of) Austin Powers 3, although they don’t really have much in common besides a name. FUN FACT: Fleming considered naming his villain Goldprick, but eventually decided against against it.
    • Although there are many more suggestively named women in the Bond franchise, Pussy Galore seems like the easiest point of reference for International Man of Mystery‘s femme fatale, Alotta Fagina.
    • The hat-throwing Oddjob is the obvious inspiration for Dr. Evil’s shoe-throwing henchman, Random Task.
    • Goldfinger‘s laser beam sequence has been ripped off more times than I can count.
  • Nobody Does It Better (Except the Book): Goldfinger was the seventh of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, chronologically taking place shortly after Dr. No. Like many of the early Bond movies, Goldfinger the film stays fairly close to book, but there are some differences worth pointing out.
    • In the novel, Auric Goldfinger suns himself every day and has a persistent sun burn. He is also a banker for the Soviet organization SMERSH, a detail omitted from the film.
    • Pussy Galore is more explicitly painted as a lesbian, whereas the film merely insists she is “immune” to Bond. Towards the end of the novel, Bond is able to “turn” her by sleeping with her. Three cheers for outdated and offensive perceptions of sexuality! Pussy is also a gangster, instead of merely a pilot.
    •  Bond’s car in the novel is still an Aston Martin, but is the DB III. This was updated to the more modern DB 5 for the film.
    • In the novel, Bond is interrogated with a buzzsaw instead of a laser.
    • Goldfinger’s plan to rob Fort Knox is just a feint in the movie, but it’s his actual plan in the novel which climaxes in a somewhat uninteresting shootout at the gates. When adapting the movie, the scriptwriters decided it was a weak ending for such a smart villain and changed his master plan to what we see in the film.
    • In the novel, Odd Job is sucked out the window of the plane during the final sequence and Goldfinger is instead strangled by Bond.
  • Leave it to James Bond to take us to exotic… Kentucky. A real world traveler, that one.
  • So, explain to me how exactly they convinced everyone to collapse on cue?
  • In the film, Jill Masterson is killed by “skin suffocation” when Goldfinger covers her in gold paint. At the time, it was widely believed that body painting could be lethal if a patch of unpainted skin was not left open to allow the skin to breathe. Skin suffocation has since been debunked. It does not exist.
  • During the fight in Ft. Knox, Goldfinger’s bomb was supposed to be stopped at 0:03, and is even referenced this way in the dialogue, but the decision was made in post-production that the bomb should stop instead at 0:07.
  • In his essay, The Sexual Subtext of 007, John Cox deconstructs Goldfinger and casts it in terms of an Oedipus Complex. According to Cox, Goldfinger is the powerful Father that Bond feels inferior to, Jill Masterson is the Mother the 007 steals away from Dad, and Pussy is the “salvation of [Bond’s] sexual ego”. It’s an interesting analysis and an excellent read, if you can get your hands on it.
  • The studio strongly considered changing Pussy Galore’s name to ‘Kitty Galore’. Although the name was ultimately unchanged, it was not used in any of the first-run promotional materials. Honor Blackman enjoyed making people uncomfortable by using it as often as possible during interviews.
  • Pro wrestler Harold Sakata enjoyed the role of Odd Job so much that he often billed himself afterwards as “Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata”.
  • A young Jimmy Page alledgedly played with Shirley Bassey when she recorded the theme song.
  • Gert Frobe (Goldfinger) spoke little English and had all his lines dubbed by Michael Collins
  • Orson Welles was briefly courted to play Goldfinger, but wanted too much money.
  • First appearance of a laser beam in a movie.
  • First appearance of a Ford Mustang in a movie (driven by Tilly Masterson)
  • The character of Pussy Galore was rewritten to incorporate Honor Blackman’s judo skills
  • Ian Fleming died one month before the release of the film.

Groovy Quotes

[after electrocuting a bad guy]
James Bond: Shocking! Positively shocking!

[Why Bond wears a gun]
James Bond: I have a slight inferiority complex.

James Bond: My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!

Q: Now this one I’m particularly keen about. You see the gear lever here? Now, if you take the top off, you will find a little red button. Whatever you do, don’t touch it.
James Bond: Yeah, why not?
Q: Because you’ll release this section of the roof, and engage and then fire the passenger ejector seat. Whish!
James Bond: Ejector seat? You’re joking!
Q: I never joke about my work, 007.

[a laser is about to cut Bond in half]
James Bond: I think you made your point. Thank you for the demonstration.
Auric Goldfinger: Choose your next witticism carefully Mr. Bond, it may be your last.

James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to die!

 Pussy Galore: My name is Pussy Galore.
James Bond: I must be dreaming.

Pussy Galore: I’m Mr. Goldfinger’s personal pilot.
James Bond: Oh? Just how personal is that?
Pussy Galore: I’m a damn good pilot. Period.

James Bond: What would it take for you to see things my way?
Pussy Galore: A lot more than you’ve got.
James Bond: How do you know?
Pussy Galore: I don’t want to know.

James Bond: Well, well, the new Miss Galore. Where do you hide your gold knuckles in that outfit?
Pussy Galore: Oh, I never carry weapons after business hours.
James Bond: None at all?
Pussy Galore: I’m completely defenseless…
James Bond: … So am I.

Goldfinger: Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He’s fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor… except crime!

James Bond: Special plane, lunch at the White House… how come?
Felix Leiter: The President wants to thank you personally.
James Bond: Oh, it was nothing, really.
Felix Leiter: I know that, but he doesn’t.
James Bond: I suppose I’ll be able to get a drink there.
Felix Leiter: I told the stewardess liquor for three.
James Bond: Who are the other two?
Felix Leiter: Oh, there are no other two.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Dr. No
  • Thunderball
  • Goldeneye

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Catch up on cult movie reviews for the week! | Bio Break

  2. I’d like you to know that my sister was also one of the models in the opening credits. Unfortunately she never received recognition, although we, her family, knew it was her. she shared equally in the opening credit sequence. My sister, who passed in 1996, was Patricia Lynne (Neumann) Hartley. During her modeling career, she was known as Lynne Neumann. Thank you.

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