Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bondathon: Goldfinger (1964)

Bondathon! Because I'm in England (well not right now, right now I'm in Ireland) and what else am I going to do? Travel? Ha!

Well, last time on "Ryan's insane attempt to seem relevant halfway across the world, while also procrastinating from actual work", we learned about how Dr. No had made a ton of money on a modest (for the time) budget of $1 million, and From Russia had made a crapload of money on an expensive (for the time) budget of $2 million. If the first film was like the producers smoking a joint for the first time, because "hey it might be fun if we do it right"; and the second film was like the producers trying hard drugs with some friends because "I guess we're junkies now", the third film was like the producers giving in to their new livelihood and stockpiling three different kinds of drugs for one long crazy night. 

Basically, by the third film, the precedent for Bond movie success had already been more than established, so the boys at the studio decided to go all in and make what can only be called a genuine big budget blockbuster. Granted, it was still only $3 million, one million more than the last one, but that was a big deal for the time. There was also an early example of foreign market investment: the book was chosen primarily for how integrated the plot was in the United States, with the producers hoping to corner the increasingly lucrative American market. When Terrence Young left the project, he was replaced by Guy Hamilton; an old friend of Fleming's from his days in Royal Intelligence.

The end result was a film that has been called the greatest Bond film of all time. Let's find out why.

Photo Credit: United Artists/MGM

Date: 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Bond: Sean Connery
Number: 3
Starring: Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee, and Desmond Llewelyn.
Singer: Shirley Bassey
The one with: That gold-painted lady, Oddjob, the Car, Pussy Galore, "No Mister Bond, I expect you to die!", Miami, the laser, Fort Knox.

"Goldfinger", one of the more uncomfortable names in the Bond, filmography begins with Bond callously killing some people in latin America while shutting down a drug factory, thereby establishing the precedent of "opening action scenes that have nothing to do with anything" that is carried on throughout the rest of the series.

Anyway, after watching the opening credits, Bond then heads to the only place in the world with more drugs and Latin Americans than Latin America; Miami, where he is asked by M to keep a subtle eye on suspicious billionaire Auric Goldfinger (you know, actual spy work); which Bond takes to mean "bang his assistant and then humiliate him", because in case you haven't figured it out by now; Bond's kind of a dick. As revenge for this, Golfinger has the assistant killed by smothering her in gold until her skin suffocates, which the British consider dangerous, but most Miami girls consider "a worthy life ambition". Also you can't actually kill someone by smothering them with gold paint, which the production team should have realized when they smothered the actress in gold paint.

Anyway, Bond is briefed by M and Q (the "gadget guy" who we'll come to know and love) and other letters of the alphabet, who put him in the awkward position of having to take down that same rich guy whose pissed off at him, in order to find out how he's managed such a long and sucessful career of smuggling gold internationally. Which Bond takes to mean "try to blow up his factory, run over his henchmen, have sex with every woman he knows, and beat him in golf", which Bond is more than game for. But in the process, he discovers that Golfinger has financial backing by the Chinese government, as well as a sinister plan involving Fort Knox that the brit must stop. I mean who else is going to? The Americans? Ha! They don't have machine-gun cars!


Still Connery, so still awesome, but he's arguably best here. It's like the movie itself managed to tune to Connery's unique blend of cool charisma and sly self-awareness, and he fits the film like a glove. Although his seduction of miss Galore borders on rape. Actually it's pretty much rape. So that's not very cool. I understand it was a different time, and she doesn't seem to broken up about it (she eventually voices her consent), but it's still fairly discomforting.

The Villain
Photo Credit: United Artists/MGM

The villain, of course, is the film's namesake: Auric Goldfinger, played by former nazi Gert Froebe (to be fair, it was later revealed that he helped rescue a Jewish family). Goldfinger differs from the precedents and antecedents in that he has absolutely nothing to do with SPECTRE; he is just a very, very crooked and ingenious businessman. I'm probably not spoiling a whole lot by revealing how the fantastic twist of the film is that Goldfinger does not want to steal from Fort Knox, but rather blow it up and irradiate all the gold, making it worthless and making his supply that much more valuable. It's a brilliant plan; brilliant enough to land Auric at the top of most of the most lists of the "greatest Bond villains of all time."

Which is funny, because Froebe could not even speak proper english and had to be dubbed over. But for what it's worth, he's fantastic. Goldfinger is a constantly tense and unpredictable villain, which adds a level of suspense to the film even when he's not present; he seems to constantly be one step ahead of Bond; keeping the hero from reaching superhero level too early. Froebe is great too, matching Connery's charisma and always seeming friendlier than he really is. It's easy to see why every Bond villain afterward felt the apparent need to step it up.

Bond Girls

In this film, Bond encounters Pussy Galore.

No, like seriously, that's her name.

Aside from Shirley Eaton, who is now famous for playing the woman who is dipped in gold, and Tania Mallet, who is famous for playing the sister of the woman who is dipped in gold, we get Honor Blackman (a much less alluring name, to be sure) as the infamous Pussy. Truth is though? She's a great character (and smoking hot)!

She's a major henchman for Goldfinger, and she's also dangerous, clever, and the leader of her own cadre of criminals, who are important for Goldfinger's scheme. Bond realizes very quickly that he's going to need to get Pussy if he's going to stop Auric. Fortunately, she isn't incredibly loyal, and it isn't long before Auric's Pussy may prove to be his undoing. Unfortunately, the talented Honor Blackman broadcasts her Pussy to the world as a rebellious and feisty, if flirty, character. We know what her purpose in the film is when we see her, but she's a box of tricks in a way that turns her into one of the film's, if not the franchise's, best characters. Is Bond up to the challenge of seducing her, or will he Pussy out?

Photo Credit: United Artists/MGM
Protip: When searching Google for "Pussy Galore", it is best to keep safesearch activated.

I'm so sorry.


When all was said and done, Goldfinger emerged from the box office a legend; a blockbuster in ways that would not be surpassed until giant sharks and lightsaber showed up. Furthermore, it turned Bond from a popular character into what he is today; a film star.

So, naturally, I went in with high expectations. And what can I say? This movie's fantastic! It's fun, genuinely exciting even for its time, and holds on enough to the grittier, more realistic aspects of its predecessor to keep from becoming ridiculous. Connery is great, as always, the writing is clever and crisp, and the action scenes are way better than they should be in the sixties. There's really only so many ways I can say "it's exciting, suspenseful, and fun"but that's it, really. This is where the character comes into focus; it's pretty much the ultimate Bond movie. Aside from the uncomfortable scene I mentioned earlier, it's just about flawless.

It may be a cliche to label it the best of the series, and for me it's too early to tell, but so far no film has communicated to me why people love these moves so much as this. Oh, did I mention the car?

To the Bondmobile!


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