JAMES BOND 007 BACK IN ACTION!
In 1964, audiences began to get used to the idea of agent 007 showing up once a year. This third film, the best of ‘em all, also has one of the series’ most effective pre-title sequences. It shows James Bond (Sean Connery) in a diving suit, secretly planting a bomb. After the job is done, he removes the diving suit, revealing a white tuxedo underneath, puts a red rose in his pocket and joins a crowd at a bar, waiting for the blast. It’s Bond in a nutshell – dangerous and debonair.
A sucker for gold
That scene has little to do with the rest of the movie. 007 goes to Miami where he hooks up with CIA agent Felix Leiter who tells him about Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), a wealthy Brit with a funny accent who is up to no good. Turns out he’s a sucker for gold (he even kills people with gold paint) and he has a secret plan that’s as bold as they come: his “Operation Grand Slam” is a scheme to raid Fort Knox and use gas to knock out the military detail that’s protecting the world’s most famous gold reserve. This megalomaniac thinks he can destroy the world economy and then blackmail nations. 007 must stop him and it is quite possible that Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger’s pilot and an essential player in the scheme, will fall for Bond’s romantic overtures and help him. But he would also be wise to watch out for Oddjob (Harold Sakata), Goldfinger’s driver and bodyguard, a strong man who can lop the head off a statue with his tailor-made hat.
The story is utterly absurd as in most Bond films, but there are no communists involved this time and that’s a novelty. Having the bad guy rob Fort Knox looks like a fresh idea; Bond doesn’t need to be fighting the Soviet Union or SPECTRE in every movie.
Aston Martin doing very cool things
So much in Goldfinger is outrageous. The idea of having a character suffocated by gold paint looks like a dark version of the Midas touch; the sight of Shirley Eaton covered in the stuff is part of cinema history. And what about that name, Pussy Galore? How was it possible to get away with that in 1964? Even real-life porn stars choose pseudonyms that are less conspicuous; the male version of Pussy Galore would probably be something along the lines of “Cox Aplenty”. Well, memorable it is.
The film is packed with highlights, including the Aston Martin doing very cool things whenever Bond is behind the wheel; Goldfinger’s laser nearly emasculating 007; Bond and Pussy tussling in the hay; the climactic bomb’s counter stopping on 007 seconds; the golden title sequence where Shirley Bassey sings that classic tune like there’s no tomorrow (“he’s the man, the man with the Midas touch!”); John Barry’s formidable score; and the first look into Q’s inventive laboratory. The action sequences are exciting, save perhaps for the climactic raid on Fort Knox which goes on for quite some time. However, we’re compensated by a great fight between 007 and Oddjob inside the Fort.
This was Guy Hamilton’s first Bond film as director, but he does an excellent job replacing the venerable Terence Young, coaxing great performances out of Connery and Blackman as the classy agent and the resourceful pilot.
Modern audiences may object to the amount of sexism. In GoldenEye (1995), M were to call Bond a “sexist dinosaur” and she has a point. In Goldfinger, the women are all stupid and shallow objects; Pussy is different, but all it takes for her to betray Goldfinger is one kiss from James Bond. Still, it’s also true that the very idea of a Bond film didn’t get any more entertaining than this.
Goldfinger 1964-Britain. 111 min. Color. Produced by Harry Saltzman, Albert R. Broccoli. Directed by Guy Hamilton. Screenplay: Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn. Novel: Ian Fleming. Music: John Barry. Song: “Goldfinger” (performed by Shirley Bassey). Cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Gert Fröbe (Auric Goldfinger), Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Shirley Eaton, Bernard Lee, Harold Sakata… Desmond Llewellyn.
Trivia: Fröbe spoke very little English, which is why his voice is dubbed. Followed by Thunderball (1965).
Oscar: Best Sound Effects.
Quote: “You’re a woman of many parts, Pussy.” (Connery to Blackman)
Last word: “John Barry wrote the music. We were touring in England at the time and he was conducting for me. One day he said, ‘There is this new song for the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’ and we’d like you to do it. I know your rule that you will never listen to a song unless there are words. There are no words, I must warn you – there’s only the music, which I have done. And we’re waiting on the lyric.’ And because we had such a wonderful relationship on our tour I said to John, ‘Well, I’ll listen to it. I’ll break my rule.’ And thank God I did, because the moment he played the music to me, I got goose pimples, and I told him, ‘I don’t care what the words are. I’ll do it.’ And fortunately the words were great.” (Bassey, MI6-HQ)