June 16, 2010 Leave a comment
Year: 1964 (September in the U.K., December in the States)
Film Length: 1 Hour 50 Minutes
Bond Actor: Sean Connery, in his third go-round as 007. In the previous entry, I wrote “In With Love, Connery truly defines Bond, making him a three dimensional character we care about, not a cartoon action hero.” Here, Connery carries that weight effortlessly tap dancing through the film as if he were Fred Astaire. Bond brushes aside threats with a flourish and shameless chases skirts when he should be chasing bad guys. This is the film where Bond becomes the man woman want and men want to be. Connery himself is having so much fun in the film that he gets swept up by his alter-ego. When asked by a female interviewer about the physical demands of the role, Connery responds in Bond like fashion that he doesn’t advise playing 007 on a hangover. This tweaking of the Bond character and shift in tone could have pushed the series into parody, however, here it works, thanks to Connery and the new face behind the camera.
Director: Guy Hamilton. The Paris native made his name directing the second unit for such classics as The Third Man (1949) and The African Queen (1951) and had a prior friendship with Connery. Goldfinger was a one off for the director as Young would return for the following Bond film Thunderball (1965). (Hamilton would himself return to helm three other Bond films in the early 70’s.) The story of why Young didn’t return for this picture is kind of murky. I’ve seen that he was simply unavailable (he is credited with directing two films following With Love.) I also read that he felt the character of 007 was slipping into superhero territory, a statement that holds water since Goldfinger is much more of an “action picture” than Young’s two Bond films. However, there is a whiff of studio PR speak to all of this and although I can’t confirm it, I suspect the driving force behind Hamilton’s hiring was the all might dollar. Hamilton had a reputation for coming in on time and on budget. After all the set back on From Russia With Love, it’s not too much of a stretch to picture EON wanting someone who worked quick and cheep. (Ed. Note, EON is the company founded by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the two men who launched the Bond franchise.) EON is also known for exhibiting a vice like control on the character of Bond. Another undocumented theory behind the replacement of Young; I suspect EON likes to hirer directors that are good, but don’t have a long track record of hits, and are therefore easier to control. Perhaps Broccoli and Saltzman were fearful Young would take over Bond. In any case, the tone of the first two films convey that Young was a much more “serious man” than Hamilton who deliberately pushes Bond in a lighter direction. Hamilton himself was concerned that Bond was becoming a superhero, but instead of pulling back to a more realistic approach, he used humor as well as winks and nods to the audience to acknowledge the outrageousness of the proceedings.
Reported Budget: $3,000,000 estimated. Dr. No was a $1 million, With Love was $2 million and now Bond 3 is…. see a pattern? That said, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond 10) didn’t have a $10 million price tag. For the record, I’m not cheating. I’m taking the films as they come, in order, and I have not looked ahead. That said, after three movies in a row going up by a million a pop, I wonder when the trend breaks?
Reported Box-office: $51,081,062 (USA) $124,900,000 (Worldwide). This, needless to say, is huge business and Goldfinger saw Bond mania go worldwide. The film was #3 at the box-office for 1964, coming in behind the massive “road show” musicals Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. The box-office was no doubt helped by a massive publicity campaign, the likes of which are standard for Bond films to this day. The global rollout included premieres in multiple big cities, a world tour for the cast and even advertising cross-over’s.
Theme Song: “GOOOOOOLLLLLD FINGER!!!” Written by John Barry and performed by Shirley Bassey, the “Goldfinger Theme” is one of the best and most memorable Bond tunes. It’s not only the first Bond Theme to feature lyrics (which are freaking killer,) it was also the first Bond Theme to have massive US chart success hitting #8 in the states and #20 in the U.K.(the sound track album hit #1 in the US.) The original Barry score is incorporated into the song as Bassey belts out lines like “Beware his heart of gold – This heart is COLD!” over ear ringing horn blasts. “Goldfinger” truly belongs on the list of top Bond themes having a classic and instantly recognizable “Bond” feel, not unlike another ditty from 1964. Copping a guitar line from the original Bond theme, Johnny Rivers had a huge hit (#3 in the states) with “Secret Agent Man.” Even thought the song was the theme to “Secret Agent,” a TV show which was itself trying to cash in on Bond fever, lines like “They’ve given you a number and taken away your name” leave little doubt 007 is the secret agent of the title.
Opening Titles: Taking the title projection technique used in From Russia With Love to the next level, Goldfinger features film clips projected onto Margaret Nolan’s gold painted body. (Nolan can be seen in the film as Bond’s pool side masseuse Dink.) Shots from this and the previous two films are used, the most effective being the rotating licenses plates seen on Nolan’s lips and a fiery explosion covering her entire body.
Opening Action Sequence: While With Love introduced the “Opening Action Sequence,” Hamilton and screenwriters took the idea a step further in Goldfinger, making the opening a stand alone featurette having zero to do with the bigger plot of the film. This mini-adventure is a small work of genius, encapsulating the “new” direction Bond will be taking and establishing the cheeky tone with the opening shot. Night. The camera pans a warehouse complex and comes to rest on a single seagull swimming in the darkened water. The bird then pops up and we see it resting on Bonds head. The seagull is in fact a breathing apparatus which Bond tosses aside without a though. Bond proceeds to infiltrate the complex and rig a secrete room with plastic explosives. After checking his watch, Bond sheds the wetsuit to revile a perfectly dry white tux. Then with a little flare, he pins on a red rose before joining a party in full swing. Before Bond can even light his cigarette the explosion sends revelers in every which direction as Bond settles in at the bar to meet his contact, the only other person in the room not in a full on panic. After some vague talk about how Mr. Ramirez will no longer be able to use “heroin flavored bananas to finance revolutions” (What??) Bond is off to the dancing Bonita’s (Nadja Regin) room. Bonita, fresh out of the tub, complains about Bond’s sidearm when they embrace. Ever the gentleman, Bonds puts his gun down, a decision that he will regret only moments later. In one of the many signature shots of the film, Bond catches a glimpse of his would be assassin approaching from behind in the reflection of Bonita’s eye. Bond throws Bonita to the floor and after some serious hand to hand, he dispatches of his attacker by throwing an electric heater into the bathtub, foreshadowing a future death by electrocution. This is also not the last time a woman Bond encounters will initially appear to be on one side and then flips to the other. Most importantly, this opening adventure sets the tone for the film. From the breakneck pacing to the tongue in cheek humor, the sequence broadcasts in no uncertain terms exactly what the audience is in for. Hamilton is throwing down the gauntlet right out of the gate; saying in effect “If you don’t find this funny and fun then walk out of the theater now because this film is not for you.”
Bond’s Mission: Felix gets the ball rolling right off the bat interrupting Bond’s vacation in Miami Beach. It turns out that M put Bond up at The Fontainebleau because international gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger has temporally set up shop at the hotel where he is fleecing an unsuspecting mark by cheating a Gin. Jimmy B (given the lighter tone of this film, yes, Jimmy B is appropriate) breaks into Goldfinger’s room to find the bikini sporting Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) perched on the balcony feeding Goldfinger his opponent’s hands via a radio. Bond introduces himself to Goldfinger by talking into his ear piece, convincing the cheater to loose the money back to his mark, with interest. This pisses Goldfinger off something fierce, and he exacts his payback in a most alarming fashion. Meanwhile, back in London, Bond learns that the Bank of England suspects Goldfinger is up to more than cheating at cards. The British suspect he’s involved in smuggling gold out of England and selling it in Asia, they just haven’t caught him red handed. In what could be viewed as entrapment, Bond is given one bar of Nazi gold, worth 5 thousand pounds, to use as bait to enter Goldfinger’s web.
Villain’s Name: Auric Goldfinger “He’s the man, with the Midas touch” as Bassey sings. Bond finally meets Goldfinger face to face on the links; a meeting Goldfinger deduces is not a coincidence. “What’s your game Mr. Bond?” Goldfinger asks while setting up for a putt, “you didn’t come here to play golf.” Bond drops the gold bar next to Goldfingers ball (a Slazenger 1) causing the villain to miss his shot. Goldfinger establishes himself as relaxed, confident and in control. Not unlike Bond he has expensive tastes and is accustom to being one step ahead of everyone else. He also once again demonstrates he’s not above cheating to win a wager, switching balls after he looses his in the rough.
Villain Actor: Gert Fröbe. Gert strikes an imposing figure. The tall, heavy German was in over 100 films, most of them in his native tongue. In fact, his German accent was too thick to be understood, so English actor Michael Collins dubbed his lines, a practice that the post house at Pinewood Studios must have perfected by this time. According to the indispensable IMDB.com Gert “received much criticism throughout his postwar career for having been a member of the Nazi party in Germany during World War II, although it was later revealed that he was using his membership as a cover to hide Jews from the Gestapo in order to smuggle them out of Germany.” Now there is a film I would love to see. Gert, a classily trained violinist and by all accounts a gentle giant told and interviewer he never got past the role of Goldfinger, as most people he meet expected him to be an evil calculating international felon.
Villain’s Plot: Smuggling, it turns out, along with rigging golf and card games, are mere drops in the bucket when it comes to Goldfinger’s criminal enterprises. Using a nifty tracking device, Bond follows Goldfinger to Geneva and ultimately to his warehouse compound in the Swiss Alps. Under the cover of night, Bond makes his way into eavesdropping distance to overhear some reference to “Operation Grand Slam.” Hummmm? Later on, while Bond is relaxing on the patio of Goldfinger’s Kentucky horse ranch, the jet setting criminal lets it be known he plans to knock over Ft. Knox. It’s just a matter of employing six planes to drop nerve gas on the 21 thousand troops stationed at the fort and from there it’s simply a smash and grab heist. One of the great things about re-watching the Bond films is the rediscovery; there are parts I’ve 100% forgotten. I remember images and sequences but in some ways it’s like I’m seeing the film for the first time. In the case of Goldfinger, I don’t think I’ve seen it since I was a kid. So, when Goldfinger tells Bond his plan over mint juleps, I found myself thinking, “Jesus, is Goldfinger simply bank robber with an inflated scene of ego and a irrational need to acquire what Hearst of ‘Deadwood’ fame loving refers to as ‘The Color?’” (Ed. Note: I think about “Deadwood” a lot.) Any who, Bond, it turns out, was thinking the same thing and points out to his gracious jailer/host that he will never be able to move all the gold without a ton of men, trucks and time. “But who said anything about moving it Mr. Bond.” Eureka! Turns out, Goldfinger is in bed with The Peoples Republic of China who supplied him with a nuke he plans to detonate in the vault, making the gold supply for the United States radio active for 60 plus years. “I apologize Goldfinger, it’s an inspired deal. They get what they want, economic chaos in the west and the value of your gold elevates many times.” It’s worth noting that while Goldfinger is clearly the main bad guy, this is the first time the Bond franchise dips its toe into Cold War politics. 1964 saw Red China joining the arms race when they successfully tested an atomic bomb. The idea of China engaging in nuclear proliferation with a man who just went from bank robber to global terrorist was as timely then as it is today. That said, the Chininess connection is simply an aside as far as the plot goes; the film is really about the race to stop Goldfinger from setting of his nuclear bomb.
Villain’s Lair: Goldfinger is a rich man, and as a result, he owns some real estate. In the Alps, he has an extensive compound guarded by countless Asians in blue smocks and one machine gun totting grandma. (He’s also got a cool room there which we will get into below.) But his more impressive base of operation is his Kentucky horse ranch, and more specifically, his rec room which features gadgetry to rival Q’s best stuff. Rendering PowerPoint obsolete 25 years before it’s even invented; Goldfinger lays out his plan to “rob” Ft. Knox to members of the mafia using projections, sound effects and a scale model of the fort which emerges from the floor to take up the entirety of the room. The mobsters, who come not from Chicago, LA and New York as alleged in the film, but from central casting, watch the elaborate presentation and actually speak lines like “What’s with that trick pool table,” “Whats that map doing there,” and “What are you trying to pull Goldfinger?” before they are gassed to death. As Roger Ebert pointed out in his write up of the film, why go through all the trouble of telling the mobsters what your going to do if you’re just going to kill them 30 seconds later? So Bond can listen while hidden under the model, that’s why. (Bond’s eyes looking out from the gold building in the model of Ft. Knox is a great touch, and when he gets his legs yanked out from under him it provides one of the bigger laughs in the film.) Anyway, the room is super impressive and worth every penny Goldfinger must have spent on it.
Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: Time to acknowledge the most memorable scene in the film. Goldfinger’s coolest toy is by far is his “laser.” The first functional “laser” or Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation was invented in 1960 by Theodore Maiman. The concept of coherent light, that is, light that doesn’t spread as it travels, has something to do with phasing and the electromagnetic spectrum and some other stuff that was even more mysterious and confusing to audiences in 1964. In fact, in a world before Star Wars (1977) or even “Star Trek” (1967) the “laser” was a brand spanking new real life “death ray” and as far as I can tell, Goldfinger was the first film to feature such a device. So, when Bond awakes to find his manhood threatened by the gold cutting beam of light, it gets his attention. Since the beam is moving toward him in a deliberate manner, Jimmy B assumes Goldfinger is after information, otherwise the light would be shot between his eyes. “Do you expect me to talk?” “No Mr. Bond. I expect you to die” maybe the most quoted and famous exchange from any Bond film, and not without reason. The scene is both funny and frightening at the same time and executed brilliantly, right down to the close-up of Bond where we actually see him sweat. What is not often remembered is that the laser is not just a torture device; it also plays a critical part in the Ft. Knox break in.
Badassness of Villain: Let there be no doubt, while the film is the “lightest” of the three so far, Goldfinger is nothing short of a freaking terrorist. One part Bin Laden and one part Goldman Sacks vice-president, he’s hell bent on not only bankrupting the US to make himself a gijillionaire, but he is willing to team up with the Commies to do it. Capitalism be dammed, he simply wants all the gold to himself, and if he needs to rig the game, so be it. As if this wasn’t enough, the dudes plan to get to the gold involves gassing an entire division of the US Army to death. Haaaaa, but it’s also the little touches that make Goldfinger one twisted puppy. Take the case of Mr. Soto. The mobster, thinking Goldfinger nuts, bails on the map room meeting prior to the gassing. Here is where Goldfinger’s playful, some would say sadistic, need to toy with his victims and out and out cheat, rears its ugly head. Goldfinger makes a huge show out of paying Mr. Soto his promised $1 million (in gold of course) and even sends him along to the airport. While his cohorts get gassed ( “I don’t like this .. hey what’s going on here..”) and killed, Soto looks to be the smart one, but he’s only half smart. Goldfingers driver shoots Mr. Soto on the way to the airport. Not content to just dump the body, Goldfinger has his driver bring the car to a junkyard, where it’s crushed into a cube the size of a large bail of hay, put into the back of a pick-up, and driven back to the ranch so Goldfinger can extract his $1 million in gold. Dirty pool old man. On a personal note, the car crushing brought back a crazy detailed memory from a childhood viewing of this movie. Earlier in the film, Bond is shot with a tranquilizer dart from a gun. When shot, the gun made a “vump” sound as opposed to the loud bang heard when a bullet is shot. When Mr. Soto is shot, he is done so by a gun with a silencer which makes a similar “not bang, vump” sound when shot. As a kid, I didn’t know about silencers, and since the two guns sounded the same, I thought that Soto was, like Bond, shot with a tranquilizer and was therefore asleep, not dead. You can imagine the horror my 8 year-old self felt in the next scene when (the in my mind still alive) Mr. Soto was crushed to death in the car. So powerful was the image that it wasn’t until this viewing, however many years later, that I realized Mr. Soto had expired prior to the crushing. Anyway, cool, calculating, double-crossing and willing to throw the world in chaos just to go from super crazy rich to Bill Gates rich, Goldfinger is one bad mother father.
Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Speaking of Goldfingers driver, The Korean manservant Oddjob is one of the most memorable and beloved characters from any of the Bond films. Oddjob was played by Harold Sakata, a professional wrestler of Japanese decent born in Holualoa, Hawaii. Sakata, who had no acting experience prior to Goldfinger, won a silver medal in light-heavyweight weight-lifting at the 1948 Olympics. A strong silent type, Oddjob performs his duties as driver, errand boy, assassin, and caddy without speaking but simply pointing and shouting “Ahh-Ahh” like a seagull. He is strong (he crushes Bond’s golf ball with his bare hands) and skilled with a bowler. His deadly hat which he tosses like a Frisbee is capable of chopping a head off a marble statue. However, when he attempts the same trick on a woman, one Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), she is simply knocked over, her head remaining attached without even a scratch. But when Bond checks her pulse moments later, she is in fact dead. Odd. Other Goldfinger associates include the humorous but pointless machine gun totting grandma. Then there are the countless Asian guys in blue who form this point forward will be called “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight” (these cats have worse aim than a battalion Stormtroopers going after Ewoks.) And last but not least, there is a lady. Isn’t there always?
Bond Girl Actress: Goldfinger’s personal pilot/ arm candy is played by Honor Blackman. At 38 she was not only the oldest Bond girl to date but also the most experienced actor. The London native was already known to British audiences for her role as the leather-clad Mrs. Cathy Gale in the English hit TV show “The Avengers.” Check out this clip where Blackman can also be heard singing. Director Guy Hamilton would later complain “One of the rules with the Bond pictures is that you’re not allowed to have a leading lady who can act – because we can’t afford them….If ever we were to have a real leading lady, the next time around we’d have to find another one. And in no time at all we’d have to have, oh, Jane Fonda for $2 million and up.” While this maybe true of the Bond films he’s helms in the future (we shall see when we get to them) he surly must have forgotten about Blackman who was not only strikingly beautiful and could deliver a line, but thanks to her work on “The Avengers,” was also proficient at judo.
Bond Girl’s Name: Pussy Galore. “I must be dreaming” offers Bond upon hearing her name but no, there she is. The name is clearly meant as a joke. However, all promotional items for the film referred to the character as Miss. Galore as to not offend the more sensitive types. Needless to say, Pussy Galore is one of greatest character names ever. The handle is so good the Bond franchise couldn’t let it go (Octopussy 1983) and it even inspired the title of this summers children’s film, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010).
Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: Better, a “shoot down line.” After his typical approach fails to win over the lady known as Pussy, Bond goes the more direct root asking Miss Galore “What would it take for you to see things my way?” She counters “A lot more than you’ve got.” “How do you know?” asks Bond. “I don’t want to know.” Meee-WO!
Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: “You’re a woman of many parts, Pussy.”
Bond Girl Sluttiness: Curious one .. In the last film, a meeting between Bond Girl Tatiana and Colonial Rosa Klebb carried lesbian undertones. Here, there are strong indications that Pussy might not be so into men. As the head of the “Pussy Galore Flying Circus” she clearly prefers the company of woman, she is more than a little disgusted by Goldfinger’s advances, and she even seems impervious to Bonds charms … that is until the two engage in some kung fu fighting which quickly becomes a roll in the hay. And once Pussy breaks down, she breaks down all the way. Not only does she turn on Goldfinger, but she works with the British and United States governments to set up the most ridiculous sting job in movie history short of …The Sting II (1983). On the day of the Ft. Knox robbery, Pussy’s Flying Circus dump the gas on the army as planed. In an over long sequence, scores on top of scores of soldiers drop dead, as does Felix and countless other folks. (In a shot that could have been lifted from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), we see three cars on “Main St. USA” sitting idle with dead citizens at the wheel.) Needless to say, this is something of a heavy moment, I mean; 60 thousand people (by James count) have just been killed! Oh but hahahaha, jokes on us and Goldfinger. Thanks to Jimmy B’s libido, Pussy switched teams in more ways then one, falling for Bond and filling the canisters in the planes with harmless smoke. James Bond, saving the world; one converted lesbian at a time.
Number of Woman 007 Beds: 2 confirmed, the most modest count up to this point. In addition to Pussy Galore, (once in the barn and once under a parachute as the credits role) Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) is Bonds only other conquest. We will get to Jill in a moment but I first want to touch on some thoughts when it comes to Jimmy B and the ladies. All of the sex in these films is suggested. Yes, sometimes it’s implied more strongly than at other times but none-the-less, sex in the Bond universe is all a double entendre here, a passionate kiss there and then it’s off to the next bit of business. So, can we assume that Bond and Bonita, the woman from the opening, have a history? Likewise, can we safely infer Bond slept with Dink, his poolside masseuse that he cavalierly slaps on the ass? Hard to say. Speaking of ass slapping, three films in, I’ve noticed Bond has no trouble at all smacking woman around. Sometimes it’s playful (Dink), sometimes it rougher like when he pushes Sylvia (From Russia With Love) away while he’s on the phone with M, and sometimes it’s out and out brutal like his pummeling of Tatiana (Also From Russia With Love) when he suspects she betrayed him. One last note on the women in Goldfinger, as I touched on before, all four ladies Bond spends any kind of time with are not what they first appear to be. Take Tilly Masterson. Bond encounters her while driving in the Alps, and ignores her until she starts shooting at him. I guess that’s what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps. Like Bonita, who first appears to be OK but was in fact setting Bond up, and like Miss. Galore who first kidnaps Bond but ends up working with him, Tilly is also not what she first appears. Turns out she was not gunning for Bond at all, but for Goldfinger. “You’re a lousy shot” Bond informs her before she and Bond lead Goldfinger’s men on a midnight car chase though the woods that ultimately leads to Tilly’s death courtesy of Oddjob’s bowler. Her demise, regrettably, comes before Bond has a chance to work his magic. Regardless, she was after Goldfinger to exact revenge for the death of her sister, Jill, the woman who was helping Goldfinger cheat at cards. After a brief introduction on the balcony at the Fontainebleau, Bond has Goldfingers lady back in his room and in his bed. When 007 goes to the fridge for some more Dom, he is knocked out cold by Oddjob. He awakes to find Jill in his bed, dead, and covered in gold paint. So iconic is the image that like the horses head from the Godfather (1972), another grisly between the sheets discovery, the golden naked body draped over the bed is known by people who have never even seen Goldfinger. One last note, Bond’s horn dog actions lead directly not only to Jill’s death, but Goldfingers escape from The States. A rare slip-up by 007, and M lets him know it.
M: After calling Felix to clean up the golden corps at the hotel, Bond finds himself back in London getting dressed down by his boss. Not only is M upset with Bond for letting Goldfinger slip away, but he suspects that Bond maybe taking his besting by the smuggler personally. After all, it could have been Bond covered in gold. M threatens to replace Bond with 008 if he can’t get his head screwed on straight. For a slight moment, it looks as if Bond might just fly off the handle and go rouge. Other than the sweat on his brow in the laser sequence, this is the closest Bond comes to being human in the film.
Miss. Moneypenny: Charming as always. So great is Lois Maxwell as M’s security that I was surprised to learn she was initially reluctant to take role. Maxwell went as far as telling Dr. No director Terrence Young she had no interest in playing a woman with her hair in a bun who answers the phone. When Young responded “good girl,” Maxwell saw Young also wanted Moneypenny to be more than a secretary. Before shooting even started on the first film, Maxwell got together with Connery and the two agreed upon a back story where the characters of Moneypenny and Bond did in fact become intimate on a holiday the two took some time back, but that’s where the relationship stopped. Moneypenny feared she would fall in love and knew the ever prowling James would break her heart. For his part, Bond felt that if M knew about the two of them, he wouldn’t get his 00. I like this background and I wish it was included in the films in some way.
Q: We get our first look into Q’s workshop where he is testing gas emitting parking meters and bullet proof vets. In addition, the Q character evolves greatly from the last film and fleshes out into the Q we love. (The “me” part of “we” at least.) In an interview included on the special edition DVD of Goldfinger, Desmond Llewelyn explains Hamilton directed that Q is not to like Bond. Hamilton explained that 007 doesn’t give a damn about Q’s gadgets and treats them with great disrespect. This establishes what Llewelyn calls the “odd couple like relationship” between Q (Felix) and Bond (Oscar).
Number of Gadgets/List of Gadgets: 4. In addition to the seagull SCUBA hat there are the two homing devices, a larger magnetic one that fits on a car and a smaller one to fit in the sole of Bonds shoe. Then there is the car.
Bond Car/s: The Goldfinger Aston Martin DB-5 has been called the “world’s most famous car” and it may even be in the running for the world most famous ride period, right up there with the Starship U.S.S. Enterprise and Santa’s sleigh. But unlike both of those fictional flying transports, the Goldfinger Aston Martin is very real and can be yours for a cool $5 Million. The car, as big a star in the film as anyone, was sent around the world as part of the publicity push for the film and was even seen by the Queen herself. Interesting then that the “world’s most famous car” was almost a Bentley, one of the many jokes built into the screenplay. When Q walks Bond to the Aston Martin, 007 immediately protests, “Where’s my Bentley? It’s never let me down.” As dryly as only an English man can, Q dismisses the hand made classic by responding “It’s had it day I’m afraid …” He then introduces the silver Aston Martin “Now pay attention please …” and it’s off to races. First up, “Rotating plates, naturally, good in all countries.” The rotating license plate, like much of the gadgetry on the hand built Aston Martin, really worked. Director Guy Hamilton dreamt up the simple device after he got several parking tickets while on location. Behind a sliding panel in the interior is a radar screen, good for following the fore mentioned tracking devices up to 150 miles. Hidden in the arm rest center counsel are controls the release smoke and oil slicks out of the rear of the car. Both of these buttons also worked for real as did the third which deployed two machine guns out of the front grill (the guns themselves were fake.) Still another button would make a bullet proof metal shield pop out of the trunk; the shield also worked in real life but was not, alas, bullet proof. Also real where the spinning blades that came out of the hubcaps and could shred the tires of any car driving along side. Anyone from my generation who played Spy Hunter knows how handy all this stuff can be. “This one I’m particular keen of” Q says as he flips the top of the stick shift to reveal a red button. “Whatever you do don’t touch it.” Because if you do, Bond old boy, you will launch the ejector seat, sending your passenger through a break away panel in the roof and off to never-never land. Even Bond can’t believe this one “Ejector seat? Your joking.” “I never joke about my work double O 7” And yes, the ejector seat, taken from a fighter plane and installed into the Aston Martin, does work. However, it’s an air pressure system because the explosives used in a jet ejector system would have burned the hell out of the driver. In watching all this business I couldn’t help but note that gadgets of a pre-digital world were just plan cooler. Yes, iPhones are slick and streamline, but there is something so awesome about the analog buttons. I think it’s the clunk, snap and actual mechanic behind the throwing of a physical switch. Along those lines, cars in general were just cooler in 1964. Even the “everyday” cars seen while Felix is tooling around, following the beep beep beep of the homing device, are great to look at. How the cars of yesteryear guzzled gas is another manner, but yes, cool looking. One last car note, Bond is driven from the airport to Goldfinger’s horse ranch in a red station wagon, which has got to be the biggest piece of shit Bond has ever sat in and I’m sure offended his sensibility even more than being captured and locked up in the first place.
Number of People 007 Kills: 7, a low body count indeed. I wonder if this reduced number, along with only two lades bedded, was a deliberate choices meant to “lighten” the tone of the film? Anyway, deaths. There is the guy in bathtub (death by electric heater) from the opening. Then there is a mid film chase in a night covered forest featuring the Aston Martin and the “Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” With Tilly Masterson riding shotgun, Bond uses the smoke screen to get rid of one car that harmless goes of the road into the trees. The oil slick on the other hand sends a car full of four hurdling of a cliff. The car explodes in a rather dubious fashion; it starts to go over the ridge and suddenly “KA-Boom” for no discernable reason other than the special effects guy pushed the button too soon. Then, there is the undoing of Oddjob which puts a “!” on Goldfingers badassness. After the plan to nuke the gold goes sideways, Goldfinger ends up locking his loyal #2 into the Ft. Knox gold vault along with Bond and the nuke. Oddjob who is…well quite and odd job, doesn’t seem to mind at all. He just goes about his business, fighting with Bond. The room itself is quite impressive. The US government turned down filmmakers requests to see even one photo of the inside of Ft. Knox, so set designers were forced to make up what they thought the gold depository would look like. They came up with an airplane hanger size vault filled from floor to ceiling with stacks on top of stacks of gold or a “cathedral of gold” as a Goldfinger’s producer described it. Anyway, Oddjob goes about throwing his bowler and laughing off all of Bonds assaults, including gold bars heaved at his chest. In fact, the only time he panics is when Bond picks up the bowler and throws it; only to miss Oddjob and loge the hat into a set of bars. Oddjob goes to recover his beloved weapon and he is shocked when he gets the surprise of his life. Or is it he gets the surprise of his life when he’s shocked? Anyway, Bond kills him by electrocution and then must deal with what Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary calls an unnecessary countdown device; IE the clock that displays exactly how long our hero has to disarm a bomb (Why would the manufacture bother to included such a device on a bomb Ebert asks?) Bond was originally meant to stop the clock with 3 seconds to spare but in a last second re-write he stops the nuke 7 seconds short of detonation so the readout displays “007.”
Most Outrageous Death/s: OK, so let me get this straight. Bond gets Pussy Galore to set up an elaborate hoax with the US government a mere 12 hours after she sleeps with him. This hoax involves an entire base worth of soldiers pretending they are dead so a known terrorist can drive a nuclear weapon into the middle of said base. Then, they allow said terrorist to get into the gold depository…at Ft. Knox… and get his nuke inside as well. Surprise, surprise, this all gets mucked up so badly that the terrorist actually gets to within seven second of blowing the place to hell. Then what? Well, after defusing the bomb, they put the terrorist off in some corner so he can knock out two pilots. Not just any two pilots but the very two pilots who are scheduled to fly Bond to … where else? The freaking White House! Goldfinger has better security clearance than Felix. So, yah, Bond is on a DC bound plane, going to Washington so the president can personally thank him for saving the country, when Jimmy B is confronted by Goldfinger who along with Pussy has hijacked the plane. Yielding a golden gun, Goldfinger confronts Bond, and then a bullet (golden?) gets shot into the plane’s fuselage, ripping a hole that depressurizes the cabin and sucks Goldfinger out into the wide blue yonder. “Where’s Goldfinger?” Pussy asks. “Playing his golden harp.”
Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: When Q presents Bond with the Aston Martin, the gadget guru off handedly mentions “we very much would appreciate its return, along with all your other equipment, intact for once when you return from the field.” Bond smiles “Oh you’d be surprised at all the wear and tear that goes on out there in the field” further establishing James as thorn in MI6’s side. Anyway, Bond smashes the car into a wall, destroying both the wall and car. He also tosses aside his seagull breathing apparatus, which I assume sank.
Other Property Destroyed: Bond blows up the heroin flavored banana factory in Havana. There are the numerous Gang Who Can’t Shoot Straight cars he forces into crashes, including the spontaneously combusting cliff jumper. He trashes Tilly’s car with his rotating tire knives. And he puts Goldfingers plane into the ocean, after he and Pussy jump to safety, natch.
Felix Leiter: Cec Linder becomes the 2nd Felix and like Jack Lord before him, he only plays the CIA agent once. Felix is more involved here than in Dr. No since most of the action takes place in The States but he’s still kind of useless. At one point, Bond, being held prisoner at Goldfinger’s ranch, trips his homing device. Felix gets the signal but fails to realize it’s a call for help. Also, Linder is an old frail man who would keel over if he had to perform 1/10th of the physical feats Bond is required to pull off.
Best One Liners/Quips: The most famous of course is “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” However, it was another line that struck me during my viewing of the film. Before the gold paint/dead girl incident, Bond has just finished getting down with Jill when he reached for an open bottle of champagne. It’s no good, too warm, and Bond hops out of bed to hit the fridge. Jill protests, asking him to stay. “My dear girl, there are just some things that aren’t done, such as drinking Don Perignon ‘53 above 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s as bad as listing to the Beatles without earmuffs.” I found this hysterical and right in line with who I think Bond is. Keith Phipps of the AV Club, a writer I truly enjoy found the line to be “cringe worthy” and Ebert, who I simply adore, saw it as a misstep as well. Full disclosure, I’m a Beatles fanatic. That said, I 100% see why Bond isn’t. What would he have to do with thousand of screaming teenaged girls? It’s beneath him. We are talking 1964, where the Fab Four we a force of nature no doubt, but they were also only three albums in to there career having yet to rival Jesus when it came to the number of Twitter followers. The scene also made me crack up since when Oddjob whacks Bond on the head, 007 falls to the ground while the fridge still open, all but guaranteeing the 10 or so bottles of Dom inside will rise well above 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s worse than listening to Radiohead … ever.
Bond Timepiece: A Rolex Submariner with a black face. My wife, something of a watch expert, was mildly impressed, but felt Bond could and should do better. Either way, it looked hot with the white tux.
Other Notable Bond Accessories: Most have already been mentioned, but he has an impressive set of clubs and he is still rocking to cool hats.
Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 5 perhaps 6. First, the warming Don Perignon ’53. Next, while M and Colonel Smithers download Bond on Goldfingers smuggling operation over a fancy dinner, the Colonel apologizes for the sub-par cognac. M doesn’t see what wrong with it but Bond takes one sniff and notes its been blended, publicly insulting M. “Colonel Smithers is giving the lecture double o seven” This is another nice little moment between M and Bond, funny and light, and Connery pulls it off. After waking up to find himself on Goldfingers plane, Bond gives us his first ordering of a martini in his costmary fashion. True, he drank two in Dr. No, but they came shaken not stirred, he never actually ordered them as such. So, he got his martini but in the very next scene we see Bond sitting on the plane with a glass of cognac, and there is an empty red wine glass on the table. Hell of tear to go on when you’re about to meet up with the head baddie. Then, once on the ranch, Bond enjoys a Kentucky favorite, a mint julep. After all, it would be rude not to.
Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Gambling maybe illegal at Bushwood sir, but at Goldfingers country club it’s encouraged. Bond and Goldfinger start out playing for a shilling a hole but after the Nazi gold bar is introduced the villain says 8 of my favorite words to hear in a Bond film “Do you mind raising the stakes a bit?” by which he means a bunch; 5 thousand pounds to be exact, the value of the gold bar. Bond aggresses as Goldfinger insists they play “strict rules of golf;” by which he means “I’m going to cheat.” Bond and his caddy Hawker pull a fast one of their own, and it all comes down to the climatic 18th hole putt. James misses his gimmie shot, on purpose I suspect, but wins the match and the 5 thousand pounds. Goldfinger reacts like he’s Phil Hellmuth getting sucked out on the river, throwing down his club and instructing Oddjob to decapitate a statue and crush a golf ball with his hand.
List of Locations: The film opens in Cuba, but none of the beautiful island nation is seen. The action quickly moves to Miami Beach for Jimmy B’s first trip to the U.S. The Fontainebleau hotel, where most of the action takes place, is sight to behold and the beautiful establishing shots of the pool reminded me of the famous tracking shot from I Am Cuba (1964), a documentary that came out the same year. The hotel also features an ice skating rink overlooking an underwater window so you can watch people swim while perfecting you’re triple sow cow. London of course is experienced mostly from M’s office. Then it’s off to the twisting mountain roads of the Swiss Alps, which are shot to milk all their majestic beauty while Kentucky, the sight of Goldfinger’s horse ranch as well as the Fort Knox climax, looks suspiciously like Miami Beach at times. Outside of the hotel Fontainebleau pool, most of the location just kind of come and go leaving little impact. It’s the interior sets (The map room, the cathedral of gold depository room, the laser room) that leave the deepest impression.
Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: 007’s areas of expertise grows to incorporate an extensive knowledge of cognacs, cars (complementing Goldfinger on his Phantom 3-37,) chemistry, and new math, as he mentally calculates the exact weight of all the gold in Ft. Knox. He gets to work on his judo chops with Miss. Galore and demonstrates how to break out of a guarded cell. But most impressive was his golf game. While playing a guy who owns a country club, Bond holds his own, keeping even till the final putt.
Thoughts on Film: Ian Flemming, who died a month prior to the third Bond films September 1964 releases, once summed up his creation saying Bond “may go wildly beyond the probable, but not beyond the possible.” Goldfinger walks that thin line and though on occasions crosses it, the film manages to not trip over it. Yes, crushing a golf ball with a single bare hand, as Oddjob happily does, maybe pushing the truth envelope a little too far into FOX News’s version of “true,” but I digress. (Going forward, this post will remain fare and balanced.) When Goldfinger does fall off the truth wagon, it does so for a laugh, and acknowledges the fib with a wink and a nod to the audience. When Bond takes off his wetsuit to revile a perfectly pressed tux it could have been an eye rolling moment. However, when he puts the flower in his lapel, even the most cynical must giggle. It’s those touches where the film makers seem to be saying “Yes we know, but please, come along for the ride, it will be so much more fun if you don’t resist.” And indeed, resistance is futile. Goldfinger is the lightest and most fun Bond film of the three made to this point. It’s also the biggest and sexiest, and if one word had to be picked to describe this film, it would be sexy. The ladies, the locations, that car, and the object of desire itself, gold, are all incredibly enticing. The gold motif is carried throughout the film, from Goldfingers many golden assessors, to the incredible towers of gold in Ft. Knox’s and most famously, the unforgettable image of a dead naked woman covered from head to toe in gold paint. In fact, this film contains several of the most iconic Bond images of all time, in addition to Jill’s death by gold paint we have Oddjob and his deadly bowler, the crotch threatening laser coupled with “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” the car being crushes into a cube, and Bond’s pimped out Aston Martin. Additionally, Q is full formed, Bond officially becomes the smart ass pain in the neck and the name Pussy Galore is worth its weight in gold. But….but, silliness makes its way into the Bond world here. Yes, the first two had jokes, but the material was handled with an overall tone of seriousness. Here, moments that should be stressful and tense come across light as a feather. Worse, the third act is not well thought out. For example, an entire brigaded of the U.S. Army, guarding one of our most important assets and treasures are gassed, we think at the time, to death. Soldier after soldier drop like a cartoon character that just drank from a bottle labeled “Poison.” And they are gas by “Pussy Pilots?” (OK, Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, but still!) Hamilton handles this whole thing poorly. The director himself admitted he rounded up a bunch of extras to play the soldiers last second and paid them $10 a beer for their time. It shows. It looks as if he was hung up on shooting the planes and the dying army was an after thought. Even then, the planes are kind of lame; the helicopter in the previous film was 100 times more menacing. Goldfinger has so many classic moments, but they don’t come together nearly as cleanly as the great moments in From Russia With Love. While I praised With Love for taking the time to give Bond a heart, the more wiz bang Goldfinger just wants to move you from one set piece to the next. Watching the two films back to back, Goldfinger almost plays like a fun house mirror version of Young’s film in pacing and tone. With Love is a better film, but it could be said that Hamilton’s Goldfinger maybe a better “Bond Film.” What is undisputable is for two films that were released only one year apart, they are very, very different. From Russia With Love cares about who Bond is and how he goes about his business while Goldfinger is unapologetically all spectacle. That approach could have sent the film off the rails, but despite its issues, Goldfinger manages to stay on track for an incredibly fun rollercoaster ride. Much of that is thanks to Connery, who handles the pitfalls of the script deftly and somehow manages to keep the material both light and grounded, an incredibly difficult task. Goldfinger is the first 007 movie to feel like a blockbuster and it was in fact just that; a huge “Hollywood” action film that sets the bar high for every Bond film that follows.