It’s time for Bond to get fully action packed and all blockbuster sized today with Goldfinger. This was the first of the series to be made with what was then considered a large budget of $3 million and just as From Russia With Love upped the scale so too does Goldfinger in equal measure. I call From Russia With love one of my favourites, many consider Goldfinger the best. I do not. So I guess you should click on the link to read my thoughts on this film. Or not, see if I care…. Please do.
In Goldfinger Bond (Still Sean Connery) has been called in by MI6 and the CIA to investigate some suspected gold smuggling being carried out by one Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe, Voiced by Michael Collins). He’s a portly chap that doesn’t like to lose and is obsessed with gold. Probably because his parents gave him such a silly pun based name. Bond has to get close to him to find out what the deal is with this Goldfinger customerrrrr…. and in the process stop whatever nefarious plan he has. That plan, as it turns out, is a plan to break into the mother of all banks, Fort Knox. Also Bond intends to prove just how manly he is by turning a lesbian straight. Goldfinger must be a science fiction film I guess.
To be fair the plot is actually pretty cool in it’s set up. This is the first of the Bonds to travel to the US and as such features a larger role for Bond’s long time friend in the CIA Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) who we last saw, albeit with a different face, in Dr No. There’s clearly a concerted effort on the part of the film makers here to appeal to a larger US based audience than the previous films. It clearly worked as by 1966, just over a year after Goldfinger’s release, US audiences had the choice of 22 spy films to see in that year alone. The trouble for me with this Bond film is in it’s execution.
The plotting is sloppy to be honest. You have a period of half an hour where Bond gets into no less than 3 car chases, two of which end in his capture. Having 3 similar action sequences in a row is poor plotting of events. They serve merely to show you all the gadgets the Aston martin DB5 has in quick succession. This is because the car isn’t used in the films second half. From then on Bond continues his pattern of being captured over and over. All he seems to do for much of the film is be captured, escape briefly, then get captured again. For some reason a real escape is beyond him even when he’s given enough time to turn lesbian pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) straight via the seductive art of kicking her arse. After having a film where Bond became a fully fleshed out character in From Russia With Love to have him turn into a character that spends the majority of the film being dragged along by the villain only because it would cause too much trouble to have Bond killed makes Bond look weak. Bond should be proactive. He’s the blunt instrument of a weapon used to force his way out of bad situations. Another issue stems from a character brought in for no real purpose. Early on in the film a girl bond seduces is killed by being painted head to toe in gold creating one of cinema’s most iconic images. Later her sister shows up intending to get revenge on Goldfinger. 10 minutes later she is dead and a character that could have accompanied Bond on his own personal mission has been cast aside. Think how much better it would be if Bond was set on bringing justice when all she wanted was to kill Goldfinger. That’s conflict people, and conflict is drama.
To the film’s credit though that is really the only major issue. Goldfinger himself makes for an interesting villain who, in true villainous tradition, is destined to be undone by his hubris. He’s theatrical with his methods and bullish with his threats. He believes no-one can stop him so much that he will happily explain away all his plans to Bond and anyone else that will listen just to get his jollies. Which pretty much began a Bond villain tradition all of its own there. He’s a far more present threat than Dr No, Red Grant or Klebb in the previous films and really he is the first great Bond villain. |s this film features no connection to SPECTRE though we know full well that a much more threatening one is on the horizon.
Something else Goldfinger by the bucket load is iconic imagery and characters. Goldfinger I’ve already gone over the pussy Galore really was the first Bond girl to be a stronger person physically than the previous girls. She has no trouble throwing a few judo chops about. Another iconic villain comes in the form of Goldfinger’s henchman/Golf caddy Oddjob. Other than being a cool character to pick on Goldeneye on the N64 on account of him being short and thus hard to shoot Oddjob also comes packed with a devastating bowler hat attack. The image of Oddjob decapitating a statue with his hat is one that many people still remember today as being a great Bond film moment. He’s played by arguable wrestling legend Tosh Togo AKA Harold Sakata. The guy was pretty much as tough as he’s depicted on screen here. True fact, when recording his death scene his hand was badly burned by the pyro effects going off yet he didn’t let go of the hat he was being electrified by until director guy Hamilton yelled cut. That shot goes on for a good 5 seconds or so. Man was double tough.
What Goldfinger is is a very enjoyable action romp with iconic imagery but that is all. Bond as a character regresses some here and the focus on gadgets through the first half means Bond shoots his technological load halfway through. Very un-Bond-like. The second act of the film is sloppy and only manages to get by on the strength of the villain and the scenario itself. This is Bond as a popcorn movie which is a step away from what the previous 2 films were. To be fair a $3 million budget back then meant a certain amount of risk needed to be removed and so making the film a action spectacular was the right approach. I still enjoy the hell out of Goldfinger but it’s hard not to notice how little Bond actually accomplishes in this film when compared to the previous two. These Bond reviews will return with… Thunderball!!!