Goldfinger (1964)

Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn Lois Maxwell, Nadja Regin, Margaret Nolan
Music: John Barry
Theme song performed by Shirley Bassey
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Many people consider this the best Bond film of them all. Maybe it is. It certainly is the film that set the style for all Bond films to follow. The first two movies, Dr. No and From Russia With Love were a bit harder than Goldfinger and they took on the flavour of the locations Bond was visiting – in Dr. No when Bond lands on Crab Key the film takes on an old fashioned (boys own) adventure tone. In From Russia With Love, the scenes in Turkey, and in particular the Gypsy Camp, have a certain feel which has never been replicated. But by the time Goldfinger came around, the Bond style was finely honed. It didn’t matter where Bond travelled to, wherever the location, the style of the films did not change.

Another element that changed with Goldfinger was the increased amount of humour. Although there was humour in the previous two Bond movies, Goldfinger really is ground zero for the double entendres, and the occasional sight gag. For example the opening scene features James Bond in SCUBA gear approaching a dock. Attached to his headpiece as camouflage is a artificial duck. With that, I’ll move on to the plot overview – it starts with a rip-roaring pre-title sequence in Latin America.

‘Shocking! Positively Shocking!’ After James Bond (Sean Connery) has blown up an Oil Refinery, which was actually a heroin processing plant, he stops off at nightclub to pay his respects to Bonita (Nadja Regin), a dancer he has been seeing. Backstage, as he holds her, reflected in her eyes, Bond sees an assassin sneaking up from behind. At the last second, as the assailant brings down his blackjack, Bond spins and the girl receives the blow meant for him. Ouch! Bond and his adversary duke it out in the small backstage room, until Bond gets the better off his attacker and sends him flying backwards into the bathtub. Unfortunately for Bond, next to the bathtub, is Bond’s Walther PPK (for the un-initiated – his gun). The assassin grabs Bond’s gun and takes aim. Simultaneously, Bond flings an electric fan heater into the bathtub and electrocutes his attacker.

Then we launch into the title sequence. The song Goldfinger is sung with gusto by Shirley Bassey. If you haven’t heard it, you must have been living on another planet. Accompanying Miss Bassey’s vocal are Robert Brownjohn’s visuals, images from the film projected onto the golden body of Margaret Nolan (who will turn up later in the movie as ‘Dink’). Trevor Bond is quoted in Emily King’s book “Robert Brownjohn: Sex And Typography”:

“I think Goldfinger were the only titles that ever went to the censor. We were going to project objects on her body, but that was too difficult, it was hard to make them stand out. It was Bj’s idea to project scenes from the film. The golf ball down the cleavage is pure Bj. It was brilliant.”

After the titles we land at the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami. Beside the pool, Bond is receiving a massage from Dink (the aforementioned Margaret Nolan), when he is interrupted by old friend and C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter (this time played by Cec Linder. Leiter was previously played by Jack Lord in Dr. No).

Leiter passes on a message from ‘M’. Bond is to observe Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Each day Goldfinger plays gin with Du Pont, and each day Goldfinger has won. Bond observes this from a far, but is suspicious. His suspicions take him up to Goldfinger’s hotel suite. Inside he finds Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), clad in black underwear, peering through a pair of binoculars. From her vantage point she can see the cards, Du Pont is holding and via a small two way radio, she passes this information to Goldfinger. His receiving device is disguised as a hearing aid. Bond isn’t impressed with the scam. He takes the microphone and threaten to tell the Miami Police unless Goldfinger starts to lose. And lose he does.

Meanwhile Bond takes Jill back to his room for a bit of ‘slap and tickle’. But while searching the fridge for another bottle of champagne, Bond is knocked unconscious. Now the Bond series has a few iconic moments, and the next scene is one of them. When Bond comes to, he sees Jill dead, spread eagled on his bed. But what makes this different, is she is covered from head to toe with gold paint. She has died from skin suffocation. The scene is dazzling and original and now indelibly etched into the minds of anyone who saw this film when they were young.

Back in London in ‘M’s office, Bond is reprimanded. He was supposed to watch Goldfinger, not borrow his girlfriend. Later, he is briefed on what his mission is about. Goldfinger is a gold smuggler. He buys gold in undeveloped countries for a small price and sells it in developed countries for a high price. But nobody knows how he does it. Bond’s mission is to find out. Naturally there’s more to Goldfinger, than just gold smuggling. That’s just the tip of the ice-berg. But these are things that Bond and the viewer finds out along the way.

Onto the Bond girls (I am sure there’s a Bondian quip there, but I’m not game to use it). Bond has quite a few conquests throughout this film. Above I have already mentioned Nadja Regin as Bonita, and Margaret Nolan as Dink. The three main Bond girls, are Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson, Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson, and most famously Honour Blackman (Cathy Gale from The Avengers) plays Pussy Galore.

Goldfinger doesn’t feature too many gadgets. Bond only has one. And it’s a doozy. It’s the very famous Aston Martin DB5. It comes equipped with every assault and defence device imaginable. Amongst the devices are revolving number plates, a rear bullet proof shield, front and rear machine guns, smoke screen, oil slick, and a passenger side ejector seat. It’s riot, when Bond finally gets to put the car through its paces. But Bond isn’t the only person allowed to have gadgets. Goldfinger possesses an industrial laser. Goldfinger demonstrates its capabilities in a very uncomfortable scene (for male viewers), where Bond is strapped to a table, and Goldfinger has his laser moving between Bonds legs, slowly up towards his genitals. At this point Bond asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” And to this Goldfinger glibly replies, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” It’s classic cinema.

As with most Bond movies, a few notes about music are in order. The musical score is by John Barry, and the classic Bond sound starts here. Sure, Barry worked on Dr. No, and composed the score for From Russia With Love. But here is starting line for the true Bond sound. Barry has composed a terrific score, with an equally memorable title song performed by Shirley Bassey. This is the soundtrack to which all other Bond soundtracks are compared. It’s bold, it’s brassy. It’s Bond.

So that’s Goldfinger, the third film in the Bond series. It has to be the most fun of all the Bond films. It’s story isn’t the strongest, and Bond falls into more traps than he sets. Actually he doesn’t do that much at all in the end, but he is the centrepiece; and because of this film, an iconic one at that. When this film was released, people queued around the block to see it at cinemas. Its success launched Bondmania around the world. Bond became a brand. There were everything from jigsaw puzzles and toy cars to talcum powder and vodka labelled with the 007 logo. If it was Bond, it was sixties cool. Countless imitators and rip-offs began springing up. Particularly in Europe where a whole industry popped up making Eurospy films. Even in Asia, Bond was popular; and they had their own attempt at making spy films. It seems like there wasn’t a place on the planet where Bond’s influence wasn’t felt. Even behind the Iron Curtain. The average Soviet citizen may never have had the opportunity to see a Bond film, or read a Bond book, but they knew who Bond was.

Before I sign off on this review, I thought I’d share a little bit of trivia: Before Goldfinger Harold Sakata was a Hawaiian pro-wrestler called Tosh Togo. He also won a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics in the light – heavyweight weightlifting division.

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