Retro Review: Goldfinger
"Everything he touches turns to excitement!"
For those who have been living under a rock for the past several months, Spectre
hits theaters next week on November 6th. The 24th film in the Bond franchise has more than a few delightful nods to the early days of Bond’s cinematic history. In celebration of the new Bond flick, we take a look back to a particular point in the Bond series where the character really found his footing as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the world had seen.
The great Adam West had a saying about how back in the 1960s, it was all about the three B’s: The Beatles, Bond and Batman. He was on to something for sure, was he not? There were indeed a few crazes sweeping across the world, and Bond was a huge one of them. The year was 1964. Bond creator Ian Fleming passed away in August at the age of 56, just over one month before the motion picture release of Goldfinger,
the third official Bond film in the long-running franchise. At that time, Bond was still a new situation in film. Audiences thought they knew who Bond was, but it was not until Goldfinger
that Bond’s popularity would soar to stratospheric heights and he would become the Bond we all know and love.
This film finds Bond (Sean Connery) on assignment in Miami Beach where he is to observe the bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Eventually Bond learns that his real mission is to find out how Goldfinger is able to move large amounts of gold across the world without detection. In order to do this, he arranges to meet Goldfinger socially and engages in a game of high-stakes golf (the only kind of golf Bond would play), where he meets Oddjob (Harold Sakata), Goldfinger’s mute manservant, who will become a challenge for Bond to negotiate before he is to stop Goldfinger’s ultimate plan of detonating a dangerous atomic device that will render the gold within the world’s largest bank in Fort Knox, Kentucky, radioactive for years. Why? Mainly to increase the value of his gold. The man loves his gold.
Every generation has a favorite actor’s portrayal of Bond, though most will either go with Sean Connery or Roger Moore. The two of them have been in more Bond films than any actor in franchise history, though at this point and time, some would even put Daniel Craig, who many see as the strongest successor to Connery, near the top of the list. (Pierce Brosnan might be a close second). Most people would unanimously give top preference to Connery, who is in top form here. He embodies the intelligence, animal magnetism and suaveness of Bond, with a dash of the wry humor thrown in for good measure. He is cool under pressure and has great chemistry with each woman he comes across from Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) to Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) to of course, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).
Blackman, who some might know from a fantastic little British spy-themed TV show called The Avengers,
is playing a woman a bit ahead of her time; different than previous Bond girls. Pussy Galore was never a damsel in distress. In fact, she was very assertive, she could fight, knew how to fly planes and was quite the match for Bond and all the charms he could throw at her. Gert Frobe is having a ball in the role of Goldfinger, a villain whose aspirations are simple and grounded. He is ahead of the curve as far as megalomaniacs after world domination go. He is not only an intelligent and resourceful character, but he also could not give two cents about taking over the world. Gold is the goal for him and along the way, he gives Bond a great verbal jousting session over drinks as they discuss Goldfinger's plan. It is a fantastic example of the two men matching wits.
You could look anywhere or talk to any Bond fan of a certain age, and you will find that there is a near unanimous consensus that Goldfinger
is the defining film of the entire Bond series, having perfected what is now known as the Bond formula. It is the film that set the standard that not only all other Bond films aspired to, but virtually every film and television show in the spy genre attempted to reach such high levels of success. It was the first Bond film to win an Academy Award and is a master class in technical wizardry from the execution of visual effects to the massive set designs to the scope of the cinematography. It also gave Bond the equivalent of his Batmobile in the famed Aston Martin DB5, which came fully loaded with all the toys you could imagine. And who can forget about Oddjob? The evil henchman element has become a staple throughout the Bond series and Harold Sakata's Oddjob is a memorable one for certain. Right up there with some of the best ones including Jaws and Baron Samedi.
There is so much more to discuss from John Barry's grand musical score and Shirley Bassey's epic theme song to the iconic image of the literal golden girl Jill Masterson covered from head to toe in that sparkly gold paint, but you get the idea. You can still watch Goldfinger
and see that more than fifty years later, the film remains polished, pristine and a fully realized project that is the embodiment of everything a Bond film should be. If no one had ever seen a Bond film, Goldfinger
is the film a newbie should see to get a feel for Bond. The idea that the upcoming Spectre
tips a kind of Oddjob's hat to such a legendary work can only be a good thing. Bring on Spectre