(1964, Guy Hamilton)
“Do you expect me to talk?”
It was inevitable that James Bond was going to pop up in the Movies You Must See Before You Die. Can you imagine a film industry without Bond? I certainly can’t. And while this is the only Bond movie on the list out of the 20-something now released, it’s certainly one of the most enduring and most popular, as well as being the movie that essentially defined “Bond Movie” as a genre, from the gadgets to the girls to the car chases and everything in between.
James Bond (the Sean Connery version, obviously) has been called on to deal with the criminal mastermind Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), who’s suspected of smuggling gold. During his investigation, Bond discovers Goldfinger’s intention to attack Fort Knox in Kentucky. And that’s basically it for plot, since the rest of the movie involves Bond flashing his gadgets, spouting one-liners and flirting with everything with breasts that crosses his path.
It’s hard to review a Bond movie. It’s pretty much a genre unto itself, which means pointing out its many flaws (yes, they’re there) means denying how enjoyable and entertaining the movies as a whole are. Bond movies are not bad movies by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re hardly clever. Also, confession time, this is only the second Bond movie I’ve seen in its entirety, the only other one being, shamefully, The Quantum Of Solace, so I can’t really compare it to any of the others. Yes, feel free to complain about that.
Let’s start by saying what’s wrong with Goldfinger. As an obvious product of the 60s, it shows its age. Much of the cheeky humour involving Bond flirting with every woman on the planet comes across as fairly misogynistic these days, and some scenes are particularly uncomfortable to watch. Bond breaks into a hotel room and casually starts touching up and kissing a woman hired by Goldfinger. An early scene shows him using a woman as a human shield (no, really!). And then there’s the whole scenario with him winning over the improbably-named Pussy Galore (the also improbably-named Honor Blackman), firstly in his methods, which uncomfortably resemble rape, and secondly because the original novel blatantly painted her as a lesbian. Goldfinger’s attitude towards women is frequently questionable, and while this is just the result of attitudes of the time it was made, it doesn’t help the movie age well.
Also, it becomes obvious that Bond doesn’t really do anything short of bedding Ms Galore, allowing her to betray Goldfinger. He’s just kind of there, and spends a good chunk of time stuck in a prison cell. As a result, it’s easy to see why Bond is so easy to parody, since at times this can feel like a parody of itself. Bond largely fumbles his way through this movie, and attempts to make himself look suave despite this. At times it’s easy to wonder why the hell MI5 keep him around at all.
It’s also somewhat poorly structured. Blatantly pieced together as a series of set pieces, but less effectively than, say, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the plot fumbles just as much as Bond himself. It’s there, but not clearly.
But at the same time, you get the feeling that no one involved was bothered by these elements, and all they wanted to do was make a movie that was entertaining. If at times it ends up being unintentionally hilarious, so what? It’s still entertaining, right? The answer is yes. Goldfinger is a joy to watch. Past the awkward treatment of women, seeing Bond smarm his way around the Swiss countryside and Goldfinger’s Kentucky ranch is fantastic, and it’s easy to see why Sean Connery’s portrayal is a favourite among moviegoers. Connery revels in his role, almost always smirking his way through scenes and clearly having the time of his life. And the viewer gets dragged along with him.
Also notable is the portrayal of Goldfinger as a villain. It’s become a common cliché that Bond villains are incompetent, delusional megalomaniacs, but Goldfinger actually seems smart. The famous laser cutting scene (the source of the header quote) sees Goldfinger immediately looking to kill Bond outright rather than try and torture him. He then keeps him close, imprisoning him on his ranch just so he can use Bond in his scheme, killing two birds with one stone. He also kills everyone present after announcing his full plan, meaning no one can possibly get in his way. He’s ruthless, and he’s got a plan. He’s not perfect, but he’s certainly more intelligent than how most Bond villains are perceived by pop culture.
And finally, it’s hard to deny that the Aston Martin DB5 is a cool car. I’ll take five.
So yeah, Goldfinger is a bit clunky and dated, and sometimes awkward for it, but overall it’s still fun, and for a big budget Bond blockbuster, that’s a good thing. Plus, it’s encouraged me to attempt watching all the other Bond movies too, so it can’t be too bad, right?
Starring Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman & Shirley Eaton
Written by Ian Fleming (novel), Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn
Produced by Harry Saltzman & Albert R. Broccoli
Music by Monty Norman & John Barry
Cinematography by Ted Moore
Edited by Peter R. Hunt
Favourite Scene: Bond in the jail cell, and his incredibly cheesy but very entertaining escape attempt
Scene That Bugged Me: Wait, did Bond really just throw a woman into an assailant’s fist? What the hell?!
Watch it if: You expect Bond to talk
Avoid it if: You expect him to die
Originally posted on Blogspot Monday 2 April 2012