Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Goldfinger" (1964)

Starring Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and Gert Frobe
Written by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Rated PG - Violence, sexual themes
Running Time: 110 Minutes

While on vacation in Miami Beach, James Bond (Sean Connery) is visited by his CIA friend Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) who delivers new orders from M (Bernard Lee) for Bond to investigate Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe).  It seems Goldfinger has been smuggling gold out of Britain, but no one can ascertain how.

Bond follows Goldfinger from the United States back to Britain and then to Geneva, trying to crack Goldfinger's smuggling methods.  But what Bond ultimately discovers, however, is that Goldfinger is the mastermind of a criminal plot to break into the United States gold repository at Fort Knox.  Goldfinger has gathered together representatives from criminal organizations all over the United States, and partnered with the Chinese government, for a massive operation designed to create economic chaos in the West.

Captured, Bond has no hope but to figure out how to send a message to his CIA allies in order to stop the attack and save the world.  The only way to do that is to seduce the lovely Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger's personal pilot and key part of Operation Grandslam.  But, unfortunately, Pussy seems unusually resistant to Bond's charms...

Is there a more quintessential James Bond film than "Goldfinger"? This film has everything the series is famous for - the gadgets, the cars, the women, the sexual innuendo dialed up to 11, ridiculous henchmen, huge gun battles...  The script moves along at a brisk pace, filled with wit and fun and action.  The opening sequence tells us all we need to know about the film we're about to watch: Bond infiltrates a drug lab somewhere in Latin America, plants a bomb and then pulls off his wetsuit to reveal a dapper tuxedo beneath.  Later, he returns to his hotel room only to kill an assassin by electrocuting him in the bathtub.  Bond nonchalantly picks up his gun and puts on his jacket, muttering, "Shocking."

"Goldfinger" expertly blends comedy and action with the spy thriller universe created in "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love".  The script has plenty of cracking dialogue as Bond and Goldfinger continue to goad each other at every occasion.  It seems like each scene in "Goldfinger" features some classically awesome dialogue.  In one scene, Goldfinger has Bond strapped to a table, a laser about to cut him in half.  "Do you expect me to talk?" Bond asks.

"No, Mr. Bond," Goldfinger replies gleefully, "I expect you to die!"

This scene is so classic, it would be referenced and parodied for decades after, including the truly fantastic "Simpsons" episode, "You Only Move Twice."

And we haven't even gotten to all the jokes about Pussy Galore.

This film basically sets the template for which all subsequent Bond movies would emulate.  Goldfinger is a mad villain with an ingenius crazy plot.  His henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata) seemingly has superhuman strength, as well as a hat with a razor-sharp brim that he can throw with deadly accuracy.  Bond visits Q (Desmond Llewelyn) for a briefing on all the gadgets in his new car, the famous Aston Martin DB5.

Though vastly entertaining, there are some aspects of "Goldfinger" that seem horridly out of date, specifically Bond's treatment of women.  Though his flirtations with Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) are warm and charming, the way he will blithely slap a woman on the behind as she walks past or even force himself on one who has rebuffed his advances until she relents, is uncomfortable to the point of being funny.  The concept of Bond turning lesbian Pussy Galore straight is a head-shaker, giving Bond's sexuality an almost superhuman quality that ends up being laughable.

Still, as a film, "Goldfinger" is one of the best and most entertaining in the James Bond series.  Full of great action, clever twists and crackling dialogue, it's the film everyone thinks of when James Bond comes up.

See Also
James Bond