Goldfinger was the third in the James Bond sequence of films and is possibly the most quintessentially Bond of all of the book adaptations. It’s also, arguably, the best.
It is in structure actually one of the closest to the books and rattles along from set piece to set piece with a confident brio deservedly won from the success of the first two films. What other international hit film would have the confidence to feature Southend Municipal Airport without blinking?
The film is filled with iconic moments and lines which even if you haven’t seen the film you will know:
“You expect me to talk?” “No Mister Bond! I expect you to die!” – Definitely the best known exchange between Bond and a baddie.
And of course when Pussy Galore introduces herself, Bond says “I must be dreaming.”
The plot, very simply involves Auric Goldfinger, an international businessman who is properly obsessed with gold. He is so obsessed he smuggles it, much to the disapproval of the British government. Bond is sent to find out what’s what and hi-jinks ensue. To be honest, that’s all you really need to know. If you’ve ever seen a Bond film before, any Bond film, it’s fair to say there is a formula. This is the film which really solidified it.
Connery is allowed to properly inhabit the role, and is simultaneously assured and witty as the super spy, completely sleek, poised and attractively arrogant. That moment when Pussy Galore, the ace pilot, meets Bond – Connery’s slightly drunken smirk as he says “I must be dreaming,” is delightfully rude. There is no question, from his performance, that we’re definitely supposed to find the name as smutty as hell.
He is also surprisingly old fashioned in attitudes to popular culture though – he makes disparaging comments about the Beatles, who had only been in the charts for a couple of years, and looks completely put out when he’s told his trusted old Bentley is being replaced by a sports car, a young man’s toy – the Aston Martin DB5.
The car, kitted out by Desmond Llewellyn’s Q Branch, is utterly the Bond car, so much so it inexplicably made an appearance for no good reason in the 50th anniversary movie Skyfall. In Goldfinger the car is almost another character and allows Bond to conveniently leap free with a single bound. It even has a proto GPS, a console filled with map displays. The fiction of this was genuinely 40 years ahead of real life. The Blu-ray extras even feature a short promo about the car, revealing it went on a world tour and even appeared in commercials as itself.
The HD picture of the Blu-ray is astonishingly sharp – in fact it is so good it shows up a few of the shots for the shoddy frontal project they really are. Scenes made up of weird amalgams of location footage and sequences clearly shot in a studio with the previously filmed background projected in appear surprisingly often – not least around an early swimming pool scene when Bond meets Auric Goldfinger, our designated bad guy for the movie, for the first time.
The swimming pool scene, at a Miami hotel, is fascinating from a modern perspective because in the crisp colours of the Blu-ray clean up, it is Mad Men writ large. All the men in modern polyester and slick with brylcreem look like they’ve just stepped off a set with Jon Hamm et al – but this is authentic fashion, modern life captured in aspic. And as such, the film is a wonderful historical document.
Bond is an insensitive sod a lot of the time – even in the pre-title sequence he blithely deflects an assassin’s cosh by using the woman he is kissing as a human shield, letting her get thumped in his stead. We presume she must be a baddie – but never find out to any satisfying degree.
Nationality also comes up time and again. The majority of the plot takes place in America, and although Bond tips a nod to his friends in the CIA the movie shows him sorting out the Americans problems for them. The film is almost an information film on how superior the British are. Elsewhere the cultural stereotyping is subtle to the point of being scarcely noticeable. It is there though. For example all Westerners’ cars have white headlamps. All the East Asian characters’ cars, incredibly, have yellow headlamps. Auric himself is a cruel, German stereotype, and his manservant – the bowler hatted psychopath Oddjob – is a Korean, only eleven years after the Korean War had ended.
For all its flaws, which come mostly from 1960s attitudes and production values (you’ll definitely have heard every single gun ricochet sound effect many, many times before – and when the female pilots reveal themselves from their plane cockpits and a foxy saxophone cliché plays in the background, you will groan) the film is tremendous fun. If you’ve never seen the film before you’re in for a proper treat – it is basically the template for all Bond films which came after, and as such is at its purest and best. It’s thrilling, funny, exciting and surprising. When Bond is threatened with death by laser Connery makes him look the most genuinely worried Bond ever does in all of the movies. There are twists and turns, and as I mentioned earlier, it remains a fascinating cultural document of the mid-sixties at a point when things were getting really interesting.
Give it a watch – it’s great stuff.
Previously posted on cinetalk.co.uk