Goldfinger (1964)

*. I concluded my notes on From Russia With Love by saying how “Cubby” Broccoli thought the formula was set after that film. True in some ways, as it introduced a number of what would become regular features. But that film was also a one-off for the franchise too. Goldfinger, I would argue, is the movie that gave us the complete formula in perhaps its most perfect package. Not coincidentally it also marked the greater expansion of the franchise, with product placement and later marketing tie-ins running wild.
*. So in this movie you get Sean Connery at his most charming, even when first appearing with a seagull stuck to his head, or later dressed in a baby-blue onesie or a three-piece suit (the latter being something I found incongruous, even for a fashionable spy). You get arguably the greatest of all the Bond theme songs, belted out by brassy Shirley Bassey (listen to the demo recording with Anthony Newley doing the vocals to hear what a difference she makes). There’s Bond’s Aston Martin, tricked out with all kinds of gadgets. There’s Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), not as explicitly lesbian as in Ian Fleming’s novel but still submitting to the ultimate straight-maker Bond, who puts her on the path of virtue (I mean, foiling Goldfinger’s plot) after a quick roll in the hay (a swift conversion that would be made fun of in Thunderball). There are set designs by Ken Adam, including the climactic cathedral of gold. There’s another silent henchman in the unforgettable Oddjob (Hawaiian wrestler Harold Sakata).
*. And of course there’s the criminal mastermind Auric Goldfinger. Gert Fröbe provides the physical presence, though his lines are dubbed by Michael Collins. In the “making of” featurette included with the DVD you can watch a screen test by another actor reading for the part of Goldfinger. I can’t imagine getting turned down for a part because the producers wanted someone who couldn’t even speak English. But according to director Guy Hamilton (helming his first of four Bond pictures) they didn’t find out that Fröbe would have to be dubbed until he showed up on set and they started shooting. I find that very hard to believe. Then again, dubbing was ubiquitous at the time. Shirley Eaton is actually dubbed here too. And in Thunderball both Claudine Auger and Adolfo Celli would be dubbed as well.
*. Apparently they’d wanted Orson Welles to play the part but he’d wanted too much money. That would have been fun. But would it have been a better movie? Maybe not.

*. They were in the zone, and with this many things going right they couldn’t miss. The plot is pure fantasy but I don’t think anyone objects. Does it matter that we don’t know who it is who comes in to deactivate the bomb at the end? I mean, who the hell is that guy? Who cares? The countdown ends on 007, that’s all that matters. I was hooked right from the brilliant credit sequence, that gets away with showing many of the film’s highlights in creative ways. The flipping license plates on the Aston Martin superimposed over the model’s lips. The golf ball draining down her cleavage.
*. Guy Hamilton was certainly up to the task. That wonderful opening helicopter shot that takes the man diving from the high platform into the pool and Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) watching through an underwater window is a bravura sequence. Less than a minute of screen time and it lets you know that you can sit back and enjoy things because you’re in good hands.
*. Iconic scenes soon follow. The girl painted gold. Bond’s manhood threatened with a laser (perhaps the first appearance of a laser in a movie; in the novel it had been a saw). There are classic lines. “Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond. It could be your last.”
*. I mentioned Bond’s hats in From Russia With Love. Here Connery is wearing a toupee. I never noticed. Like I say, they were getting away with everything here.
*. The best Bond movie? As I’ve said, my personal choice is between it and From Russia With Love. This one opens the franchise up a lot more and is more fun. And even today the score can make me tear up, it feels so much a part of me. Mock me if you want. I still love it.

9 thoughts on “Goldfinger (1964)

    1. Alex Good

      Dubbing was really big in the ’60s. Directors were comfortable with adding everything in post. And they did a good job of it. In most of the Bond movies it’s hard to tell..

      Reply
  1. tensecondsfromnow

    And yet…not to rain on your parade, but as a kid, some of these early Bonds were’s what I’d hoped for, and it was the lack of action that was the problem. Whe you were used to 4 or 5 extended action/stunt-based set-pieces, it was something of a slog working your way through all the plot in this or For Russia. Not saying that they’re bad movies, but that they lack the circus appeal of the later entries…

    Reply
      1. tensecondsfromnow

        Have all the Bonds on digital, but have to admit, it’s the Moores that repay ironic watching. Not quite been int he right place to re-assess the Connery’s, and find it difficult to forgive back-projection….

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I like Moore as an actor, but I have to say he was probably my least favourite Bond. He was also in some real clunkers. But I won’t be getting to his entries for a while.

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