Film Review: Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger poster 2SYNOPSIS:

“The powerful tycoon Auric Goldfinger has initiated Operation Grand Slam, a cataclysmic scheme to raid Fort Knox and obliterate the world economy. James Bond, armed with his specially equipped Aston Martin (its accessory package includes built-in machine guns, a smoke screen and an ejector seat), must stop the plan by overcoming several outrageous adversaries. First there’s Oddjob, the mute servant who kills at the toss of a lethal hat; next, the beautiful Jill Masterson, who gives new meaning to the phrase ‘golden girl'; and finally, sexy pilot Pussy Galore, whose romantic feelings for Bond complicate her involvement in Goldfinger’s high-flying scheme.” (courtesy IMDB)

REVIEW:

Spy movies really began back in the thirties, most notably in the Alfred Hitchcock films The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935) and The Secret Agent (1936), and the Michael Powell effort The Spy In Black (1939). These all looked back to fiendish German plots during World War One, but during a time when Hitler’s Germany was posing a new threat. Hitchcock updated the spy scenario to the Second World War in Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Saboteur (1942). Authors like Eric Ambler, Graham Greene and Ian Fleming added a modern chic to spying in the fifties as the Cold War kicked in. During the sixties ex-MI6 employee John Le Carre brought an authoritative realism in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965) while the novels of Len Deighton focused on a gritty no-nonsense but funky approach in The Ipcress File (1965) and others. By the mid-sixties spying had become ‘hip and groovy’, with the Derek Flint (James Coburn) and Matt Helm (Dean Martin) films poking much affectionate fun.

Goldfinger photos 1Producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli revolutionised genre cinema by showing the major studios that it could actually be profitable. He thus opened the door to the multi-million-dollar financing of fantastic films, without which the genre could not have reached the dizzying heights (and abysmal depths) of today. Broccoli did this by producing a series of super-spy adventure movies featuring James Bond, a modern-day swashbuckling killer and lover, originally the creation of bestselling author Ian Fleming. From the beginning, the Bond movies have never been hardcore fantasy, but they are the kind of fringe fantasy that was first popularised by the Doctor Mabuse films of the twenties and the Fu Manchu films of the thirties, adventures featuring super-villains and mad scientists out to control the world and an assortment of implausible scientific gadgetry. While purporting to take place in the real world, most of the Bond films are, to varying degrees, science fiction.

Goldfinger photos 2They are also fantastic in the psychological sense – by which I mean they create fantasies of potency, urbanity and guilt-free mayhem – impossible in the real lives of ordinary people. Little-known actor Sean Connery became a superstar overnight as the dashingly debonair British agent 007, a new type of hero: He had a license to kill; practiced judo; was a well-educated gentleman; dressed well; had great taste in food, met only beautiful women, could take on villains, traveled to exotic locations; refused to panic when the fate of the world rested on his shoulders; had charm and a subtle sense of humour; and had his own theme music that would play just by saying his name. If the first two films set up the character of James Bond, the third film – Goldfinger (1964) – established the ingredients for Bond films to come. It has two diabolical villains: gold-mad Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and his seemingly invincible henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata) with a blade-rimmed bowler hat. It also has two sexy women for Bond to seduce: blonde Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) who dies covered in gold paint and brunette ‘Pussy’ Galore (Honor Blackman), a pilot with bisexual tendencies who falls for Bond’s charms.

Goldfinger photos 3There’s lots of humour, action, gimmicks (introducing the famous Aston Martin with its passenger ejection seat), an amusing yet tense golf game between Bond and Goldfinger, thrilling fights to the death, and a fascinating central crime. Fairly faithful to Fleming’s novel, Goldfinger also captures the author’s interest in Germanic villains, the machinations of the Cold War and the slick appeal of the United States. Bond is introduced to Goldfinger in Miami, where he is cheating at cards with the aid of Jill Masterson. Bond’s interference with the game by seducing Jill results in her being killed and painted gold. Bond next meets Goldfinger over a game of golf where the wily German uses his mute-but-deadly Korean bodyguard Oddjob to cheat once again. Bond, in his gadget-filled Astin Martin DB5, tracks Goldfinger to the Alps, revealing a gold-smuggling operation. Bond is captured and Goldfinger threatens to slice him in half with an industrial laser: “You expect me to talk?” – “No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die.”

Goldfinger photos 4Bond awakes to find Goldfinger has marked him for an audacious heist in the United States. Using Pussy Galore and her flying troupe to gas the population, a bunch of mobsters will help him rob the US Treasury gold reserves at Fort Knox. Bond learns of the plot, seduces Pussy and gets a warning out to the CIA. However, it transpires that Goldfinger, far from stealing the gold, intends to irradiate it to vastly boost the value of his own holdings. The plot is foiled but, in a thrilling climax with Bond handcuffed to a nuclear bomb in the vault, he manages to kill Oddjob and tries to defuse the bomb. He is saved by a CIA agent exactly 0.07 seconds before detonation. Goldfinger has fled, but Bond encounters him when flying back to England, a struggle ensues, a shot is fired and, as the plane decompresses, Goldfinger is sucked out of the window.

Goldfinger photos 5Goldfinger set the standard for the later Bond movies: gigantic Ken Adam sets, great cars and a brilliant villain. It was also the first Bond film for which a pop star was commissioned to sing the theme song, in this case Shirley Bassey. For many, Connery remains the definitive Bond. Connery’s portrayal of Bond, the agent with a license to kill, captured Fleming’s original characterisation of 007 more closely than his many successors. A portrait of unflinching dedication to his task, a taste for both sophistication and women, his cruelty and, occasionally, remorse for those that got in his way. His expression when finding Jill asphyxiated as a result of his seduction of her, says it all. It’s with this melancholy thought in mind I’ll politely ask you to join me again next week as we step up to Hollywood’s all-you-can-eat buffet and fill your plate with public domain potato salad next week for…Horror News! Toodles!

Goldfinger photos 6Goldfinger (1964)

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About Nigel Honeybone

Wee Willie"Nigel Honeybone's debut was as Hamlet's dead father, portraying him as a tall posh skeleton. This triumph was followed in Richard III, as the remains of a young prince which he interpreted as a tall posh skeleton. He began attracting starring roles. Henry VIII was scaled down to suit Honeybone's very personalised view of this famous king. Honeybone suggested that perhaps he really was quite skeletal, quite tall, and quite posh. MacBeth, Shylock and Othello followed, all played as tall, skeletal and posh, respectively. Considering his reputation for playing tall English skeletons, many believed that the real Honeybone inside to be something very different, like a squat hunchback perhaps. Interestingly enough, Honeybone did once play a squat hunchback, but it was as a tall posh skeleton. But he was propelled into the film world when, in Psycho (1960), he wore women's clothing for the very first time. The seed of an idea was planted and, after working with director Ed Wood for five years, he realised the unlimited possibilities of tall posh skeletons who dressed in women's clothing. He went on to wear women's clothing in thirteen major motion pictures, including the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Star Wars (1977), heartbreaking as the remains of Aunt Beru. With the onslaught of special effects came the demise of real actors in these sorts of roles. After modeling for CGI skeletons in Total Recall (1990) and Toys (1992), the only possible step forward for a tall posh skeleton was television, imparting his knowledge and expertise of the arts. As well as writing for the world's best genre news website HORROR NEWS, Nigel Honeybone is currently signed to star in a new series for television presenting the finest examples of B-grade horror. THE SCHLOCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is seen on Friday nights at 10.30pm on TVS Television Sydney, and where ever good Youtube downloads are available." (Fantales candy wrapper circa 2007)

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