Goldfinger (1964)
Goldfinger (1964)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: September 20th, 1964 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Guy Hamilton Actors: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Cec Linder, Lois Maxwell, Nadja Regin, Burt Kwouk, Desmond Llewelyn, Margaret Nolan

 


 

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he opening scene uses just the right amount of the catchy Monty Norman Bond theme music, as the wily secret agent ignites a reservoir of nitromethane. He proceeds to strip off the wetsuit he used to sneak up on the location, revealing a perfectly pressed, shimmering white tuxedo (a concept reused decades later in “True Lies”). A fistfight scene later, the audience is greeted by the expected title sequence, featuring silhouettes of a scantily clad woman, with footage of the previous films playing across her smooth, gold-colored torso. It also beckons one of the worst songs of all time, complete with absurdly silly lyrics: Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” which is, amusingly, one of the most popular of the 007 title tunes.

Spoiling his Miami Beach vacation, MI6 agent James Bond (Sean Connery), codenamed “007,” is alerted by CIA contact Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) that he is to get to the bottom of a plot to internationally smuggle melted-down Nazi gold bullion, orchestrated by wealthy criminal mastermind Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Before returning to England, Bond witnesses firsthand the evils of the scoundrel – a man maniacally obsessed with all things gold. Bond’s acquaintance, Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), is eccentrically executed by being entirely covered in gold paint (an unrealistic but striking cinematic image) – something of an urban legend about the skin’s need to breathe.

Bond’s assignment involves a social staging in which he plays a game of golf with Auric, seemingly giving away his hand by gambling a suspect gold brick on the match. It’s here that he meets formidable henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata), a Chinese thug capable of crushing a golf ball in his bare hand (quite impossibly) and sporting a bowler hat lined with metal, used to decapitate statues and to break the necks of fleeing victims. After foiling an assassination attempt in Switzerland by Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), Jill’s sister, Bond is captured by Auric and transported to Kentucky, where he gathers more information (even while in custody) about “Operation Grand Slam,” involving the robbery of $50 billion worth of gold from Fort Knox, through the use of an advanced form of nerve gas.

“Goldfinger” is perhaps best known for designing the formula for James Bond films and setting the standard for actioners of the ‘60s. It emphasizes the heightened adventures (this is the first time the world-domination type of plot feels very much rooted in fantasy), replete with ludicrous elements of hazard and mayhem. Vehicles explode spontaneously, car chases initiate without warning, and sniper rifle fire seems continual. Plus, Bond’s signature Aston Martin is not only a classically divine ride, but it’s also equipped with bulletproof glass, tire-shredding capabilities like Masala’s chariot from “Ben-Hur,” and a comical ejector seat. This furthers the deliberate comedy that tinges many of the circumstances, such as an elderly woman brandishing a heavy machinegun; Q’s (Desmond Llewelyn) collection of hi-tech gadgets, each crafted for a single, unique task; and 007 narrowly avoiding a metal-cutting laser beam aimed at his genitals. Although not considered as goofy as the later Roger Moore films, this earlier entry still possesses numerous tongue-in-cheek moments. Frequent, smug witticisms, especially when in the clutches of the enemy, pepper the dialogue, while also boasting the typical explanation of schemes by having Bond surmise, out loud, the villain’s intentions.

Another steadily growing, important aspect of Bond’s escapades involves the women and their ludicrous names. None are more farcical than Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), who commands a squadron of female flying circus pilots, tasked with gassing thousands of military troops. Bond is ordered to remain cold and objective but disobeys handsomely, seducing and bedding almost every woman in the film, save for recurring secretary Moneypenny (for the third time, played by Lois Maxwell) and those who die prior to getting the chance. Fortunately, the excitement is top-notch and the memorable scenes abundant – highlighted by a bomb that ticks away as the final catalyst for suspense, and a pair of villains who just won’t quit.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10