The Bond Retrospectives – Goldfinger
Director: Guy Hamilton
Notable Cast: Sean Connery
Budget: $3 million
Gross: $124.9 million
We (Entertainment Staff Writers Jonathan Reyes and Sarah J Belmont and me) recently had an in-depth discussion about our Top 5 Bond films. The depth was not so much in the Top 5’s, but in our discussion on the relevance of the Bond franchise, the character himself, and whether or not the 21st century movie goer needs to see either the old films or the new. Our general takeaway was fairly negative, to say the least. In the wake of that Sunday evening discussion, a small crevice of sympathy opened up in my own opinion. An allowance for the fact that, despite my emotions on the movie content itself, these movies do represent the longest running franchise in movie history. There is something to be said for that. And so I’ve turned my efforts back to another one of my Entertainment missions for The GWW. My own personal Going After Cacciato: viewing the ten Bond films that I have not seen that I’ve deemed most relevant to rounding out my perception of the franchise. First up is Goldfinger.
I learned in my viewing and contemplating the sit-down to write this post that doing an actual review of these films is not appropriate. These will be retrospectives on the film’s overall value to the franchise, and how much it endears itself to me in that regard. Goldfinger, released in 1964, is the third Bond film. It introduced a heavy reliance on technology and gadgets for 007, which also begat the comedic interaction between 007 and Q. This was also the first movie to have the cold open of a big action opening sequence unrelated to the title film, and occurring before the movie theme song sequence.
The plot pits Bond against Auric Goldfinger, who appears to be a general swindler who is content to stockpile mounds of gold and cheat others out of their money in games of chance. Bond interferes with his plans on multiple occasions, finally earning enough of his wrath that Goldfinger sends his henchman, OddJob, to murder Bond’s current lover, Jill Masterson. Masterson had worked for Goldfinger, but Bond intervened in their scam and then gained her favor for his bravery and willingness to stand up to Goldfinger. M is briefly concerned that Bond is taking the mission to take down Goldfinger personally because of Masterson’s murder. Bond is captured, escapes, is recaptured, and escapes again. Goldfinger reveals that his objective is not to steal the gold from Fort Knox, but is actually quite a bit more diabolical. Finally, with the help of CIA friend Felix Leiter, Bond chases down Goldfinger, and finishes off Oddjob, but is threatened by Goldfinger again when he escapes only to try and kill 007 once and for all. Bond defeats him and parachutes to a secluded island with Galore, another former henchman of Goldfinger’s, and appears to be ready to enjoy a slight respite with his new found love interest.
Goldfinger ranks up there for me in its overall franchise value because it sets the template for basically every Bond film thereafter, including the recently released Spectre (review here). And it has a better car chase sequence than Spectre. Shame. Connery is as smooth as ever. Fight sequences from back then are hard to watch, as they lack the polish of today’s sequences. Oddjob is arguably still one of the best Bond villains ever created. I’d put him ahead of Hinx, played by Dave Bautista in Spectre. Bond films are guilty of leaving gaping plot holes all over the place and I did not find one here. Maybe the adventures got more complex after that. The franchise does not possess that sense of high adventure that would be injected later on. Things are pretty mundane here. There’s a laser beam, a big car chase full of gadget and weapon sequences, and the fight with Oddjob.
The movie is two hours long and there are some very slow parts. I will say the most impressive scenes in the film are the one-on-one mind games in dialogue between Goldfinger and Bond. It is less the fisticuffs, but these verbal fencing scenes where Bond figures out key elements of Auric’s plans that are the most polished. There are also some of the best lines in Bond history , which I’ll append below. Goldfinger has a right to lay claim to being the most important film to the franchise as it defines so much of what the films and the character would be going forward, and what most of us know those things as.
Stay tuned for my next Bond Viewing Adventure, where I will fast-forward the clock to watch the only one of the Daniel Craig Bond films that I have yet to see. Agasicles Stamas will return in Skyfall.
Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”
Goldfinger: “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!”
Felix Leiter: “I told the stewardess liquor for three.”
Bond: “Who are the other two?”
Felix Leiter: “Oh, there are no other two.”