Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Film Review: Goldfinger

  • Publisher: United Artists
  • Production Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Release: 18 September 1964 (UK), 9 January 1965 (USA)
  • Genre: Action
  • Director: Guy Hamilton
  • Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Salzman
  • Writers: Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn

The Girls: Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). Goldfinger's partner in crime in Miami, killed and covered in gold paint on Goldfinger's orders; Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), Jill's vengeful sister, neck broken by Oddjob's hat; and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Goldfinger's pilot and leader of a stunt pilot team. None of the girls has that much chemistry with Bond (that is, until he force-feeds such chemistry to them), but it only serves to highlight their independent nature. 4 out of 5.

Other Allies: Felix Leiter (Cec Linder). Bond's ally in the CIA, last seen in Dr. No. Instead of Jack Lord's coolness, Linder instead portrays Leiter an older, more serious establishment type, so if you're into Mad Men, you might get something out of it. 3 out of 5.

The Villain: Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe, dubbed by Michael Collins). Runs a metallurgy industry with gold smuggling on the side. Goldfinger's character exhibits an obsession on gold bordering on paranoia, but he always has his eyes on the prize, running legitimate metalworking operations whilst engineering a nuclear attack on Fort Knox. Fun fact: He was named after Ernő Goldfinger, a Hungarian architect, who was not amused. Second fun fact: Because of Fröbe's former ties to the Nazi party in Germany, this film was banned in Israel -- until a Jewish family disclosed that he had helped protect them during the Holocaust. Sucked out of an airplane window.  4 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Oddjob (Harold Sakata). Goldfinger's Korean-born bodyguard who throws a razor-brimmed hat as a weapon. Having no lines, Oddjob doesn't show his personality as well as, say, Red Grant, but he's equally strong, tough, and deadly, forcing Bond to really use his noodle to get through him. Oh, and no matter what Goldeneye 007 may have told you, Oddjob is not a midget. Electrocuted by Bond5 out of 5.

The Gadgets: Most of 007's gear this time around is centered around his new car, an Aston Martin DB5. Q Branch modified it to include a smoke screen, oil slick, front machine guns, tire slashers (think Ben-Hur) an ejector seat, and a display screen for his new homing devices. One of the homers is magnetic, and the other fits in a secret compartment in Bond's shoe. Having all the gadgets centered around the one car in some form or another only serves to make the car that much more awesome. Shame it crashes. 5 out of 5.

The Locations: Set in the United States (Florida, Kentucky), England, and Switzerland.

The Opening Credits: Scenes from the film are projected onto a golden statue of a woman. Much like the credits from the last movie, except much more static. 4 out of 5.

The Theme Song: Sung by Shirley Bassey. Like so many other elements of the film, this song and its performance served as a blueprint for so many other Bond and non-Bond themes. It's campy, sure, but the way Bassey goes over-the-top with the energy of her performance pushes that camp into awesomeness levels. Lyrics ain't bad, too. News flash: Goldfinger loves gold and is bad for women. It's a shame Jill Masterson didn't take her advice. 5 out of 5.

The Novel: Published in 1959, the novel Goldfinger was once again given a tight adaptation into film. The one major difference is the final step in Goldfinger's plan: in the book, he intends to physically steal the gold from Fort Knox. This point is brilliantly deconstructed in the film, as explained below.

The Plot: Bond starts out in an unidentified South/Central American location, blowing up a drug smuggler's operation, attempting an after-hours rendez-vous with a cabaret dancer, and surviving an attack. After the opening credits, he gets some R&R at a Miami hotel, until Felix Leiter shows up and gives him an assignment: to shadow a mister Auric Goldfinger, playing a successful game of gin rummy at that very hotel. Bond heads up to Goldfinger's suite and discovers Jill Masterson, his trophy girlfriend, spying on his card quarry and helping him cheat. Bond cuts him off and has his way with Jill, but then gets knocked out by an assailant. When he wakes up, he discovers her dead and covered in gold paint.

Back in London, Bond receives his mission and equipment from MI6, then meets Goldfinger at a local country club for a game of golf. Bond wagers with a £5000 bar of Nazi gold (notice how Fröbe reacts to it -- read the fun facts above) and loses, only to reveal that Goldfinger had switched his balls mid-game (partly a trap set up by Bond), thus disqualifying him. Before parting ways, Bond attaches one of his homing devices to Goldfinger's car, and tracks it to the vicinity of Geneva, Switzerland. Whilst tailing him, Bond apparently comes under fire, gets passed by a girl he suspects was the shooter, disables her car, and gives her a ride. She introduces herself as Tilly Soames, and is dropped off at a mechanic's garage.

That night, Bond raids Goldfinger's local office, used for gold smelting and smuggling operations. He overhears Goldfinger discuss something called "Operation Grand Slam" with Mr. Ling, a Chinese nuclear scientist. On his way out, he trips an alarm and meets the girl from before. She reveals herself as Tilly Masterson, and is seeking revenge on Goldfinger for killing her sister Jill. The two are arrested by Goldfinger's guards and driven off. They try to escape, but Tilly is killed by Oddjob and Bond crashes his car and is knocked out. When he comes to, he finds himself strapped to a table and about to be cut in half by a laser, but convinces Goldfinger that killing him would be a worthless mistake. So instead, he has Bond tranquilised for a third time.

Bond wakes up on Goldfinger's private plane, in the presence of his pilot, Pussy Galore. They land at an airport in Kentucky, where Galore runs an all-female team of stunt pilots, and are met by Oddjob, who drives them to Goldfinger's horse-breeding farm. Whilst keeping Bond locked up, Goldfinger holds a meeting with a collection of his crime boss debtors. To repay them for their services, he details Grand Slam: a plan to raid Fort Knox, the gold depository-slash-military outpost. He intends to have Galore and her pilots spray nerve gas (which, ubeknownst to his business partners, is lethal) over the area, incapacitating the soldiers, and have his team blow up the electric fence so they can get inside. But little does he know that Bond has escaped and is listening in on his presentation, only to get re-caught by Galore.

Worried about Bond, Leiter visits the farm to check on his ally, so Goldfinger has him summoned out to convince the CIA that he doesn't need any help. Bond discusses Grand Slam with Goldfinger, and deduces that the plan is not to steal the gold from Fort Knox, but to detonate an atomic bomb inside it, rendering the gold radioactive and useless for decades, and making Goldfinger's own gold that much more valuable. He leaves him with Galore, whom Bond takes to a barn and... more or less rapes. Yeah... kinda not cool when you think about it. #Rapey

The next day, Operation Grand Slam is put into effect. Galore's pilots spray the nerve gas over the Fort Knox area, presumably killing the soldiers, and Oddjob's team breaks into the gold vault. Goldfinger and Ling arrive with the bomb, arm it, handcuff Bond to it, and send them down into the vault. But it turns out that the soldiers weren't killed by the gas after all; the troops close in, causing Goldfinger to panic, lock Bond and Oddjob in the vault, and escape. With the bomb ticking, Bond unlocks his handcuffs and fights Oddjob, killing him by sticking his hat between some metal bars and electrocuting the whole thing. Only seconds are left before the bomb goes off, but then Leiter and his team make it in the vault and simply switch the thing off -- with 007 seconds on the counter.

Leiter explains to Bond that, due to a crisis of conscience, Galore had switched the gas used by her team and, warned the CIA about the plot. Bond is then sent off on a flight to the White House, to receive a personal thank-you from the president, but it turns out Goldfinger and Galore had hijacked the plane. Before Goldfinger can shoot Bond, Bond fights back, discharging his golden revolver into one of the plane's windows. The depressurisation sucks Goldfinger out the window, but the plane starts losing altitude fast, so Bond and Galore escape via the plane's ejector seats. The film ends with the couple making out under their parachute. You are now free to turn off your TV.

Goldfinger's scale differs from the other films in that instead of continuing the SPECTRE saga, it has Bond fighting an independent criminal in a stand-alone mission. Not that that's a bad thing, of course, but it doesn't feel right next to the excellent, more down-to-earth From Russia With Love. Let me put it to you this way: I can't sit still thinking that B- and C-list spy fictions borrow their stuff from this kind of Bond movie. It's camp, but it's awesome camp. If there's anything this has over From Russia With Love, it's that it has many more memorable moments. A little too memorable in fact, when you consider all the other writers out there who took inspiration from the gadgets, the sets, the characters, etc. but not the plot - which this film also does right. I may take some issue with this being called the best of Bond, but Goldfinger has it where it counts and goes the extra mile in creating a mission the viewer will never forget. 5 out of 5.

The Call: 90% (A-)

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