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Film Review: The James Bond Series; Goldfinger

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Title: Goldfinger

Directer: Guy Hamilton

Writer: Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn

Genre: Spy

Released: 1964

Starring: Sean Connery, Shirley Eaton, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn.

Running Time: 110 minutes

Thoughts: With From Russia With Love having done so well in 1963, Broccoli and Saltzman began looking at the latest possible novel to adapt. With there still being court issues related to the novel Thunderball, the producers decided to look at adapting Goldfinger. With confidence growing due to the strong showings of the first two movies, the producers issued the movie with a $3 million budget, the combined amount of the previous two movies combined. Another reason for choosing to go with Goldfinger, was because the storyline was based in America predominantly, as opposed to the previous two movies, respectfully set in the Caribbean and Europe.

Terence Young was offered the directors job for a third time, but Young stuck to his guns about earning a percentage of the film’s profits. With Saltzman and Broccoli bristling at this request, the dispute led to Young leaving the director’s chair. Instead, the producers returned to their original shortlist for Dr No, and approached the popular Guy Hamilton, mostly known at the time for the fantastic An Inspector Calls, starring Alastair Sim. One aspect that Hamilton wished to include was to make Bond less of a superman, and make the villains seem much more formidable, which he accomplishes in one fantastic scene late on. When writing the script, Maibaum, who had co-wrote both Bond movies so far, questioned a plot hole from the book, where the villain attempts to empty Fort Knox. Without spoiling the movie, I do feel that Maibaum finds a brilliant way of changing the story to make better sense, as well creating fantastic tension within the movie.

A new inclusion into the Bond movies, was more reliance on gadgets. Whereas Dr No had no gadgets and From Russia With Love had a simple briefcase that hid away weapons, Goldfinger went a step further, and introduced the car. Specifically, the Aston Martin DB5, which even to a car novice such as myself, looks beautiful. Within the car, the filmmakers, through their movie representative, Q, who has a much bigger role in this movie, was included several fantastic innovations. I’ll allow Q to explain. Also included in the movie, building on the enjoyable From Russia With Love, as sang by Matt Monro, we were introduced to our first strong female vocalist, Shirley Bassey, singing the timeless GoldfingerGranted, whilst some of the lyrics are slightly questionable, the power and dramatic nature of the artist, led to impacting upon many future Bond themes, with many songs commonly compared to Bassey’s Classic, it does create a grandiose image of the villain, the feeling that he is much larger and more difficult for Bond to challenge.

Now, the film itself? Well, simply, this is commonly held up as possibly the best of all the Bond films, and at least from a chronological point of view, so far, I cannot disagree. Goldfinger is Sean Connery as 007 at his best, mixing his already known strong fighting skills with a new influx of good charisma, his now noticeable leading man looks, as well as his fantastically well timed lines & quips. It does help that Connery is served by a strong, intelligent and challenging script, one that would go on to become the basis of all future Bond movies. The script is strongly written, with a fascinatingly original idea: instead of stealing something, what about just making it unusable? As already mentioned, this is an idea that helps cover the original novel’s plot hole, and the actual planning stages for the coup is quite intelligent, making the idea of breaking into Fort Knox seem almost realistic. The set-piece in the final third based in Fort Know is also a more blockbuster ending to a Bond movie yet, allowing the stakes to feel much higher and difficult for Bond to battle against.

It also helps that the villain is awesome: Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger is a great, unique villain. With the role, Frobe creates the depiction of a bitter, petty, extremely rich psycho who would kill someone just because he lost at a friendly game of cards, which combines to make him a villain who you can’t plan for and second-guess, which I loved. It also helps that in a very tensionable scene, he is one of the few villains who actually could have killed Bond. The scene in question has a fascinating subtext that shows Bond almost begging for mercy, a scene where Bond is truly helpless, and only survives through a very questionable bluff. It also helps that Goldfinger has Oddjob as his henchman, a mute Korean manservant who possesses an interesting gadget: a razor-sharp bowler hat that can maim, or even kill. Oddjob is a formidable presence and is easily a good build up on the previous formidable henchman, Red Grant.

The Bond girls are probably the most impressive section, with three mildly different personalities that help build up both Goldfinger and Oddjob as worthwhile opponents. Firstly, you have Jill Masterson, who is one of the most recognizable Bond girls in history, almost preyed upon by Bond and becoming collateral damage in the war between Bond and Goldfinger, with an original and shocking end to her story. In a story introduction that has elements of familiarity and expectation to the development of the relationship between them, we meet Jill’s sister, Tilly Masterson, who is desperately looking for revenge. Oddjob ends up punishing Bond’s stupidity in the relationship, a brave move by the writers.

And finally, we have Pussy Galore, as the Bond girl, and whilst both beautiful and intelligent, is initially not attracted to 007…until in a surprising scene, he forces himself onto her. This is a slightly uncomfortable scene that does make James Bond come across as slightly perverted and rapey, as well as also completely changing her character in a dramatically unnatural development, converting her into a heroic love interest. This is probably the only problem I have with the film, the scene which causes Galore to change, it just comes across as kind of creepy and perverted to me, which is very unfortunate. However, I will admit to noticing that there is mild chemistry between the two, so that is one positive…despite Galore originally being a lesbian, and then, suddenly turned by a man. This is a characterization I didn’t like at all. However, I will say that Honor Blackman does a good job with the work she is given.

However, apart from that one part, I do love the film. It possesses some great action, it demonstrates great villains, it utilizes a fascinating concept with a script that is well written, it debuts a brilliant theme tune, Connery is awesome as Bond, there is an awesome car full of gadgets, and it just gels together very well. It is probably Connery’s Magnum Opus as James Bond, and even if you aren’t a Bond fan, as an action film, it’s definitely worth watching on its own merit.

When released, Goldfinger was a critical success, gaining strong reviews from most reviewers, and was a commercial sensation, earning a total $124.9 million, the highest grossing Bond movie yet. Goldfinger also earned an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing, making this the first Bond film to win an Academy Award. Not only that, but the movie’s script would become the template for many future movies, including a reliance on gadgets, as well as a pre-credit sequence separate from the main plot, and a briefing in Q-Branch. Future films would also have a henchman with a particular characteristic, based on Oddjob. Goldfinger is one of the few Bond movies that can be counted as truly timeless, and is a must-see for any Bond fan.

Thumbs Up, 8 out of 10.

About The Author

Post-Graduate from Falmouth University, having taken "English with Creative Writing". 22 years old, based in Plymouth.

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