This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.
Summary: the greatest threat to the world is a gold-dealer who wants to irradiate the US’s stockpile of gold. Also, Pussy Galore has a Flying Circus. And Shirley Bassey manages to rhyme Midas with spider.
Alex: after two Cold War movies, we get one that’s entirely focussed on stopping a British citizen with a weird accent from destroying Britain and America’s ability to shore up the pound and dollar with their gold reserves. That’s an exceptionally weird premise for a movie made in 1964, and does not seem like the sort of thing that should lead to an exciting spy film of the sort surely already expected from the franchise.
Speaking of the franchise, this movie contains some of the most icon parts of the Bond oeuvre. It is in this film – in the opening sequence – that Bond zips out of a wetsuit to reveal a white tuxedo (after previously taking a fake duck off his head; it was his disguise). Felix Leiter is played by a different actor from the one that appeared in Dr No, hinting at the possibility that James Bond and his cohorts are not necessarily stable characters (… or that they’re Time Lords). Bond visits Q in his lair, and we get some snark and the admonition that the gear be returned in working order please, Bond. And Goldfinger and Bond share that immortal conversation:
Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.
(Thank you, Randall, for this marvellous geeky take on the line). Bond also utters the phrase “heroin-flavoured bananas,” which for some reason hasn’t been as memorable.
There are several ladies featured in this film – more than in the previous two films together. Incidentally, Bond is making out with a nameless woman in the prologue when there’s an attempt at assassination (he sees the assailant reflected in her eyes, promptly turning her to take the
brunt of the blow); he’s being massaged by “Dink” when he encounters Leiter for the first time (he dismisses her with a smack on the butt because they’re dealing with “men’s business). More seriously, Bond seduces Jill Masterson when spying on Goldfinger (for whom she works) – she’s the one that ends up dead from being painted all in gold. He encounters her sister Tilly; they don’t have time to get it on before she’s dead, trying to kill Goldfinger in revenge. And then there’s… ahem… Pussy Galore. Played by
Honor Blackman, who by my reckoning might be the first appearance of someone who’s done the James Bond/Doctor Who double. Galore is a pilot, working for Goldfinger, and perfectly comfortable with his ostensible plan of making a very large amount of money by stealing it. Until she is wooed by Bond, that is, and SOMETHING MAGIC HAPPENS when they have sex but I’m not allowed to mention the trope that this is part of (even though James himself pointed it out during our viewing). What’s really awesome about Galore, though, is that she is entirely competent and self-assured (except when Bond is tripping her over and forcing himself onto her… which was way too close to that “she said no but she didn’t really mean it” thing… actually, it’s not CLOSE to it, it IS it.) And she runs a Flying Circus made up entirely of lady pilots, who are all also perfectly competent pilots, even in spite of having to wear black jumpsuits with serious Madonna cone bras underneath.
Yet again, this is not an entirely white film, which I still find intriguing. Of course, the roles for non-whites aren’t awesome… The best of them is Oddjob, Goldfinger’s manservant. Oddjob never really speaks; he grins a lot, and occasionally gestures while saying “Ah” – I’m not sure whether we’re meant to think this is Korean or what. Anyway, he has the coolest hat in the world, with a steel brim: he decapitates a statue with it, and knocks out Tilly Masterson (or possibly kills her. It’s not clear). There are also a lot of apparently-Korean servants running around to do Goldfinger’s bidding, none of whom speak, and a “Red Chinese” agent who has provided the dirty atomic bomb with which Goldfinger plans to irradiate Fort Knox.
Finally, in case we didn’t already know it, Bond is a snob. While having dinner with M and the head of the Bank of England, the latter deplores the brandy while the former doesn’t understand. Bond articulates its inferiority like he’s reading from a wine directory. But he’s also not above cheating, “playing games” with Goldfinger by switching his golf ball during their game of golf. Interestingly, he’s also shown as indecisive when faced with a ticking bomb. Obviously this was done to raise the tension – omg will Bond survive?!?!? – but the result is to make him dither over which wire to pull. And in the end, he’s not the one that disarms it. So he’s not all-knowing after all.
As a young fella growing up watching James Bond I have to confess to being much more interested in the Bond Gadgets than the Bond Girls so I enjoyed seeing the genesis of Q Branch and the start of a long interplay between Bond and Q himself. Also, hello DB5 … perhaps my favourite of all the bond cars – the very car used in the movie was sold recently. Goldfinger introduces another recurring Bond theme, the apparently accidental ‘car race’ vs a girl down a mountain road; another childhood favourite. 2.5 Martinis.