Everything He Touches Turns To Excitement (1964)
March 30, 2011 1 Comment
Third time’s the charm as James Bond faces off against his latest threat, one catchphrase-spouting Auric Goldfinger. Boasting no fewer than three Bond girls, a razor-hatted henchman and a particularly ridiculous seagull costume, Goldfinger is the Bond film to end all Bond films. At least, it might have been if it hadn’t been so franchise-toppingly awesome.
After foiling Goldfinger’s (Gert Fröbe) attempts to cheat an opponent at cards, and charming the fraud’s female accomplice in the process, James Bond (Sean Connery) finds himself on the wrong end of one of Oddjob’s infamous karate chops. Waking up to find Jill Masterson’s corspe has been painted gold, and giving our resident evil the hump (we know he’s angry because he snaps his pencil), Bond returns to Britain for new orders, new weapons and a quick game of golf, before taking his pimped our Aston Martin to Switzerland. After meeting Jill’s vengeful sister, and falling contractually captive, Bond is flown to America by pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) where he learns of Goldfinger’s master plan: to irradiate Fort Knox’s gold supply in a bid to increase the value of his own substantial stock. Mwahahaha!
There is so much that is laughable about Goldfinger: James Bond’s “ingenious” seagull-hatted disguise, Goldfinger’s razor-hatted henchman and the very idea that Jill Masterson died from “skin suffocation” proving three particular highlights. After two relatively straight-laced prior instalments, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, it clear that Sean Connery has finally let his chest hair down and that the film-makers are newly versed in the entertaining properties of silly string. For while some may deride the franchise’s ongoing suspension of disbelief, and won’t be happy until the character is Nolanised in Casino Royale, it is in this corn-infused third outing that the series finally finds its feet. Having tested the water with opening-themes, girls and innuendo, EON Productions have finally birthed the definitive James Bond movie.
This is the most exciting of the three instalments reviewed so far, perfectly balancing the expository and action scenes in a consistent and exhilarating pattern. While the scuffle aboard the Orient Express in From Russia With Love might have been the more influential, Goldfinger packs so many set pieces into its running time that it appears comprised solely from cult moments. Heck, an entire intallation is levelled before the title sequence has even started. Goldfinger disbands with the trending slow start and throws Sean Connery straight into the thick of it, while two Bond girls are offed before the half way point, adding to the break-neck pace (to begin with, at least) of this instalment, the first in the series to be free of the Cold War’s shadow. Frenetic, well paced and occasionally breath-taking, by the time Bond finally averts disaster you’ll have clawed the armrests beyond recognition.
So, what of those Bond girls? With Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet and Honor Blackman filling out the quota as Jill and Tilly Masterson and Pussy Galore, Goldfinger is a veritable constellation of James Bond’s sexual conquests. Of the three, it is probably Tilly Masterton who is most short-changed, deprived as she is of a gold sheen or euphamistic cult status. Nevertheless, I found that it was Tania Mallet who made this biggest impression, both in her vengeful introduction and the suddenness of her death at the hat of Oddjob. That said, Blackman is an absolute pleasure as the franchise’s oldest Bond girl, her Pussy Galore a stern force to be reckoned with, particularly in comparison to Gert Fröbe’s relatively relaxed and eerily understated villain, Auric Goldfinger.
It is with Goldfinger‘s villainy that its superiority most marked. Dr. No may have had metal hands, and Red Grant might have been handy with a line of garrote wire, but Oddjob has a marble statue-proof razor hat and Goldfinger has a laser with your balls written all over it. As Goldfinger and his favourite caddy-come-contract killer covort in broad daylight, making little attempt at avoiding attention, it is clear that it is not just the filmmakers that have found their confidence, but the franchise’s villains to – paving the way for the flamboyance of the series’ later antagonists. It is Goldfinger, after all, which contains the aforementioned laser scene, in which Bond’s crown jewels are threatened by a searing beam of light slowly eating it’s way through the table upon which he is restrained. With dialogue almost as famous as the scene itself, Goldfinger has a transcendent familiarity to it, whether you have seen it before or not.
Cheesy, thrilling and recognisably Bond, Goldfinger is undoubtedly the definitive 007 movie. The formula honed and set, all that remains is for a little exaggeration in the sound-mixing department and we’ll finally have fights that sound as good as they look.