Investigating a gold magnate’s smuggling, James Bond uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve.
Shocking. Positively shocking.
Guy Hamilton’s first foray into the world of 007, ‘Goldfinger‘ represents something of a template for Bond films ever since – the pre-credit mission in the exotic location, followed by the big theme tune (sang with typical power by Shirley Bassey), hi-tech gadgets, product placement, Bond girls, henchmen and of course the megalomaniacal titular villain.
Filmed on location in Miami, Kentucky, Switzerland and at Pinewood Studio, ‘Goldfinger‘ marks Connery’s third film in the role of James Bond, a more confident, if somewhat arrogant Bond but as achingly suave and cool as the character ever appears on screen. The plot centres around Auric Goldfinger’s spectacularly fiendish plan to irradiate the entire reserve of US Gold at Fort Knox with a daring plan (Operation Grand Slam) involving the eyebrow raisingly named ‘Pussy Galore’ (and her flying circus), played by Avenger’s actress Honor Blackman. The ultimate aim is to increase the price of Goldfinger’s own gold supply and create economic chaos in the West which will be of benefit to the co-conspirators of the piece, the Chinese government, the suppliers of the ‘dirty bomb’ (the agent is played in a brief cameo by the legendary Burt Kwouk).
From the off we see that Bond underestimates his opponent, (Bond quips to the CIA’s Felix Leiter “Auric Goldfinger? Sounds like a French nail varnish”) with deadly consequences – death by gold paint, perhaps one of the most iconic images of the film series. Bond evidently relishes taking Goldfinger’s girlfriend from him almost as much as he enjoys blackmailing him into losing large amounts of money in a card game to his ‘pidgeon’. But this humiliation leads to the introduction (via shadow) of the chief henchman of the story and one of the more memorable Bond villains – the deadly, steel-brimmed derby hat wielding, golf ball crushing ‘Oddjob’ – Goldfinger’s mute Korean ‘man’. Goldfinger is played by Gert Fröbe, a German actor chosen by the producers who were led to believe he spoke English – not so when he turned up on set, so the role was dubbed in the film by an English actor, Michael Collins. Frobe’s performance though is particularly lascivious, not just in his pursuit of gold but also his lecherous behavior towards the women who work for him.
The now familiar supporting cast includes Bernard Lee as M, Lois Maxwell as the wistful Moneypenny and Desmond Llewelyn as Q. In this story Q branch is given an expanded role as Bond visits the department and witnesses some of the outlandish gadgets being tested and is introduced to his new car (seemingly disappointed that his Bentley has been ‘retired’) but what an introduction. One of the most iconic cars in cinematic history, the Aston Martin DB5 complete with an array of modifications, from bullet proof windscreen and revolving licence plates to the passenger ejector seat. The DB5 is almost a character in itself. Q’s relationship with Bond is evidently one of exasperation at 007’s lack of respect and care for his gadgets, not helped by an apparent lack of interest and slouched demeanour on the part of the MI6 man whilst being briefed about his field equipment. Q also implores Bond to bring back the gadgets in one piece, insinuating that the usual approach is to treat the equipment with casual disdain.
M and Bond’s previously tetchy relationship is similarly strained in this outing. Here we get a glimpse into Bond’s class and breeding. During the scene where Colonel Smithers from the Bank of England debriefs the pair on suspicions held about Goldfinger’s smuggling operation, the Colonel remarks that they’re drinking “a rather disappointing brandy”, something that M doesn’t notice whereas Bond reveals himself to be something of a brandy connoisseur in his descriptive agreement with the Colonel, “it’s a 30-year-old fine, indifferently blended … with an overdose of bon bois”. This obviously irks M who gives the brandy a surreptitious sniff but still appears none the wiser.
The locations in ‘Goldfinger‘ are suitably exotic, from the pre-credit scene in Jamaica to the introduction of the villain of the piece on Miami Beach, taking in the breathtaking Swiss Alps along the way and the final show down at Fort Knox in Kentucky. This is the globe-trotting 007 that audiences become increasingly familiar with as the series continues. The sets are also beautifully designed by the legendary designer Ken Adam, some of which call to mind other classic sets he worked on including the war room in Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove‘.
‘Goldfinger‘ is perhaps the high point of the Connery Bonds as it strikes a nice balance between the spectacular and the believable, not only in terms of the central plot but also the gadgetry and the villains on show. Bond simply doesn’t get any better than this. Connery still seems to be having fun in the role, something that Guy Hamilton brings to the forefront, delivering slightly more humour than the previous two entries and certainly less political than ‘From Russia With Love‘ and with no explicit references to SPECTRE. This is a film that stands up to repeat viewings, a classic entry in the Bond series and a great film in its own right.
Review by Mark Thatcher
Directed By: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Tania Mallet, Bernard Lee, Cec Linder, Martin Benson, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn
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