Thursday 22 February 2018

Goldfinger (1964)

Welcome to 1964.

Another year and a new batch of movies. Again, I will garnish the salad of List movies with a few of my own List candidates, but much more on that a I proceed through the year.

First movie of 1964 is “Goldfinger”, the third James Bond movie in the still active franchise. Back in the autumn when I looked for the movie I found a box set with the entire franchise at bargain price, so I started watching them all as a little side project (currently at “The Spy Who Loved Me”). As a consequence, the current watch is actually a re-watch only three months after the last time I saw it. That is okay, I do not mind. The James Bond movies are fun to watch and this one more so than many of them.

“Goldfinger” is described as the movie that settled the franchise and it is quite fitting that this should be the one representative the franchise on the List. All subsequent James Bond movies borrow from this one as does the spoof franchise of “Austin Powers”. James Bond (Sean Connery) is a super hero character that moves in a cartoonish world of technical gadgets, super villains and threats of world shattering scale. His super powers are not demonic strength or the ability to fly. No, James Bond’s special abilities are his irresistible charm, his cleverness and ability to always come out on top no matter how bad things look. In short, he is any boys dream of a heroic character. Who wouldn’t want to be James Bond? As unrealistic as it is I find this sort of super hero far more palatable then the typical Marvel fare.

In this third installment the super villain is a fellow called Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), who is obsessed with gold. He is about to execute his cunning plan, “Operation Grand Slam”, when James Bond gets involved. To begin with Goldfinger is merely a suspicious character, who destroys people who gets in his way. To this end he has a very efficient bodyguard “Oddjob” (Harold Sakata), who can kill with his bowler hat. Eventually however the details of the operation are revealed. The Fort Knox gold reserves are to be irradiated, increasing the value of his own gold manifold and throwing the western world into chaos.

To execute this plan Goldfinger uses squadron of flying girls led by a woman with the unlikely name Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). She also happens to be a stunning looking woman and we know what Mr. Bond can do…

The whole thing takes place on several continents and involves numerous technical gadgets, including the most awesome grey Aston Martin filled with everything a secret agent might need in a pinch. I had one of those as a toy when I was a little boy and it was pretty awesome. Goldfinger also has a horde of henchmen conveniently wearing a yellow sash whose main function is to die. Honestly, if it had not been for the charm and tongue in cheek humor pervading the movie it could easily have become too much, but these are exactly the properties that makes it work so well. James Bond makes me smile, especially when Sean Connery is James Bond.

Another element that the better James Bond movies does well is to bring just the right level of darkness into the movies. People do die. There are true atrocities and James Bond sometimes must admit defeat, even getting beaten up pretty badly. It sounds bad, but it is necessary in order to ground the movies. There is really nothing worse than an all-powerful super hero. Bond feels guilt, anger, vanity. Human feelings that makes him human and sometimes he makes terrible mistakes, but never fear, Bond is no anti-hero. He is the real deal and a lot more of most things than most people and in the end Bond always wins.

I have a lot of fun watching James Bond. It is iconic and familiar and very entertaining. It is Sunday afternoon TV and I can kick back and take my Bond movies shaken, not stirred.


  1. I find Goldfinger more iconic than great. It did build much of the foundation for the future of the franchise, but the story details are weak, the execution sloppy, and Bond is reduced to a passenger / prisoner for much of the film's second half. For me, 1965's Thunderball is the better Bond film from that era -- it has all the elements but with better characters, better plot and better execution.

    1. I tend to agree, Thunderball does it better, but, alas, Goldfinger was first, so I do understand why that one was selected for the List.
      By the mid-seventies, that sloppiness had reached a level where the Bond moves became a joke on themselves. Those early Connery movies still had a sincerity about them that made up for many of their flaws.

  2. Not to mention the fantastic opening song!

    The film is good fun, and still works as a thriller today because of its pacing: its doesn't try to jam in too much story, but doesn't get too slow either.

    1. Shirley Bassey's voice will allways be associated with James Bond. No doubt about that.
      That is the thing, this movie is also fun to watch today and taht is quite an achievement.

  3. I grew up with the Moore films and can overlook the flaws, good escapist fun. Connery's outings have a better rep but always came second in line in terms of enjoyment for me. The early films do have a certain charm and the laser sequence in Goldfinger is iconic both for the visuals and the "I expect you to die!" quote. Since you now own the boxset I hope you review a few more from the series.

    1. I might. I am allowing myself three movies per year that should have featured on the List. It is quite likely that there will be some James Bond among those.
      The quote you refer to is an amazing line. Had I found a good way to do it I whould have weaved it into my review.