Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bondage, Pt. 3: Goldfinger

This one, the third in the series, is where they finally hit the nail on the head. It was more successful than the previous two Bond films combined, and had twice the budget. It made its money back in two weeks, and Goldfinger is considered by many to be the quintessential Bond film, at least of the Connery era. It is the first to feature the title song over the opening credits, and is the first to have a pre-title action sequence that has nothing to do with the plot of the movie.

I'm going to try a different format this time and stick with it (I may go back and edit my previous two entries to match this format). As usual, I am indebted to IMDB and Wikipedia for fun facts.

Synopsis: Bond investigates gold smuggling by gold magnate Auric Goldfinger and eventually uncovers Goldfinger's plans to attack the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, with the aim of setting off a Red Chinese nuke and irradiating the U.S. gold supply.

The Villain: Auric Goldfinger, a portly, red-haired evil gold magnate. He likes to win at all costs and is frustrated by Bond, who mocks him early in the film and later during a golf game. He's very good at playing cat-and-mouse with Bond, however, and is one of the first to capture Bond, tell him his entire plan, then leave him in a death-trap of some sort. One of these days, you'd figure the Bond villains would simply shoot him in the head and have done with it...Interestingly, the actor Gert Frobe was chosen based on a role where he played a child molester; his English was too poor and they dubbed in his voice with actor Michael Collins. Another interesting fact: Frobe was a member of the Nazi party, but supposedly hid Jews from the Gestapo. Goldfinger was banned in Israel until families came forward to thank him for saving them from Nazis.

The Henchman: The henchman in this one is Oddjob, who I believe is said to be Korean. He is mute (although he can sort of grunt) and has a signature move: throwing his bowler hat, the rim of which is lined with metal, to do things like break people's necks. Actor Harold Sakata was badly burned during his death scene, where he is electrocuted, but stoically stayed in character until they yelled "Cut!"

The Bond Girl: There are, arguably, two, or even three, in this movie, but the main one is Pussy Galore, who gets the prize for most ridiculous Bond girl name ever, hands down. Played by Honor Blackman (who also is in Jason and the Argonauts, another of my favorites from the Sixties), she's Goldfinger's personal pilot and runs an all-girl flying circus. She also knows Judo, but not better than James Bond, who uses his superior skill to manhandle her in a barn. Since she's the one he ends up making out with at the end of the movie, she's basically the official Bond Girl. But we can't forget Jill Masterson, who helps 007 in the beginning and get smothered in gold paint for her trouble. Her sister, Tilly, later tries to kill Goldfinger. She teams up with 007 for a while but is killed by Oddjob's hat.

The Sidekick: Once again we have Felix Leiter, making his second appearance. This time he's played by Cec Linder, who replaced Jack Lord. Apparently Lord demanded equal billing with Connery and too much money. He calls in the cavalry in the form of the CIA at the end, and otherwise spends his time watching Bond through binoculars and applauding whenever Bond seduces a woman: "That's my James!"

Gadgets: This film introduces Bond's Aston Martin DB5, which has oil slick, smokescreen, machine gun, bullet-proof glass, revolving license plates, and more...He also has a nifty homing device he can hide in his shoe that comes in handy.

Music: The theme song, Goldfinger, performed by Shirley Bassey, is performed over the opening credits for the first time. This is my favorite Bond theme song. It has really good lyrics and her trumpet-like vibrato fits the mood. Bassey has done more theme songs than any other performer (three - Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker).

The Director: Guy Hamilton, who directed four Bond films (this one, plus Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and the Man with the Golden Gun) was brought in to replace Terrence Young, who had directed the previous two films. Young chose not to direct after a pay dispute. Hamilton had originally turned down an offer to direct Dr. No.

Fun Facts: Orson Welles was originally approached to play Goldfinger, but his financial demands were too high. That's too bad. I can't think of a better person to play a Bond villain than Welles.

Favorite Line: In the pre-title sequence, a girl is kissing James and is poked by the gun in his shoulder holster. She says "Why do you always wear that thing?" and he quips, "I have a slight inferiority complex." Other standouts include Connery saying "Shocking...positively shocking," after electrocuting a guy in a bathtub, and the great line from Goldfinger in this exchange (Bond: "Do you expect me to talk?" Goldfinger: "No, Mr. Bond...I expect you to die!").

Other: Just because I haven't mentioned her yet, this was Lois Maxwell's third time in the role of Miss Moneypenny, who enjoys an indefinite and unconsummated flirtation with Bond all the way up until the end of the Roger Moore era. I think she's prettier than she gets credit for (she suffers in comparison to all of the Bond girls but is quite attractive, especially in this early photo). Bond should have paid more attention to her.

Overall, I think Goldfinger may be my favorite of the Connery films, though I'll reserve judgment on that until I see them all again. It certainly has all the right ingredients. A classic moment is at the very end when Bond is trying to turn off a ticking nuclear bomb - it eventually stops seven seconds from detonation (the readout says "007").

Next up is one I haven't seen too many times, so I'm looking forward to it: Thunderball.

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