James Bond Retrospective: Review of GOLDFINGER

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

Probably the most iconic of all the Bond films, GOLDFINGER has it all!  This was always my dad’s favorite, so I saw this one quite a bit as a kid.  I remember loving Oddjob and his decapitating derby.  I always get pleasure when I throw this one on, so I was looking forward to revisiting it.

Bond is back!  And this time he’s assigned to watch a shady character named Goldfinger (Gert Frobe).  Right away, things go bad when 007 insults the villain causing him to murder one of Bond’s conquests by painting her in gold.  But still, the secret agent tries to make friends with him to find out about operation Grand Slam, which involves an attack on Fort Knox.  Along the way Bond meets Goldfinger’s top pilot, Pussy Galore (“I must be dreaming”) and the deadly Oddjob.

It opens with a pre-title sequence that is separate from the main plot, which started a Bond tradition.  It’s a perfect way to start the film and get the audience pumped up for Bond’s return as he sets a bomb, pulls off his scuba gear to reveal a fancy tuxedo, then lights a cigarette as the bomb goes off.  Then while making out with a wet, naked chick, he sees a reflection of a thug in her eyes and then turns her around to receive a club to the back of the head.  It ends with Bond pushing the dude into the bathtub and frying him by throwing an electric fan into the water.  It’s all topped off with Connery’s deadpan delivery of, “Shocking.  Positively shocking”.  It’s terrific!

While FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE had more of a complex plot, this one is pretty much straight forward.  The pace is also quite fast here, rarely giving you a chance to catch your breath.  Connery eases back into the role with obvious comfort, delivering his lines effortlessly.  The supporting cast is good all around.  I liked Felix this time.  Honor Blackman is tougher than your average Bond girl as Pussy Galore.  Man, what a great name!  heh heh.  His voice is dubbed but Gert Frobe makes quite the menacing villain.  He’s a pudgy little man, but not for one instance are you NOT intimated by him.  And of course that classic line: “Do you expect me to talk Goldfinger?”  “No Mr. Bond I expect you to die!”  Unforgettable.  And even though he doesn’t utter a word, Harold Sakata as Oddjob creates one of the most memorable Bond henchman.  He’s deadly!  Or course M and Moneypenny are reliable here too.  And Q gets his best scene yet.  Love it when Bond reacts to the ejector seat by saying, “You’re joking!”, with Q replying with a very straight face: ” I never joke about my work 007″.  Love it!

Guy Hamilton took over the directing reigns this time out and the difference is noticeable.  Even though this movie contains some of the most iconic scenes ever to be put into a Bond film, it’s far from perfect.  From a filmmaking stand point, it’s kind of sloppy.  I think some of the rear projection work is pretty bad, and it’s hard NOT to notice it.  It’s especially noticeable when Bond is talking to Felix while poolside at the hotel in Miami near the beginning of the picture.  Felix is on a set, while it’s very clear that Connery is on a soundstage.  I know that it’s due to a scheduling conflict because Connery was busy shooting MARNIE with Alfred Hitchcock, but it still bugged me.

This was the first time that I noticed that the movie has some unintentional laughs.  While I love the idea of the ejection seat, when a bad guy finally flies out of the car with his pansy scream, it made me giggle.  Another scene when Goldfinger is in a room with a bunch of investors and then makes the floor move out from underneath them, their reactions were hilarious as they randomly shout out, “What’s going on here?” and “I don’t like this!”, as it sounded like they were reading them from a cue card.  And what was with that one dude riding the fake horse?  Weird!  Also, at the finale when Goldfinger’s planes are gassing the soldiers at Fort Knox, they all fall down in perfect unison almost immediately when the plane passes overhead.  It’s the kind of thing that Roger Corman might pull, but comes off rather cheaply in a Bond film.  Oh yeah, and Goldfinger’s demise…. it’s ridiculous….. but awesome!

Still, even with these flaws, there are still some pretty bad ass things going on here.  Gotta love the giant laser about to emasculate Bond as he’s strapped to a table.  And the final fight between 007 and Oddjob is almost as good as the one with Grant in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.  As always, there are great one-liners too.  Even though this is a lot sillier than the previous Bond, it has an infectious spirit.  Sure, I may have laughed at things that weren’t supposed to be funny, but that’s also part of the reason why it’s enjoyable.  Some people say that GOLDFINGER is the best Bond movie.  I don’t think so.  But with so many iconic things that happen in this third entry, I can see where one might think so, especially if they don’t look at the flick with a filmmaker’s eye like I do.  But at least I can say I have a good time with every viewing, and that’s more than I can say about several other films.  GOLDFINGER, for me, isn’t the perfect Bond movie (though it does have all the elements to be perfect), but it’s still a fun, corny time.  Definition of a popcorn movie.   ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

- Not rated, but contains PG-13 level violence, innuendos and brief partial nudity. 

- Running time: 1hr 49min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. Like you, I am a big Bond fan dating from the mid 60s when I first saw Goldfinger. Your review is most perceptive and quite fair. As you point out, Goldfinger, and all of the Connery outings,for that matter, have their faults if one closely analyzes them. Cinema was much different in those days, so one cannot expect the realism of the Craig films or the special effects wizardry that characterize current action films. For its time, Goldfinger was certainly groundbreaking. It is amazing that it holds up as well as it has over the past half century. I’ve seen Goldfinger and other early Bond films probably dozens of times over the years. They always carry me back to a simpler time, when movie heroes were larger than life and attending a movie was a much anticipated event.

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