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Taken For Granted – Goldfinger

February 21, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

Much like a James Bond film, this opening is largely unimportant unless you’re unfamiliar with the series by now. If you are, you came for the credits, so…

Welcome to Taken For Granted; a column where I analyze films that are almost universally considered classics. Why? Because great movies don’t just happen by accident. They connect with initial audiences and they endure for a reason. This column is designed to keep meaningful conversation about these films alive.


Goldfinger

Wide Release Date: September 18, 1964
Directed By: Guy Hamilton
Written By: Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn
Produced By: Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli
Cinematography By: Ted Moore, BSC
Edited By: Peter R. Hunt
Music By: John Barry
Production Company: Eon Productions
Distributed By: United Artists
Starring:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore
Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger
Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson
Harold Sakata as Oddjob

What Do We All Know?

With twenty-four films over fifty-four years, James Bond is an institution in the movies. He’s been played by six different actors, had some great films, some bad ones, and is considered by many to be one of the best characters in movie history. His name, occupation, catchphrases, and theme song are all ingrained in pop culture. And while Sean Connery had already portrayed him in Dr. No and From Russia With Love, it is this movie that is most celebrated from the era.

They say the third time’s the charm, but this rarely holds true in film. Most times we are lucky if the third film is just good enough to not damage a franchise. But with Bond, we have significant improvement from the first to the second to the third. Dr. No is a serviceable spy movie but hardly an auspicious start. From Russia With Love is very good, but also one of the most low key 007 films. But Goldfinger? It’s a classic.

What Went Right?

After the financial success of the first two Bond films, Goldfinger was made on a budget of $3 million, a large sum for the time. Featuring big stunts with cars and planes, cutting edge special effects and impressive set designs, it was easily the biggest Bond film to date. Sir Sean Connery returned for the third time, bringing the same level of class, charm and sex appeal to the role as always. But Connery also got to show a new side, being put in more peril than he had before as the screenwriters made a deliberate choice to make the super spy more vulnerable.

How so? With two of the best villains that Bond has ever got up against: Auric Goldfinger and his heavy Oddjob. German actor Gert Fröbe portrays the character of Goldfinger on screen, while stage actor Michael Collins dubbed over his lines in English. Together, the two actors helped to create a believably sleazy, powerful enemy to oppose Bond, a man with unlimited resources and criminal ambition. While Blofeld is the most well known villain in the franchise, Goldfinger is, pardon the pun, the “Gold Standard” of one-shot 007 baddies.

Oddjob, played by professional wrestler Harold Sakata is still probably the best henchmen in the series. Silent but menacing, he was memorable in every scene, particularly the climactic fight in the Fort Knox building. Sakata was a true professional, dealing with burns from the electricity for the sake of one good shot. And nobody can forget the impossibly awesome metal hat that he uses as a weapon. Together, they are more than a match for Bond.

The film’s plot is also significantly grander and more interesting than the earlier Bond films. They both work on their own terms, but Goldfinger set a new standard for what we could expect from the franchise. Goldfinger’s plan is high concept, but even before we get there we see the two main characters play off each other with a poker game and a golf game. There’s a sense of building up to a confrontation, and there are several memorable bits that builds to it. Jill Masterson being killed with gold paint, her vengeful sister, the laser board.

What Went Wrong?

While Goldfinger is an exceptional movie on its own terms, there is one aspect of the film that is exceptionally, undoubtedly wrong; James Bond and how he seduces Pussy Galore. While the film tries to play up their barnyard scuffle as whimsical banter by using musical cues, there is something undeniably involuntary about this scene. This is Bond forcing himself on a woman who does not want him, which is deeply troubling. Some might argue that this is negated because Pussy gives in and consents before they cut away, but this oddly reinforces a stupid, stupid falsehood that women want to be raped. It’s disgusting.

To make matters worse, one need only look at the source material; in Ian Fleming’s novel, Pussy Galore is a lesbian, with her team of female pilots being a harem of sorts. While this aspect of Pussy is downplayed in the film for 1964’s general audiences, it’s still present if you read between the lines. Ian Fleming wanted to prove Bond’s sexual prowess by having him seduce a lesbian, showing his own appalling belief that gay women simply need the right man to “cure” them of their sexuality.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Bond has ever been a shining example of how men should conduct themselves in the real world. He is a fantasy character after all, but there’s a difference between being the kind of mind-numbingly attractive playboy that straight women throw themselves at and… this. It’s not a good look, Mr. Bond.

What Went Really Right?

Dr. No can really be seen as a rough draft of sorts for the franchise, containing the steak but not the sizzle. Goldfinger introduced several staples of the series. Most notable is the legendary credits sequence, which was the first to feature mostly nude women with an aesthetic that tied into the film. But it also introduced the cold open, an opening action scene that has little to do with the plot and simply establishes who Bond is and what he does for new audiences.

With the bigger budget, this was the first film to fully delve into Bond’s signature gadgets. From the small ones like the recording devices to his signature car, Goldfinger made full use of Bond’s job as a spy. This is really what makes Goldfinger stand out; it set the stage for what can be expected from the franchise. While it’s not my favorite Bond movie, it remains the measuring stick that all will be compared to.

Like This Column?
Check out previous editions!
Jurassic Park
Back to the Future
Chinatown
Taxi Driver
The Matrix
Batman (1989)
Casablanca

Or check out my column with Michael Ornelas; “From Under A Rock”. Last week, I introduced Michael to The Karate Kid. This week, I’ll be seeing Lucky Number Slevin for the first time.

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I log reviews for every film I see, when I see them. You can see my main page here. Recent reviews include The Aristocats, Rosemary’s Baby and another James Bond film: The Spy Who Loved Me.

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