Without this film, there’s no Bondmania… and maybe no more Bond.
. . .AS IAN FLEMING’S JAMES BOND 007: Sean Connery
SETUP: MI6 suspects a wealthy businessman named Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) of illegal gold smuggling, and they’d like to know how he’s doing it. James Bond takes the assignment after crossing paths with Goldfinger in Miami, a meeting that left a young woman murdered by a spray-on golden tan.
BUT IN REALITY: Goldfinger is indeed smuggling, but it’s the last thing the Brits should be worried about. The real concern is Operation Grand Slam, Goldfinger’s scheme to detonate a nuke inside Fort Knox, back when US currency was still backed by gold. Bond alerts the authorities, triggering a major ground skirmish outside the fort. The bomb is defused (with 007 seconds left, of course) and Bond survives to confront Goldfinger in a private airplane, where the villain is sucked out a window to his death.
VILLAINOUS DISFIGUREMENT: Goldfinger’s only disfigurement is mental: a driving obsession with gold. He smuggles it, collects it, murders with it, and even wields a golden gun long before Bond’s nemesis Scaramanga.
THE MUSCLE: Goldfinger employs Oddjob, a thick, mute, Korean wrestler with a razor-rimmed bowler hat that can cut the heads off of stone statues. Burly, silent, and armed with a deadly gimmick weapon – Oddjob is the model for all the best Bond henchmen to come, including Jaws.
BOND GIRL AND FEMME FATALE: Two of the most famous Bond Girls in franchise history are in this film. The first is Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), famously killed by gold paint suffocation in the first act of the film. Jill’s sister, Tilly (Tania Mallet), shows up in the middle of the film to avenge her, but she meets a brutal end at the hands of Oddjob and his bowler hat. Instead of decapitation, the hat hits her with enough impact to break her neck and she drops dead in mid-stride.
Once secure in Goldfinger’s clutches, Bond meets the infamous Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Pussy is no-nonsense, a crack pilot, and also possibly a lesbian, but Bond manages to seduce her anyway (disturbingly, see below). She immediately joins the winning team, selling out Goldfinger and aiding the feds.
“PAY ATTENTION, 007”: The first classic “Q scene”. Bond visits Q in the gadget room, where he receives his gear for the upcoming mission. Q delivers two things of note here. First, the hands-down, number-one, best Bond gadget of all time, the original Aston Martin DB5, and second, his most famous line: “I never joke about my work, 007.”
MOST EMBARRASSING CULTURAL MOMENT: The ‘60s Bond films are each guilty of at least one embarrassing lapse in judgment, but Goldfinger is so chock full of casual misogyny that I can’t choose just one moment. Bond dismisses a girl from a chat with Felix Leiter by slapping her on her ass and explaining that it’s “man talk.” He later shoves Jill Masterson by the face to get her away from his phone call, which she finds hilarious. He more or less forces himself on Pussy Galore in Goldfinger’s stables which, of course, converts her to Bond’s team (and possibly to men). Audiences at the time ate this stuff up, but these are uncomfortable moments in an otherwise great film.
BOND’S BEST ONE-LINER: “You expect me to talk?” Not a great line, but the setup for the most famous line in Bond history: “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
WORTH MENTIONING: For once, Bond is on the wrong side of history with his musical taste, telling Jill Masterson she should never listen to The Beatles without earmuffs on…The great Gert Frobe didn’t speak English and had to play the part of Goldfinger by speaking his lines phonetically. His voice is dubbed in the final release… This film was the Avatar of its day, grossing so much money so quickly that it entered the Guinness Book of World Records. This overwhelming audience response became known, inevitably, as “Bondmania.”
OVERALL: Goldfinger is a quintessential Bond film, a movie that perfectly represents what the series is and what the franchise strives to deliver. It has action and adventure, gadgets and absurdities, sophistication and class, a world-stomping villain and a legendary lady. Goldfinger is also a required Bond film for any newcomers who want to know the series and find out what the noise is about. If only one James Bond movie survives into the next millennium, this would be the one. It’s too iconic to die.
This may seem like a surprise to some, since Goldfinger has no big aspirations to cultural infamy. It’s a saccharine piece of pop entertainment, a fantasy film built around a superspy too good to be true and a supervillain too big to exist. Auric Goldfinger (even his first name begins with AU) is like a psychotic from Batman’s rogues gallery, singularly obsessed with sticking to a theme. He collects gold to do what? Spend it? Then he’d have less and his enemies would have more. Besides, he’s got too many possessions in need of gold plating. It the ultimate insult when he kills Jill Masterson with gold paint; he must be really angry with a girl if he’s willing to part with gold to end her life.
The film’s lasting power comes from the broad, well-crafted script from Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, but also from the magnetic performance of Sean Connery, who finally fully realizes the Bond character after spending his first two films working out the kinks. Goldfinger gives him a challenge worthy of a mega hero, lines worth saying, and then plenty of room to maneuver. The film would be nice enough with another actor, but Connery carries it on his shoulders up and over the finish line, just as Harrison Ford with Indiana Jones or Johnny Depp with Pirates of the Caribbean. Connery will never be topped as Bond, and that’s because it’s not a competition. Bond is his role, and Goldfinger proves that. Everyone else is just playing the part.
11. Dr. No
14. Live and Let Die
15. Licence to Kill
22. A View to a Kill