28 April 2009


Goldfinger One of the Best Bond Pictures
By Kristin Battestella
Pussy Galore. That naked dead chick painted gold. For casual viewers unfamiliar with the franchise, Goldfinger provides a healthy dose of such quintessential Bond iconography. This 1964 third entry in the James Bond series has babes, gadgets, proper villains, gold heists, and solid action.

As MI6 agent 007 James Bond (Sean Connery) wraps up his Miami vacation, CIA ally Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) brings word from MI6’s head M (Bernard Lee) that Bond is to trail Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), an international gold thief. In Switzerland, Bond joins with Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) as she avenges her sister Jill’s (Shirley Eaton) death at the hands of Goldfinger and his Korean henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata). Bond infiltrates Goldfinger’s base and learns of Operation Grand Slam. Unfortunately, he is captured and flown to Kentucky by Goldfinger’s pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Can Bond sway Pussy’s allegiance and foil the plot to blow Fort Knox

The pre title sequence in Goldfinger sums up all we need to know about Bond’s world, and Sean Connery has at last settled into his role as 007. He acts like a secret agent, gets the babes, and has the best quips. The way Bond moves in on Goldfinger is completely confident. Connery has the right handle on the fine blend of sex, humor, action-and he fully mixes business with pleasure. Even Bond has to laugh at the over the top nature of his world. The screenplay from longtime Bond writer Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn (Murder on the Orient Express) gives Bond a level of complexity along with great one liners. We know his weakness for the ladies, and in Goldfinger, it costs him.

Connery’s banter with the always charming Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Q looks so natural. Desmond Llewelyn looks to be having great fun with his decked out Aston Martin creation. Of course, some of the gadgets are highly improbable, but that’s okay. Unfortunately, I do wish we also had a regular Felix Leiter. His rotating actors and all American access is a little deux es machine, but you can’t worry about these things if you intend to enjoy Bond. 

We want Bond to axe the bad guys and bag babes, and one of my favorite things about these pictures is the naughty names for all the leading ladies. Honey Ryder, sure there’s some innuendo, but Pussy Galore? The only thing better then her name is Bond’s reaction: “I must be dreaming.” (I heard a rumor that he was to say ‘I know you are’ but that was too scandalous!) Honor Blackman (The Avengers) boasts all her sixties sex appeal and wit into the role of rough and tough pilot Pussy. Yes in the novel she is a lesbian (magically converted by Bond!), so you do get a sense of butch in her style and mano y mano chats with 007. Nevertheless, Blackman keeps Pussy Galore likeable, cheeky, and equal to Bond physically and sexually. I do wish she had better clothes, but that wouldn’t fit in with her kick ass judo skills. Pussy Galore’s female pilots in her Flying Circus are in the male pilot position just as she is, but they’re played up in sexy flight suits with pointed bosoms and matching blonde hairdos.
I imagine some women’s lib gals might really like Blackman’s banter with Bond or hate it. There is nothing wrong with having a strong action female in a solid action movie, but Goldfinger does fall back on the woman needing the man or switching sides in the end. And of course, we do have our share of kink from Ms. Galore and several other eye candy ladies. Overall, by presenting more than one type of woman beyond the bed for Bond, Goldfinger keeps its edge. It’s dated in its portrayals yes, but the multidimensional women here keep this installment memorable.
Naturally, that takes me to Jill Masterson and her unique death via the golden tan. Although Shirley Eaton (The Saint) doesn’t survive fifteen minutes in the film, the absurdity and the symbolism of death by gold is not lost on today’s audience. It’s sexy, dangerous, completely silly, and yet a frank statement from Ian Fleming about our monetary obsessions. I would have liked more of Tilly Masterson’s brief revenge, but she’s only there to make us hate Goldfinger more rather than fulfill her own vendetta. Thankfully, Goldfinger is such a wonderful villain. We don’t doubt his ruthlessness, but his easy dupes at cards and golf courtesy of Bond make him somewhat goofy. Most Bond villains have some silly hang up, and Goldfinger’s liking gold for its pretty color is no different. Veteran German actor Frobe (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), however, keeps it fun. He’s chubby and bad ass and an insane genius who’s thought of everything except Bond getting under his skin. Like Goldfinger, another classic character that has been oft parodied is his henchman Oddjob. Death by metal hat, people, be honest. Moreover, aren’t there any early Bond pictures without corrupt and stereotypical Asians? 
Goldfinger has a great instrumental soundtrack from John Barry, and the theme here works well with the traditional Bond tunes. It has its hip sixties brass vibes, but still sounds good today. The vocals by Shirley Bassey, are however, something I could live without. Some of Maurice Binder’s opening title sequences are also better than others, but the overlay here of Bond footage against a golden woman are sexy, classy, and making a statement artistically as well as socially. Well done.

Filmed mostly at Pinewood Studios in England, some of Goldfinger’s Miami facades are a bit hokey. My goodness, all the short shorts, terry cloth, and the bright blue like the ugly sheets on Dark Shadows are ridiculous! I’m also a little tired of all the dubbing done in these early films. Maybe it makes the voices clearer, but it’s amusing when the lips don’t match and all the chicks sound the same. Good thing the Swiss locations are green and lovely, and the car chases are still tight and entertaining. Goldfinger makes its mark with fun gadgets, cool cars, and that great family jewels threatening laser. The gold lame on the women and gold, gold everywhere is a bit overdone, but we’re keeping up with a theme remember. The big finale at Fort Knox has all the intricate, clock ticking action and suspense we need; and I don’t think its any spoiler to say Bond gets his Pussy.
In the twenty films that follow, Bond has certainly had his ups and downs. Goldfinger is the first picture, however, that gets everything right. There’s not a lot of visual naughtiness or gory violence compared to today’s pictures, but the innuendo of Pussy Galore might be too much for younger audiences: “You’re a woman of many parts, Pussy.” Fans of early Bond pictures can watch Goldfinger again and again; and viewers craving solid action and intelligence should give this one another viewing. Look for the affordable DVD or splurge on the bluray release.

No comments: