Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bond Review #5: Goldfinger

Well here we are again. Another week, another Bond movie. This one is renowned worldwide. It’s got some of the most memorable set pieces such as the giant laser beam ready to emasculate our hero. It’s got the Bond girl with the most memorable name. It’s got the first Bond theme song with words during the title credits… one that has gone down in history as one of the most memorable Bond songs. There are so many classic things about this movie.

came out in book form in 1959. It was the seventh Bond novel. Five years later, it became the third movie in the series. Dr. No and From Russia With Love were big hits, and expectations were huge for the third adventure. It’s very obvious that those expectations were met and surpassed. The movie launched the world into Bondmania. But how did it accomplish that? What’s so different about this movie as compared to the first two films?

Well, to begin with, this is one damned gimmicky flick. Bond had gadgets in From Russia With Love, but they were practical, and it was all in one briefcase. With this movie, we get introduced to the Q Branch labs, where there are several insane tests going on while Q is giving Bond a rundown on his newly issued equipment. This is the first time James Bond is given a cool, gadget filled car! (Well, that’s used on screen anyway…) A car with an ejector seat?! Why hadn’t anyone thought of that before? Machine guns, bullet screen, smokescreen, oil spill… It’s almost Speed Racer-light! (Okay, maybe not) Also we have Oddjob, Goldfinger’s Korean henchman with the steel rimmed hat that he throws to kill people. Huh?! Or what about killing someone and then painting them gold… in the nude, just as a calling card? Killing a guy slowly by strapping him to a table with a giant laser beam coming slowly up between his legs?

I guess I’m just trying to say that this movie is so out there that it’s damned cool! With all it’s gimmickiness, it launched the Bondmania with the items that came out in support of the film. A hit single by Shirley Bassey, toys for kids, more mainstream interest in the Bond books, and so on.

The movie concerns Bond being told to find out what this guy Goldfinger is up to. Somehow he’s controlling the gold market, and MI6 can’t figure out how! After Bond messes with Goldfinger’s token girl and makes him lose money in a card game, Goldfinger has the girl killed and painted gold. Bond continues to follow Goldfinger, getting caught quite a few times only to escape. Well, this stops after he’s taken out of the country into Kentucky. There, he learns that Goldfinger no longer wants to control just European gold supply, but America’s too! He has to try to get Goldfinger’s crack pilot, Mrs. Pussy Galore, to somehow help, but is she immune to his charms?

Seriously, this isn’t my favorite movie in the series. It’s not even my favorite Connery film. However, it is a strong movie. It’s fun, it’s intriguing, it’s suspenseful, and it’s the reason Bond is still around to this day. It added essential parts to the successful formula that Bond now uses. This brought gadgets, the idea that more girls are better, and the pop title song. I think if the Bond movies had stuck to the same style as the previous two, the series wouldn’t be around today. Those movies are just as good as this one, but this movie set this series apart from the likes of Hitchcock or other run of the mill spy movies. It was epic!

Locations: 7/10 We have beautiful countryside here in abundance. Kentucky hills, Miami Beach, Switzerland… Like all early Bond films, this is also a travelogue. This is the first time that Bond is filmed partially in America. It worked well here, but not so well a few films from now. I’m still amazed at the interior Fort Knox set. It sort of makes up for the fact that Goldfinger really doesn’t have a fortress. He lives on a Kentucky horse ranch…

Villain: 10/10 “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” Some of the most famous words in Bond lexicon, spoken by Auric Goldfinger. Man, this guy is badass. He gases his own flunkies, is willing to kill off an entire town, almost succeeds in splitting Bond in half and doesn’t even have the want to watch it happen… Man he’s cool…. In a creepy way. (The producers decided to get Gert Frobe to play him by seeing him play a child molester in a movie.)

Bond Girls: 10/10 We’ve got a case of the classics here. Jill and Tilly Masterson, both killed by Oddjob, but both very beautiful. Jill of course is then covered in gold paint, which is one of the most remembered shots in Bond history. Then we have the ever popular Pussy Galore. I still wonder how they got away with that name in 1964! Ms. Galore is every bit James Bond’s equal. She always seems to be one step ahead of him. It’s just too bad she doesn’t come in until the last half of the movie. She’s played by Honor Blackman, who is known for playing Cathy Gale in The Avengers. A few films later, the other major Avengers girl, Diana Rigg, would also become a Bond girl.

Direction/Design: 10/10 This is one beautiful movie. It’s hard to believe that the beginning scenes in Miami are mostly shot on a soundstage. The blending of location to soundstage is unbelievable. The movie is also more kenetic than it’s predecessors. There’s more action here, and with a different director, things are done differently. This is the first Bond film directed by Guy Hamilton, and it’s the best of the four Bond movies he ended up doing. If there’s one thing this guy knew how to do, it was make things pretty. This is the only time, however, that he ended up shooting a Bond movie with a great script, sadly.

Theme Song: 8/10 Why not ten for this, if it’s so iconic? Because it’s so darned cheesy. People make fun of this song like gangbusters. It’s so over the top that you can’t help it. Sure, Thunderball is cheesier, but it sounds like she’s singing a lusty love song to Goldfinger himself… an obese, kinda creepy looking bad guy. It kinda ruins the intended effect I think.

Overall: 10/10 I know that doesn’t add up to the above scores, but that was never my intention for these overall things…. It’s just how it worked out for the first 4 reviews. This is an essential Bond movie, and it’s a classic for a reason. It’s a great movie, not just a great Bond movie.

The blu-ray was fantastic. There’s even more special features here than on most Bond blu-rays. The normal making of is here, but there’s also a longer documentary on the Goldfinger phenomenon. It’s very interesting. There are also of course two commentaries and various other little things to keep you informed and occupied. The picture quality was astounding, even in the shots where opticals were used. Sound quality was also great, though don’t expect too much surround. It was originally mono, ya know.

James Bond will return with the review of… Never Say Never Again.

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