Part three of our Bond retrospective finds Joe looking at Goldfinger, a classic of the series that pits Bond against the corpulent, gold-obsessed businessman Auric Goldfinger and his silent but deadly manservant Oddjob.
Bond films always remind me of my dad. My mum was never particularly fond of James – what with him being a smarmy, womanising, sociopath – but my dad and I ate that stuff up. Anytime a Bond film was on, which was pretty much every public holiday, dad and I would sit together and watch it, laughing along and commenting on how cool he was. Of all the Bond films I saw with my dad it’s Goldfinger I remember the most; it was one of the few times I’ve seen my dad reduced to a giggling, giddy schoolboy.
The quintessential Bond film and the point where the series hits its stride, Goldfinger introduced several now traditional elements to the franchise. It’s the first to feature a pre-credits adventure, a short punchy sequence that establishes Bond at the tail end of a previous, unfilmed exploit. It’s the first in the series to have a proper theme song over the credits; where Dr. No and From Russia with Love had instrumental title sequences, Goldfinger has the swaggering bombast of Shirley Bassey up front. It’s also the first time Bond is in possession of a slew of gadgets, chief among them the classic Aston Martin DB5 with machine guns, smoke pellets and an ejector seat. Bond may have first appeared onscreen two years previously in Dr. No but Bond films as we know them, began with Goldfinger. Everything you love, or hate, about Bond movies likely originated right here.
Sadly, this is also a film which showcases Bond at his most problematic. As much as I love Goldfinger, its ugly misogynist streak is impossible to defend. While Bond’s attitude towards women in previous outings is at best non-committal and at worst flinty, here he is utterly contemptible towards them. As well as being indirectly responsible for the death of two sisters, a fact he reacts to with the level of anguish one would expect to see upon the loss of a cigarette lighter, he ‘turns’ a lesbian in a shocking, toe-curling manner that’s extremely difficult to watch. Women in Goldfinger are either objects to be seen with and then disposed of when no longer useful, or duplicitous shrews who must be tamed by either sex or death, or in some cases both. It’s a shame that one of the best Bonds is mired in such repugnant displays of sexism, even in comparison with later entries to the series.
If you can step outside of its gender and sexual politics, Goldfinger is still a wonderful movie, replete with gorgeous photography, wonderfully elaborate sets, iconic character design and a lush, seductive score by John Barry. It’s silly and thrilling, fun and edgy; everywhere you turn there’s an assassin with a deadly bowler hat or a man having his penis threatened with a laser beam. In short, it’s the kind of film that turns me into a giggling giddy schoolboy, just like dad.
Bond theme: Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey is huge in every aspect. Bassey’s voice is as brassy as Barry’s music and the song is pretty much the template for how a Bond theme should sound. Just ask Gladys Knight who was taken to court when her theme for 1989’s Licence to Kill liberally used samples from it.
Best one liner: There really is no contest here. Feast your eyes on this.
Despite being a corny pun on the electrified death of a would be assassin, it’s the sound of wearied disappointment in Connery’s voice that makes this. It’s as if Bond is genuinely pissed off that his night of triumphant post-mission coitus has been foiled by the unseemliness of these events.
Glamorous locations: Bond plays a bit of golf in the English countryside before tailing Goldfinger to the Swiss Alps, a location that frequently crops up in the series and will be revisited later this year in Spectre. Also of note is the fact that Goldfinger is the first time Bond travels to the USA, his adventure begins in a Miami hotel and ends in Kentucky.
Gadgets: There’s lots of gadgets in Goldfinger. The Aston Martin alone has about ten of them built into it, ranging from spikes on the hubcabs to an inbuilt radar tracking system. It’s a bit of a step up from the decidedly less exciting briefcase with a hidden knife he’s given in From Russia with Love.
Girls: If we include the treacherous woman from the pre-title scene that’s seen being clubbed in the video above, there are five Bond girls in Goldfinger. Honor Blackman is the most prominent female character playing the ludicrously named Pussy Galore. The leader of an all-female team of pilots employed by Goldfinger, Pussy turns against her employer after she is seduced by Bond. The gold painted corpse of Shirley Eaton’s Jill Masterson has become one of the most iconic images in British cinema although she doesn’t feature much in the story outside of that horrifying tableaux. Rounding off the list is Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson, Jill’s vengeful sister and Dink (Margaret Nolan) a woman Bond actually slaps on the arse and orders ‘run along now: man talk’.
Classic Moment: Bond is strapped to a table made of gold with a high powered laser slowly cutting its way through the metal and towards his crotch. When Bond asks him if he expects Bond to talk Goldfinger replies with a chuckle ‘No Mr Bond, I expect you to die.’
TELSTAR’S BIG BOND COUNTDOWN WILL RETURN WITH… THUNDERBALL