Tuesday, May 22, 2012

THE BOND VOYAGE: #3 - Goldfinger (1964)

"Do you expect me to talk?"

- "No Mr. Bond... I expect you to die."

The producers were in the zone once Goldfinger was released in 1964, just a year after From Russia With Love upped the ante and the quality of the Bond franchise from the debut film, Dr. NoGoldfinger is widely regarded as the best and most complete of th eJames Bond pictures, and a great film in its own right.  Those assumptions are accurate, as almost every element of this third Bond picture is iconic.  The extravagance of the villain grows, the henchmen become more vital, the women more beautifully abundant, and Sean Connery is at his very best as 007.  This was the sweet spot of the franchise, where parody had not yet enetered American pop culture and soiled some of the imagery.  No, this film is played straight, with just the slightest hint of a smirk, and it all gels into near perfection.

The first thing to notice with Goldfinger is the introduction of the now-famous, often poorly made title song (which stopped with the rebirth of the character in 2006).  It is Shirley Bassey, doing her best impersonation of a young Tina Turner as she croons "Goldfinger" over another first: the use of Connery as Bond from the previous films.  The flamboyance of these opening titles surely began a trend. 

This time around, 007 is dispatched to Fort Knox, where Auric Goldfinger plans on cleaning out the Federal Reserve and bankrupting the world economy.  The megalomania has begun to creep in to the chatracterization of Bond villains, and nobody can do it quite as well as Gert Frobe here in the first and best of the super villains.  In every scene, Goldfinger is wearing some sort of yellow or golden-hued clothing.  Sometimes, it is a golden pistol.  The most memorable of the early sequences, where Bond must meet and befriend Auric in order to get close to him, is the golf scenes.  Here, we meet Goldfinger's driver, his trusted henchmen, Oddjob, still the best assistant baddie in the Bond universe this side of Jaws.  Oddjob's deadly bowler hat gets to show off early on, and Bond takes note.

The narrative of this film is fairly straight-forward, especially when compared to the needed complexities in the later Bond pictures as the World began shrinking.  Goldfinger plans on stealing all the gold in Fort Knox, Bond is here to stop him.  For the first time, we get the Aston Martin, fully equipped with all of the toys and the tools Bond needs to stop Auric.  There is also a certain Bond girl named Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), a beautiful vixen playing both sides of the fence.  The name brings a snicker, sure, but it's playing on the sexual nature of these films, and such an overstated sexual name may be used to combat the phallic nature of, well, the entire Bond franchise.  While Galore is Goldfinger's personal pilot,  she cannot help but fall prey to Bond's charm.  This places her in a terrible situation later in the film, as she is found covered in gold paint in one of the more iconic scenes.

Goldfinger is great as its own film, but as a Bond picture it exemplifies everything which has been right with this franchise for decades.  It is a film of firsts, including the first villain intent on World domination, the first title song, and the introduction of the legendary Aston Martin.  There is also some playfulness here with the introduction of Pussy Galore, and the recognition that a great deal of Bond'a appeal as a hero is his way with women.  I say it works, because everything works in Goldfinger.  I am certain they may not - better yet they will not - always work the same way in every subsequent picture.

GOLDEN GUNS (OUT OF 5):