James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap – “Goldfinger”

“Goldfinger”

1964

Bond: Sean Connery

Classic, Cheese or Crap?: CLASSIC

.

Bond: Do you expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die

Do I need to say anything more in support of it’s “Classic” status then that?

In 1963, after the resounding box office success of “From Russia With Love”, production quickly began on the next installment of the Bond franchise. The successor was originally intended to be “Thunderball”, but a legal dispute surrounding that film/novel (with the infamous Kevin McClory) forced the producers toward “Goldfinger”. “Goldfinger” was given a budget equal to that of “Dr. No” and “From Russia with Love” combined. For the first time, the series would sport a new director. Terrence Young, who directed the first two installments, bowed out due to salary dispute, and Guy Hamilton (who would return to the series and direct the less than stellar installments “Diamonds are Forever”, “Live and Let Die” and “The Man with the Golden Gun”) was brought on board.

This was the era when the Bond films were still following the novels relatively closely. Although its notable that the scriptwriters made one major change that I’ve always thought was one of the most memorable aspects of the film. In the book, Goldfinger is out to steal the gold. In the film, to get around the physical improbabilities of such an event, they change it to the ingenious “irradiating the gold”. It was a master stroke. I’ve always felt that one of the reasons that “Goldfinger” is so great is due to the fact that Goldfinger’s plot is so clever.

That’s not the only impressive element, of course. There’s the death by gilding, the tricked out Aston Martin DB5, Odd Job flinging his deadly hat, Goldfinger’s intricately designed map room… and of course, the industrial laser which Goldfinger threatens Bond with. The laser was new to the world around the time of the film. In fact, high powered industrial lasers such as the one in the movie didn’t actually exist. So to movie audiences, it was actually a futuristic element.

Returning to the role of Bond was Sean Connery. The films had already made him an international superstar, and he had yet to begin to tire of the role. As a result, I feel that “Godlfinger” is his best Bond ever. He was relaxed and comfortable in the role, practiced at the part, and turning on the Bond charms in full.

For the cast of villains, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, and Harold Sakata were brought in.

Sakata played the thuggish Odd Job. Stocky, nearly silent, imposing… seemingly relishing his evil henchman tasks. He dispatched with his victims by flinging his razor brimmed bowler hat. Sakata was a silver medalist in weight lifting for the US in the 1948 Olympics. His colorful character and unique physique combined to make him one of the best Bond henchmen ever.

Gert Fröbe played Auric Goldfinger, one of the greatest Bond villains the series has ever seen. A german actor, Fröbe spoke little English. As such, his voice in the film was dubbed by actor Michael Collins. A strike I would normally hold against him , especially in light of the fact that Orson Welles was considered for the part (His price was too high). However, the combination works. Impressively. He’s so smug and contentedly evil… Few Bond villains can hope to be compared.

An interesting bit of trivia. Fröbe was actually a Nazi prior to WWII. In fact, this led to the movie being banned in Israel for a brief period in time after its release. Due to the controversy, however, a family of Jews came forward and revealed that Fröbe saved their lives by hiding them from the Gestapo. Fröbe left the party in 1937, prior to the onset of the war.

Continuing the film’s embarrasment of riches is Honor Blackman, who is one of the franchise’s greatest Bond Girls ever. Cast due to her role in “The Avengers”, the creators specifically worked in scenes to showcase her skills in judo. With her unforgettable name and her high profile role in the events, Blackman’s “Pussy Galore” set the bar for Bond Girls for all time. Attractive, intelligent, a threat and an ally alternately, and absolutely integral to the plot of the film.

For the first time in the series, a theme song was prominently used. “Dr. No” had no title theme (though it did introduce the iconic “James Bond Theme”), and “From Russia with Love”‘s theme is played over the end credits… It’s also a song that has little to do with the film aside from using the title in the lyrics.

Goldfinger would change that in an indelible way. From this point forward, the “Theme song” would become an anticipated part of each film. Composed by legendary Bond contributor John Barry (though he didn’t write the lyrics) and sung by Shirley Bassey (who would later also sing the “Diamonds are Forever” and “Moonraker” themes), the song would crack Billboard’s top ten. It remains one of the most famous and highly regarded Bond themes to this day, more than 40 years after its release.

It’s a remarkable movie. A true classic. Its a shining example of the high notes the series can hit. It’s easily one of the best of the Connery Bonds. It has one of the best plots, one of the best villains, served by two of the best henchmen, one of whom is one of the series best Bond Girls.

Goldfinger!! (mwaw whah whah)

Goldfinger!! (mwaw whah whah)

It’s definitely a Classic.

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50 thoughts on “James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap – “Goldfinger”

  1. To me this is the film that people think of when they think of a spy film. It has the super villain master mind, who is probably smarter than the hero. Damsels in distress, henchmen, I could go on and on.

    Three things most memorable for me:
    1. The Aston Martin. That car has inspired more folks to make or want gadget cars than anything else. You know you are doing something right if Mythbusters has tried one of your movie gags out to see if it can be done. (Ejection Seat)
    2. The Gold painted girl. Again another Mythbusters topic. This time one that is both stunning visually as it is kind of creepy.
    3. The laser. The scene with the laser table is one of the few times were you just can’t see a way out of it for the hero. A little sci fi for it’s time, it definitely made a mark in my head. It doesn’t hurt lasers are everywhere these days. I loved that scene so much I parodied it with Muppet Action figures here: http://tvandfilmtoys.com/index.php/2009/07/muppet-comic-james-pond-nosefinger/

    Great write up, Fogs!

    • Thanks bro! Appreciate it!

      I checked that Muppet link out, made me laugh… I’m going to presume you’ve done more and check for them over on your blog :D

      Be sure to check out EN’s appearance on the Underscoopfire podcast about the top 10 action figures of all time! It was a good listen!!

  2. “(mwaw whah whah)” one of the BEST Bond themes EVER!

    Quote alert:
    “My name is Pussy Galore” -PG

    “I must be dreaming” -Bond

    Of course Connery did actually marry Blackman in real life.

      • Alright, rumor mill must have got the better of me. Sir Connery did not marry Blackman in real life. Could not confirm on his site, and Blackman had two marraiges to two other people on her site. Apologies.
        Still classic characters in a classic Bond. “(mwaw whah whah)”

  3. Definitely a classic, alright. The first Bond I ever saw (at age 10). As the much as the first two films in the series (‘Dr. No’ and ‘From Russia With Love’) brought the character from Fleming’s novels to life on-screen, it was ‘Goldfinger’ that set the standard, and the template, for the series. Excellent look at this one, FMR. Thanks.

    • Thanks man. I totally agree. this one took it to a whole new level. The quality of this film was just incredible.

      I dont recall when I saw it for the first time… I know that the Moore bonds were what I learned first… they were always on tv. He was Bond at the time, so that’s the way it was.

      I do remember loving the shit out of the Connery Bonds when I finally got to watch them though.

    • Hard to argue.

      I might though. When I do Casino Royale… I don’t know. I might cop out until Skyfall on “Ranking the Bonds Officially”.

      Let’s just say they’re in a three way tie for first with Thunderball for me.

      Love me some Thunderball, too…

  4. I’ve always loved the Connery Bond films. I think regardless of which era people started with, Goldfinger is what everyone thinks of if they try to describe a Bond film. Even with the changes between Bonds, Goldfinger set the template for the series.

    • Yeah… there’s no doubt about it man. This is one of those iconic movies you know? I think there’s four or five still frames you could use from this moive and people would know EXACTLY what movie you were pointing to, even if they had only seen it once and maybe even not at all. The golden girl, Odd job throwing his hat, the laser table…

      It DEFINITELY set the template.

  5. Classic, beyond doubt. One of my top 3 Bond films of all time. And as you said up top, after one quotes the “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” line, very little else needs to be said. Absolutely one of the all time best movie lines of all time, right up there with “Here’s looking at you, kid.” and “You can’t handle the truth!”

  6. This one definitely has my gold seal of approval. Classic without a doubt. A little family history for you: when this movie/song came out I had cousins who performed in the Drum Corps, and they added this song to the performance and won all of the competitions while this song was in their repertoire.

    They really bonded to it!

  7. Classity Class Class Classic! This and Casino Royale are my favorite Bond films. This was actually my favorite film when I was younger. Too much awesome for one film :D lol

    • Casino Royale is also awesome. Stay tuned, I plan to have that one up next week. :D

      It’s still impressive to me that CR wound up a film that can legitimately be mentioned in the mix with the original Connerys. It’s one of my faves, too…

  8. Never been a huge Bond fan and this movie didn’t really change my mind, despite the fact that it’s probably one of the very most popular of the entire franchise. I guess I’m more in the dark and gritty of the last couple Bond movies than the less serious tone of the earlier ones.

  9. I love this one because it epitomises everything that’s awesome about Bond, and to think that a fat German guy would be more memorable than all of the nasty supervilains over the years… kerrazy!

    The only boring bit is when he’s courting Goldfinger at his house… and how stupid are the gangsters in that room?!?!

    • I’ll grant you that the Gangsters are a bunch of fairly imperceptive imbeciles. LOL.

      But the scene where Bond and Goldfinger sit for mint juleps is a CLASSIC!! You’re not bagging on that part are you? I love that scene!! What a trade off!!

  10. GOLDFINGER is my favorite, but your review makes me want to re-watch all the Bond movies, esp. the Connery Bond movies. Thanks, Dan.

  11. Whole heartedly agree – CLASSIC. Like you said, when you think of where Bond began and what it was all about, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think of Goldfinger first. The Aston, Honour Blackman’s Pussy Galore, the laser, Sean Connery. It screams that classic 60s Bond which I love to watch.

  12. Pingback: In Praise of Her Bond Groove: Shirley Bassey | It Rains… You Get Wet

  13. “GOLDFINGER” is crap. The main villain is a moron. Only Gert Frobe’s performance saved it from being a complete waste. The plot had holes in it the size of those found in Swiss cheese. Bond behaved like an idiot schoolboy. And the barn scene between him and Pussy Galore made me want to burn every copy of that damn film.

    It’s crap and I never understood why it is still held in high regard.

    • Well, its held in high regard because most people feel the opposite of the way you do on most of those points, Drush.

      Goldifinger isn’t a moron, he’s actually very clever. He has a fatal flaw (his pride) which proves his undoing when he’s overconfident around Bond, but aside from that, he’s a great villain! His plot not to STEAL the gold but to RUIN it is quite a stroke of genius! Plus he had great henchman in Odd Job and Pussy G.

      Bond doesn’t behave badly, he’s quite slick! He’s suave and debonair, and talks himself out of many situations… people love it!

      I’ll grant that the barn scene comes across as quite sexist, for sure. But I’m willing to forgive it due to the historical climate…

      It’s a masterpiece of style and espionage that features great villains and a hero that everyone wishes they could emulate! It’s easily one of my favorites in the series… sorry to hear you dont get more out of it! :(

  14. Apparently, we are not going to agree on the subject of “GOLDFINGER”. For me, it’s all style (music and photography) and no substance.

    • “Apparently, we are not going to agree”

      Unfortunately, no. Its a great movie, and I firmly stand behind it. Pop Culture has deemed it a classic, and its appropriate, in my opinion.

      Appreciate you checking out the post though… if youre a big Bond fan, I did write up the entire series here. Maybe there’s one we would agree on somewhere in there. LOL

  15. There is no way that this is not a Classic, in every way. I want to be fair in listening to the views of others but drush76, frankly is not thinking, much less thinking clearly. It’s one thing to say you don’t like Mozart or the Beatles, it’s another thing to say they are crap. Most of your readers have expressed themselves respectfully and with some intelligence, this was one of the few posts I’ve seen on this site that I would say was trolling. I was going to post my comments anyway, but I guess I’m rising to the bait and calling them out to defend their position a bit more clearly instead of simply making conclusionary statements.

    For instance, they site Gert Frobe’s performance as the saving grace of the character. I Think he was excellent also, but his performance was severely enhanced by overdubbing his voice because his original accent was so difficult to understand. The character says the line “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die”. The character sets up the plot, plays cat and mouse with Bond at the Golf Club. They offer no example of Moronic behavior, the schoolboy reference to Bond may apply in a couple of spots because Bond does have a revenge motive at times. That fits with the story, it makes Bond follow the path that events lead to, it is not a flaw in the writing of the character but an expression of the characters motivation.

    The problem with the barn scene that they find objectionable enough to burn every copy of the film for is not explained. My inference is that the idea of a lesbian being turned by the approach of a heterosexual man, is the thing drush76 finds annoying. The film did exist in a time and place that would not have seen that as politically incorrect. Whether it is possible or not, there was no explanation as to why it would be objectionable. Look, if you are agreeing with a position, a supporting complement is fine, but if you are taking a contrary opinion, offer an argument to go with your conclusion. Fog, I thought your defense was extremely polite given the tone of their post.

    Earlier this year, I did a post on this film and the context of the phenomena. I’ll direct you there for a more complete dossier on the greatest of 007 films.

    http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2012/03/goldfinger-double-0-blast-from-past.html

    • Yeah, I dont know, I wouldnt worry about drush, doesnt seem as if he’s been around since these posts wrapped up. Guess he just wanted to express his contempt for Goldfinger and move on.

      LOL. I’m right with you on the whole “It’s one thing to say you don’t like Mozart or the Beatles, it’s another thing to say they are crap”. There are certain opinions that… if you express them too loudly, only reflect back poorly on yourself. There’s pretty much a “Correct Answer”

      Even though Frobe was dubbed, we still have to give him credit for the character. He WAS great. The mint julep scene is so awesome. LOL I want to watch it now. He and COnnery play so well off of each other!

      It’s been nice having you contribute to these posts, Richard, glad you found them. The link you directed me to reminds me that I need to announce my plans for “Bond Month” soon. :D

      • ["There is no way that this is not a Classic, in every way. I want to be fair in listening to the views of others but drush76, frankly is not thinking, much less thinking clearly."]

        I’m not thinking clearly??? I don’t agree with your feelings about “GOLDFINGER” . . . and I’m not thinking clearly? In other words, only people who agree with your tastes think clearly. What arrogance.

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