BOND: Revisiting GOLDFINGER - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad


Matthew Kresal is the man with the Midas touch.

1964 was the year that James Bond changed forever. Ian Fleming passed away, putting an effective end to Bond as a literary character for the better part of fifteen years. Meanwhile, the films went from a rising series to a worldwide phenomenon. What made the latter possible was Goldfinger, a film that both continued on from from its predecessors and yet a departure from them as well with its introduction of over the top characters, an action packed pre-credit sequence, more high profile gadgetry and a larger then life (possibly even outlandish) plot. While this is the film that changed Bond forever is it the greatest?

Leading the charge is Sean Connery as Bond, playing the role for the third time. From the moment he emerges out of the water in the pre-credit sequence right up to the very last scene, Connery owns every scene he's in. Connery even gets some good acting moments as well, such as Bond's near outburst at M or Bond's quiet desperation during the film's famous scene involving a table and a laser beam. Connery also has great chemistry with his various female co-stars, all important due to the plot. This Bond isn't quite the rough and tumble character seen in either previous film, thanks to a greater emphasis on humor, but Connery serves the character and the film well.

Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger changed forever the role of the Bond villain. While the villains of the previous films were physical as well as intellectual matches for Bond for the most part, Goldfinger was the first one that was purely the latter. Fröbe's lack of physical presence in the role is only evident in his final scene thankfully which means that Fröbe, dubbed by actor Michael Collins, gives an effective performance as the seemingly mild mannered businessman who is far more then what he seems. While not the best villain of the series, Fröbe's Golfinger remains for the most part effective nevertheless.

Perhaps more effective and making the larger impact is the now late Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore. That fact is no small feat considering that the character does not even appear until half way through the film. It helps that Blackman was somewhat older then the female leads of the previous films, something which gives her potentially over the top character a sense of believability, especially when it comes to her chemistry with Connery's Bond. That chemistry helps to make a plot point late in the film, which pushes believability to a near breaking point given certain hints about the character, still believable if only just. Overall, Blackman makes the most of every second of the screen-time she has.

The supporting cast does a solid job as well. Of special note is the short but famous appearance made by actress Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson in the Miami portion of the film. Also making a large impact both on the film and future henchmen is Harold Sakata as Oddjob, who remains a menacing presence throughout, even if only using a shadow to do so. Rounding out the supporting cast are Tania Mallet as Tilly, Cec Linder as an older but still believable Felix Leiter, Martin Benson as mobster Mr. Solo, Lois Maxwell as the ever faithful Miss Moneypenny and of course Bernard Lee as Bond's boss M. And of course, Goldfinger is notable for taking Desmond Llewelyn's Q from being just another supporting character to one whose presence would be looked forward to in every Bond film that followed thanks to Llewelyn's playing of the friendly antagonism between Q and 007.

The production values of the film are some of the best yet seen in the series. Ken Adam returned as production designer and his work gives the entire film that larger then life quality he brought to Dr No. Doesn’t matter if it’s Miami hotel rooms, Q's lab, Goldfinger's rumpus room and of course the incredible (if incredibly unrealistic) interior of Fort Knox, the film looks incredible throughout. Once again, Peter Hunt's editing keeps the film moving at a pace starting with the pre-credits sequence to moments of high tension throughout. Ted Moore's camera work once again serves the film well, especially during the scenes of the Aston Martin DB5 driving along in Switzerland or in revealing the scope of Adam’s Fort Knox set in the finale. The effects work is the only real downside to the production values thanks to some dodgy model shots with some all too visible wires. That said, the physical effects are superb such as the various pieces of gadgetry on the DB5 for instance, giving a satisfying result all around.

The film would be considerably less effective without John Barry's fantastic score. It’s nothing short of a showcase of Barry's talent starting with the excellent use of the James Bond theme in the pre-credits sequence to the jazzy piece that takes us into Miami. From there, there’s the stings used for Oddjob's appearances, the suspenseful underscoring of the laser beam sequence and the bombastic, yet suspenseful, piece that underscores the climatic raid on Fort Knox. Not forgetting the hit opening titles song performed by Shirley Bassey which, combined with Robert Brownjohn's opening credits that plays highlights of the yet unseen film over a gold painted young woman, sets up the larger then life film that is to follow. In fact, Barry's work on this film set the standard by which all future Bond scores would be judged.

Which brings us to the two things that really sets Goldfinger apart from its predecessors: its director Guy Hamilton and its script. Both the direction and the script present a somewhat different take of the Bond world then that taken by director Terrance Young. Both of these aspects emphasis the more visual and larger then life aspects that were apparent, if comparatively time, under Young’s earlier direction. A change of emphasis with offers up both good and bad. Viewing just this one film, those elements work splendidly in creating a suspenseful yet at times humorous, adventure film that plays on expectations and at times turn them on their ear. Yet, the effect these would have on the series as whole would only become apparent in the years to come as the filmmakers tried to replicate the successful formula of this film to the point of the series becoming cliched, if not self-parodying at times. Here, though, the work of both the director and the screenwriters serve this particular film very well, if perhaps too well and to the detriment of what was to follow in decades to come.

While I for one can’t say that Goldfinger is the greatest Bond film, it certainly has plenty to offer. From Connery's Bond to Gert Fröbe and Honor Blackman's larger then life characters to the supporting cast, the acting is good. The production values are fantastic as well from Ken Adam’s sets to John Barry's score. And yet, Goldfinger's introduction of certain aspects to the franchise changed it for both better and worse. So what can really be said about Goldfinger then is this: it changed Bond forever.

Revisiting Dr. No
Revisiting From Russia With Love

Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad