Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger was the third of the original Bond movies, but it marks the point there the Bond movie formula comes together. It’s very very different from the first two movies.

This is the movie that established most people’s idea of what a Bond movie was, and in fact what a spy movie was. Within the next few years there would be huge numbers of movies imitating this formula. It was not Dr No and From Russia with Love they would be imitating, it was Goldfinger. Some, like Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill, would copy the formula so exactly as to even copy the villain’s obsession with gold.

This movie also marked another substantial budget increase for the Bond movies. This allowed for some nice location shooting and some impressive sets, but also for the first time allowed enough money for gadgets, a commodity that would soon become a trademark of the Bond films. This movie introduces the most famous Bond gadget of them all, Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with added extras courtesy of Q Branch, extras like machine guns and an ejector seat.

Goldfinger (played by the wonderful German actor Gert Fröbe) is man obsessed with gold, Not just for the wealth it represents, but for its own sake. And he owns a lot of gold. Enough to concern the Bank of England. And to persuade them to all in the British intelligence services to investigate Goldfinger’s activities, and his possible involvement in large-scale smuggling of gold. James Bond becomes involved, and when Goldfinger execute one of his employees (played by Shirley Eaton) by having her covered in gold paint the case becomes personal for Bond.

Goldfinger is one of the all-time classic movie diabolical criminal masterminds, and he has all the accessories that we expect such figures to have. He has his faithful and deadly manservant Odd Job, and he has plenty of glamorous women. Although we’re led to believe the women are mostly for show. And he has the sort of spectacular plans that we expect of such characters - in this case his target is nothing less than Fort Knox.

And of course this movie has Pussy Galore. Pussy Galore being played by Honor Blackman, who quit her starring role in the TV series The Avengers to take this role (a decision which in retrospect was almost certainly a serious error of judgment). Honor Blackman was nearly 40 and today would probably be considered too old to be a Bond Girl. Which just shows how degenerate our modern age really is. Honor Blackman is all class, and she’s rightly remembered as one of the iconic Bond Girls.

The enhanced budget allowed for elaborate stunts and action sequences and Guy Hamilton, taking over the reins a director from Terence Young who helmed the first two movies, makes the most of this. This movie may not have been as ground-breaking as far as editing and filming techniques go but Hamilton does a very competent job and the rest of the crew (mostly unchanged from the earlier films) by this time knew how to mount a very handsome production indeed.

This is the archetypal Bond movie, and the archetypal 1960s secret agent movie. Very few movies have spawned as many imitators as this one. As such it’s essential viewing, and it’s highly entertaining as well.

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