Review No. 607
it’s the film
the film with the genius touch.
(…and the Midas touch.)
First of all. The opening montage. I completely forgot it when I first wrote my review, which is odd because it’s unforgettable in every sense of the word. It’s utterly remarkable to revisit on Blu-ray, which is as close as we can get to a cinematic experience. Kudos to Robert Brownjohn, the graphic artist of the titles. Kudos to Margaret Nolan, who played Bond’s masseuse in the movie and modeled while footage from Dr. No and From Russia with Love was projected on her body. Kudos to Shirley Bassey, who sang the titular song that played meanwhile; to its writers, John Barry, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley; and to its producer, George Martin. I dare say it was as phenomenally executed as the most recent.
“Goldfinger, he’s the man
The man with the Midas touch
A spider’s touch
Such a cold finger
Beckons you to enter his web of sin
But don’t go in”
Director — Guy Hamilton
Producer — Harry Saltzman, Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay — Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn
Based on — Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
Sean Connery — James Bond (007)
Gert Fröbe — Auric Goldfinger (Bond villain)
Honor Blackman — Pussy Galore (Bond girl)
Harold Sakata — Oddjob (henchman)
Bernard Lee — M (head of MI6)
Shirley Eaton — Jill Masterson (secondary Bond girl)
Tania Mallet — Tilly Masterson (secondary Bond girl)
Cec Linder — Felix Leiter (CIA operative)
Desmond Llewelyn — Q (quartermaster)
Lois Maxwell — Miss Moneypenny (secretary)
Michael Mellinger — Kisch (secondary henchman)
Burt Kwouk — Mr. Ling (secondary henchman)
Distributor — United Artists
Release Date — September 17, 1964 (London premiere); September 18, 1964 (United Kingdom); December 22, 1964 (New York, New York); December 25, 1964 (Hollywood, California); January 9, 1965 (USA)
Language — English, Chinese, Spanish
Country — United Kingdom
Running Time — 110 minutes
MPAA — (reissue from “GP”) — SEXUAL SITUATIONS AND VIOLENCE.
GOLDFINGER WAS WATCHED ON SEPTEMBER 6, 2013.
“You like a close shave, don’t you?” –Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman)
Dr. No was good, and From Russia with Love was even better. There seems to be universal agreement to that. Goldfinger is the well crafted apex (in fact, one of five or six reasons we still have Bond) because it’s not a sequel, nor is it another episode in this long-running cinema series. And with the teaser removed from the ending, these three films form a spiritual trilogy, separating it from all later Bonds. The timeless dynamite in Dr. No and From Russia with Love, you can only count on saving the best for last.
Back when the 37th Academy Awards were in season, Goldfinger took less than four months to make its way from a London premiere to a wide release across the United States. That sounds like a long time, to a modern Bond fan, but let’s consider that a “Bond will be back!” teaser is significantly less of a cliffhanger in the second movie than it is in the twenty-third movie. Even so, the movie holds up for a viewing forty-nine years later. Every explosion in a recent Bond movie is worth another level of charm in Connery’s book–which is truly saying something, at least from the heart of someone who sensed an overrated staleness his later Bond appearances (1965’s Thunderball, 1967’s You Only Live Twice, 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever). And for the same reasons as 1967’s Casino Royale (starring Peter Sellers) isn’t a “real Bond movie,” maybe Goldfinger isn’t a Bond movie at all. Connery does so well here, that it’s almost a comedy.
I’d seen Goldfinger before, but there’s nothing like watching it on Blu-ray when a cinema is no longer available. The reissue makes remastering seem like an easy process, especially when the film doesn’t forcefully use fades to transition from scene to scene. If only modern action filmmakers would watch movies like this before shooting on location! The set design is entirely fake here, but at the same time, it’s all too good to be true. Peter Murton’s art direction and Ken Adam’s set designs might qualify among the few infuriating snubs at the Oscars. (Did the Academy pit this against an unknown like The Lively Set for the second-ever Sound Editing Oscar just to call it an Oscar winner? Blasphemy.)
Goldfinger isn’t the best James Bond movie though. Even with the intrigue and the finesse that bookmark Richard Malbaum and Paul Dehn’s screenplay, the pacing is terrible. It’s interesting that this is so, since we don’t notice it in the formulaic “Roger Moore as James Bond,” and this screenplay flows along. It’s not bad writing though, and the pacing doesn’t show until the last fifteen minutes or so. The problem comes from the obsession with creating something new and suspenseful out of Ian Fleming’s seventh novel, so at least it’s honorably motivated.
Speaking of honor. Honor Blackman is great as Pussy Galore. In terms of her bravery, her first name fails to describe her aptly, though maybe I should be more surprised that director Guy Hamilton, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, actually got such a name past the censors in 1964 [SEE 1st FOOTNOTE]. Her chemistry with Bond is impeccable, generally consisting of her natural dialogue, and his response is clever seduction:
Pussy Galore: “I’m Mr. Goldfinger’s personal pilot.”
James Bond: “Oh? Just how personal is that?”
Pussy Galore: “I’m a damn good pilot. Period.”
She doesn’t find him attractive, which makes her an even more believable Bond girl in the romantic side story. In fact, she’s grabbed hold of both previous Bond girls and all twenty in the entire canon thereafter. Ursula Andress as Honey Rider, Jill St. John as Tiffany Case, Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp, Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. All are certainly five of the greatest Bond girls, and even as the oldest (39), it’s quite arguable that Honor Blackman tops ’em all in a heartbeat as Pussy Galore. (Because with age comes wisdom. In some cases, of course, since we have to exclude the late Roger Moore 007.)
There’s no way to assert quite how good Goldfinger is without evading the crowd: it isn’t the best Bond film. I’m sure that if I’d watch twenty-three Bond films in less than a month [SEE 2nd FOOTNOTE], there’s at least one that’s of absolute perfection. It isn’t Goldfinger, but I do honor any director who can make a movie better than Goldfinger. It’s an extremely rare outcome.
FOOTNOTE I: There’s another subtle double entendre; seems like I’m the only one noticing it. It’s pretty subtle…let’s just say the censors would allow the title Goldfinger, as long as her name wasn’t inserted directly after that word.
FOOTNOTE II: I do plan on doing this again. I’m looking into purchasing a box set of Bond Blu-rays and committing to one Bond per month. FUN FACT: these are possibly the only movies that can bring my family together, even if they’re older than ’99 or ’98. That’s not a problem, as far as I see it, since they’re a benchmark as far as Hollywood, and always will be.