The 007 Collective is a bi-monthly column in which I revisit every official feature in the James Bond franchise and review how they hold up today. Along with a review of each film, each article in this 10-month-long series will dive into the historical place and production of each film in question. It will also feature a dossier i.e. a fact sheet with superlatives, ratings, rankings, best, worsts and other fun stuff in line with the format you’ve seen in my annual Year in Superlatives articles. This project isn’t meant to be the final word on the Bond franchise. It’s merely my take on the series.
Today, I cover the third installment in the James Bond franchise, arguably the most famous Bond of them all, GOLDFINGER.
Mission Title: Goldfinger
James Bond: Sean Connery
Release Date: December 22, 1964
Source Material: Based on the novel “Goldfinger” by Ian Fleming
Tagline: Everything he touches turns to excitement!
James Bond is called on by M to work in conjunction with CIA agent Felix Leiter to investigate a possible gold smuggling operation run by gold-obsessed tycoon Auric Goldfinger. While conducting the investigation, Bond uncovers a plot to steal the United States’ entire supply of gold at Fort Knox, thus throwing the entire world’s economy into chaos.
Without doubt the most famous Bond film of them all, Goldfinger is also the one Bond fans tend to rank very, very high, if not at the top, of their individual 007 ballots. Ask any man—your dad, your uncle or your brother—to name a Bond film and there’s a good chance they’re going to bring up Goldfinger. As a test exercise, I posed this question to my dad, and my girlfriend’s dad last week. “ Goldfinger was mentioned in both instances. One even started quoting the infamous “No, I expect you to die!” line.
It’s not hard to see why the film’s so beloved. After the moderate success of Dr. No and From Russia With Love i.e. the first two films in the franchise, Goldfinger was the one that perfected the formula and turned the franchise into a global phenomenon. Toning down some of the Cold War politics and upping the relative slow pacing of predecessors was a factor. Setting the film in the U.S. helped too. In fact, Goldfinger set up a template that would be followed by every Bond movie after it. Every Bond staple – the cold open, the iconic theme song, the visit to Q branch, the megalomaniac villain with a penchant for “monologuing,” the memorable henchman, the endless puns, the gadget-heavy car, and the femme fatale Bond girl – originated here.
Having seen the film umpteen times before, I was a little weary about watching it again, especially with a critical eye. Things don’t always end up being as good as you remember. Surprisingly, Goldfinger continues to be as solid as its reputation. The pacing is tight, the action sequences are fun, and the quips are perfectly timed (“As you said, he had a pressing engagement”). Yes, the plot is ridiculous and the movie does get cartoonish at times but Connery, who is at his absolute best here, sells it with such panache. With two movies under his belt, this was the one where the Scottish actor left Fleming behind and truly made the role his own. He’s tougher, more charismatic, and more suave here than in Dr. No or From Russia with Love. Similarly, Gert Fröbe’s performance as the eponymous character remains one of Bond’s most formidable foes—a smart, cunning and ruthless bastard.
Now on the problematic side, the film is DREADFULLY misogynistic, a woeful reminder of how sexist the 1960s were. The way Bond comes on towards every female character is predator-ish, no doubt amplified by Connery’s lip-smacking performance. When viewed through a 21st century lens, some of it can get really uncomfortable. It all comes to a hilt during the famous sex rape scene in the barn with Pussy Galore. Yea, it’s flat-out rape! Sure, it starts out playful with Pussy and James taking turns doing backflips in the hay but by the time Bond jumps on her and starts crushing her wrists with his hands, trying to get his lips on her, it’s clear that she’d rather be gulping “Delta 9” nerve gas instead of canoodling with Jimbo, the Scottish Bruto. It’s even worse when taken out of context.
But don’t let this scene alone dissuade you from seeing the film. Instead, use it as a point of discussion—especially when comparing it to the Daniel Craig films. I can’t even fathom a scene like that making it past the first draft phase in the franchise today. In spite of its deeply problematic social issues, as a piece of pure cartoonish entertainment, Goldfinger remains one of the series best.
“Shocking, Positively shocking!”
Like everything about this movie, the pre-title sequence is iconic too. It’s not the best of the series but it definitely set the template for everything to follow. Completely unrelated to the rest of the picture, it opens with Bond in an unnamed South American country appearing from under the water with a fake duck on top of his head (only Connery could make something as ridiculous as this work). After planting C4 in a drug factory, he then coolly takes off his wetsuit, revealing a perfectly-pressed white tux before heading to a local bar. When the factory explodes in a ball of flames, he heads back to his hotel room where an assassin is ready to kill him. A brawl ensues in which Bond infamously throws his assailant into a bath tub and then electrocutes him by throwing an electric fan into the tub.
Title Designer: Robert Brownjohn
Title Song: “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey
Famous Quote: “GOLD-fingah! He’s the man… the man with the Midas touch! A spider’s touch…”
I’m no music critic so excuse my rather awkward wording but with its brassy tones, catchy lyrics and Bassey’s powerhouse vocals, the title song is easily one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. It’s probably the only Bond song whose lyrics I can easily recall. Well, that and Madonna’s fucking awful Die Another Day but that’s a review for another day. For the title sequence itself, it’s a montage of scenes from the rest of the film (as well as previous films) projected unto the gold-painted bodies of beautiful women. One of the things I was most surprised about while doing my research on Goldfinger was that Maurice Binder, the man most closely associated with the Bond title sequences, did not work on Goldfinger‘s title sequence.
The Big Bad: Gold-obsessed industrialist and megalomaniac Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe).
Henchman: The bowler hat-wearing Korean mute Oddjob (Harold Sakata).
Organization: Auric Enterprises, Communist China, I guess?
World Domination Plan: “Operation Grandslam” i.e. destroy the United States’ Gold Bullion reserves by setting off a nuclear bomb in Fort Knox, thus creating financial chaos in the West which in turn would give the Chinese the global upper hand and increase Goldfinger’s stock 10 times over. Inspired!
Primary: Tough and talented stunt pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). A feminist icon until she gets raped by Bond who apparently “appealed to her maternal instincts.”
Others: Siblings Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) and Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), and Dink (Margaret Nolan).
The Aston Martin DB5
Gadgets include machine guns, ejector seat, rotating license plates, smoke screen, oil slick, gun shield, bullet-proof glass, homing device and receiver, and the envy of every man in the world.
ODDS & ENDS
James Bond: “A martini. Shaken, not stirred.”
James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Auric Goldfinger: No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!
Most Memorable Moment:
After getting knocked out by Oddjob, Bond wakes up to find Jill Masterson covered from head to toe in gold paint—”Death by asphyxiation.”
Most Cringe-Worthy Moment:
Upon seeing Felix Leiter, Bond slaps his masseuse “Dink” on her butt and tells her to scram, citing “Man talk.” Ugh.
Funniest Moment: Everything in the opening pre-credits sequence—the seagull on Bond’s head, the perfectly-pressed white tux, the reflection in the girl’s eye, the fight, and of course, “Shocking, positively shocking!” Outlandish and cartoonish but perfectly Bond.
Most Shocking/Outrageous Moment: The Barn scene, naturally.
Best Pun/Double Entendre:
[After seeing Oddjob arrive back at Goldfinger’s base, with the remains of a former accomplice who was crushed by a industrial presser]
Goldfinger: Forgive me, Mr. Bond, but, uh… I must arrange to separate my gold from the late Mr. Solo.
James Bond: As you said, he had a pressing engagement.
Worst Pun/Double Entendre:
[Bond to Pussy Galore]
“We must have a few fast falls together some time, Pussy.”
Best Stunt/Action Scene:
For a Bond movie, Goldfinger is surprisingly short on the big action set-pieces that would come to define the series. I’d probably have to go with the car chase at night with the DB5 showing off its fancy gadgetry. Batman would approve.
Most Dated Reference: Bond’s laughably bad take on The Beatles.
Number of Times Bond Has Sex: 2
Once with Pussy Galore, once with Jill Masterson. This doesn’t include the rape scene.
Number of people Bond kills: 7
Bond’s Best Kill: I wanted to go with the guy who Bond electrocutes during the cold open (afterall, it’s one of the series most famous scenes) but in the end, I decided to go with Goldfinger himself. Catching the over-sized villain monologuing during the film’s climax on an mini-jet, Bond gets into a fist-fight with Goldfinger, grabs hold of his gun and then shoots the window of the airplane, thereby depressurizing the cabin, and sending the villain soaring and then painfully through the little window. You know that had to hurt.
Locations visited (In order of appearance):South America, Miami Beach, London, Switzerland, Kentucky, and Fort Knox.
Misogyny Meter: 9/10
Bond rapes someone, uses another as a human shield, slaps another woman’s ass, and is generally dismissive of women, treating them as toys.
Racism Rating: 6/10
All of Goldfinger’s henchmen and goons are Asians, portrayed here as inept and clumsy, save for Oddjob who is a mute.
Box Office: $56 million ($550 million adjusted, making it the second highest-grossing film of the franchise).
Oscars: 1 win (Best Sound). But no nomination for the title song.
007 Chronological Listing: 3/24
Director: Guy Hamilton
Screenwriter: Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn, Ian Fleming (novel)
Cast: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata
Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Running time: 110 minutes
Companies: Eon Productions, MGM/United Artists
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Recommended)
The 007 Collective will return in:
A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
Data References: MI6, 007.com, IMDb, Box Office Mojo, Wikipedia, YouTube, Art of the Title