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Movie Review: Goldfinger

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Written by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn from the novel by Ian Fleming
United Artists, 1964

One of the most famous scenes in film history, and probably the most famous in Bond history, takes place in Goldfinger. It features James Bond tied to a golden table, a laser burning through it towards his crotch. “Do you expect me to talk?” Bond asks Goldfinger. Reply: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

With Guy Hamilton taking over the director’s chair from Terence Young, the sense of humor of the Bond films would turn from cheeky to borderline slapstick. There are many images in Goldfinger that are hard to shake. In the pre-title opening sequence, the first ever to be disassociated from the main story, Bond swims underwater with a decoy bird attached to his headgear as a disguise. He assaults a compound, takes off his wetsuit to reveal a completely dry white tuxedo, goes into a club and calmly lights a cigarette while the compound blows up.

In Goldfinger, after the opening titles, Bond (Sean Connery in his third straight year as 007) is in Miami where he runs into his CIA pal from Dr. No, Felix Leiter (Cec Linder, taking over for Jack Lord). Leiter tells Bond he should check out the man Auric Goldfinger (German actor Gert Frobe) while he’s there. Bond foils Goldfinger’s attempt at cheating during game of gin, with the help of Goldfinger’s accomplice Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). Bond, as is his custom, beds down with the girl, then is knocked out, wakes up, and finds Jill on the bed completely painted in gold, suffocated. It’s a memorable scene, but this kind of death never factors in again…it’s one of those, “Hey, the main bad guy is behind this” sort of things.

MI6, with Bernard Lee returning as “M,” tells Bond he needs to re-acquaint himself with Goldfinger. Bond again foils Goldfinger’s attempts to cheat, this time at golf. It’s here we meet another famous Bond heavy, Oddjob (Harold Sakata) who is nifty at throwing his top hat and using it as a weapon. During Bond’s surveillance in Geneva, Jill Masterson’s sister Tilly (Tania Mallet) gets involved, seeking revenge on Goldfinger. Bond eventually gets captured and is kept alive, and soon discovers a plot by which Goldfinger plans to penetrate Fort Knox, but not to steal the gold.

This plan gets assistance from famous Bond girl Honor Blackman, playing the most risque Bond character ever in pilot Pussy Galore. Connery’s reaction to the name is classic: I must be dreaming. For the first time in the series, a Bond girl has more to do than just bed down with him.

Goldfinger, as played by Frobe (and voice dubbed by Michael Collins), is an all-time great villain, something that was missing from the previous From Russia With Love, where it was a mere heavy (Robert Shaw) that provided the most villainy. Here, we get to see the fun, megalomaniacal baddie with over-the-top plans much like Dr. No, a plot so ridiculous you just have to enjoy it.

Overall, it’s mindlessly entertaining. It’s one of those pictures you could just watch any time of the day and pick it up anywhere in the story and not leave until it finished. Of the first three (and in my opinion, the first four), Goldfinger is the best of the bunch.

Follows: From Russia With Love

Next: Thunderball

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