Week 3 of the Bond Marathon, and we finally arrive at the first true Bond film, Goldfinger. From 1964 on, you could plug in any of the six actors who’ve played Bond and get a recognizable Bond movie. It might not be the same as the actual actor, but in the case of Goldfinger, I could easily see Lazenby or Roger Moore having fun with this.
The recap: Bond opens with a sabotage mission, complete with all the familiar tropes including a treacherous lover, unzipping his wet suit to reveal a perfectly pressed tuxedo, and a fight scene that goes horribly awry for the unfortunate henchman sent to kill Bond. (“Shocking. Absolutely shocking.”) SPECTRE is nowhere in evidence this time. Instead, the gold-obsessed Auric Goldfinger is the villain, though China and the Mafia are funding and supplying his scheme, to break into Ft. Knox. Back is Felix Leiter, played once again by a completely different actor. (Let’s not even mention them until we get to David Heddison, who’s two turns actually advance the plots of Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill.)
Just beginning with the opening sequence and the main credits, we already know this isn’t yet another Cold War spy thriller like Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Gone are the long, Hitchcockian suspense scenes, the leisurely pace of building tension, or any pretense that this is the same type of story as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Third Man. Silhouettes of naked women dance over Shirley Bassey’s sultry vocals. Bond beds Goldfinger’s paid companion within 20 minutes. The chief henchman is actually a woman named Pussy Galore. (Try getting away with that name in 2019!) And she falls in love with Bond. Just listening to Connery purr “Pussy” every time she walks on screen is both ridiculous and memorable.
Some of the effects have not aged well. Later vehicle scenes would use camera cars, but Goldfinger has a ridiculous amount of blue screen and rear projection. In fact, you can tell much of the Miami Beach sequence is a soundstage with an actual hotel added in post-production. And the airplane transition shots all made me say, “Thunderbirds are go!”
These are all products of filmmaking in 1964 with a production not budgeted for a lot of location shooting. In fact, having been to Louisville, Kentucky, on numerous occasions, I can honestly say there have never been any palm trees along any of the main highways. (Lots of Kentucky Fried Chickens, though.)
The pace, however, is relentless. Honor Blackman is probably the first Bond girl there more for her brains and ability than to be a damsel in distress cooing “James!” Moneypenny’s attitude is edgier. She clearly has the hots for Bond, but I can also totally buy Lois Maxwell’s tart-tongued secretary shooting Bond in an earlier mission and yet becoming one of his closest friends (not to mention keeping M’s operation running on an even keel.)
And of course, there are the cars: Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce, Tilly Masterson’s brand new Ford Mustang (the very first model!), and last but not least…
That classic Aston-Martin with all the gadgets. This is the James Bond we all know. And this is Connery’s Bond we all remember.