For Fresh Eyes Only: Goldfinger (1964)
Three films down and I can safely say that I am in love with this franchise. Every new one has been an instant favorite, and Goldfinger is no exception. This is the first film that feels like it contains all of the elements that I have been programmed to expect from a James Bond movie. It also happens to feel significantly more modern than the two previous pictures. This time, Bond is finally introduced to a whole bunch of fun toys that I recognized as series mainstays. Plus, the movie features what probably is the most iconic image of the series, that of the dead girl covered in golden paint. It’s a striking and lasting image, one that has become so recognizable that it’s use as the film’s stylistic anchor almost feels prescient.
Alright I’m going to be very honest here, I had no clue that this movie happened this soon. I thought that Goldeneye was this movie. Being a slightly bigger video game nerd than I am a movie nerd, my biggest personal touchstone when it comes to Bond is the Nintendo 64 Goldeneye video game, which I’ve barely played but I am familiar enough with it to know that people were mad about Oddjob. So I assumed that he was a character from that movie, and because of the ‘gold’ name, I also assumed that the gold covered woman was from that movie. I even folded the laser scene in there. I guess Jaws is also in the game, and I’m reasonably sure that Jaws is from the moon one. To remain as blind as possible, I’m forbidding myself from looking it up, so right now I’m assuming that Goldeneye is a remake of Goldfinger, but the gold is in a dam or something. If you want to quit reading I understand.
But please don’t, because I haven’t even talked about this movie yet, and it’s a good one! I was happy to see that the opening credits that were so cool in From Russia With Love were brought over. I was less happy to learn that SPECTRE and Man With White Cat were not brought over. From Russia With Love ended on what felt like a pretty obvious cliffhangar to me, and to see that none of the characters or stories were continued or even referenced in Goldfinger was disheartening. Obviously they will return at some point, though, and the story that was put out in the meantime was plenty good on it’s own.
The titular Goldfinger is a total jerk only it in for himself, the best kind of villain. He has a clear and simple goal, to get as much gold as humanly possible, no matter the cost, in order to live in it I guess. And his name is Auric Goldfinger. This series’ continued use of literal naming conventions is very fun. Another fun and suggestive name is Goldfinger’s second in command and this film’s designated Bond Girl, Pussy Galore, the head of Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, a troupe of super cool highly trained lady fighter pilots. They rule. And his biggest muscle, Oddjob, is quite the odd fellow, with a sweet hat that has the strongest razor in the world embedded in the brim somehow. It rules.
Bond’s mission to stop Goldfinger’s insatiable lust for gold brings him in contact with one of the most well known gadgets ever in his arsenal, the Aston Martin, a luxury car brand that I’ve never seen referenced outside of the context of James Bond. This particular Aston Martin has been outfitted with whatever particular ability that Bond needs in this particular movie, including, but not limited to, an ejector seat, an oil-slick trail, and a smoke trail. He also gets a fancy homing device, a space age gadget that I hope never sees the light of day in reality. The final element that I’m willing to bet sticks around the series and didn’t happen in the two previous films, catchphrases. James busts out a corny pun catchphrase within the first few minutes of the film, when he electrocutes a man and says that it is “shocking.”
The film’s action highlights include a number of cool car chases (one of which features a car explosion that is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen) and the fantastic Fort Knox sequence, which features a dramatic fistfight with Oddjob over a ticking bomb with a nail-biting finish. It’s very well done and a perfect finale to the satisfying spy exploits seen in the film. I’d also be remiss to not mention the famous laser scene, where Goldfinger has Bond tied to a gold table with a powerful laser cutter headed straight for him, another exciting scene that has been parodied beyond belief.
I mentioned before that this is the most modern feeling Bond film, and that’s for a few reasons. One, the camera quality and editing techniques used feel much more contemporary than in the previous films. Either the cameras got massively upgraded in the one year between releases or this film just had a much better blu-ray restoration. And two, not that I know exactly what a modern Bond film is like, but I get the sense that they are much closer to this action heavy style than the more serious spy story of From Russia With Love. Both are equally enticing, and whether I’m right or wrong, I remain excited for the future of this franchise.