Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ten Statements About....GOLDFINGER (1964)

Yep...Shirley Eaton covered in gold paint...why does this do
it for me?

"Do you expect me to talk?"
"No, Mr. Bond!  I expect you to die.  There is nothing you can talk to me about that I don't already know."

1) This is pretty unique in the Connery cycle in that it's the only film where Spectre doesn't have any role.  As such, this film is not so much an exemplar of The Connery Era as the blueprint for the Roger Moore era that is to follow.  There's a decidedly different feel to this film that sets it apart from the other Connerys--which might be why it's used as the reflex choice for most people when asked to name their favorite Bond film.

2) Gert Frobe is essential to this film even working to the extent that it does.  He's so...grotesque in his behavior, a true glutton who is nonetheless supremely satisfied with himself.  Frobe's physical acting (his voice was dubbed) is wonderfully operatic, and he drives home the monstrousness and arrogance of Goldfinger well.

3) However, as much as I respect her for being a major part of my favorite television show, and for being the woman who forged the symbiotic connection between The Avengers and the James Bond series, I cannot endorse Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore.  The character is fairly mangled in the film as the script tries to acknowledge her lesbianism without out and out saying it, and her motivation seems thoroughly messed up in the process.  Plus the sudden face turn after Bond hits the hay with her--literally--makes no sense whatsoever.  And...I'm being honest here...she does very little for me, ending up arguably in my bottom tier of Bond girls.
The first laser on film...and it's used to threaten
Sean Connery's nuts.....

4) Is it just me, or does all the argle barge Goldfinger does leading up to Operation Grand Slam seem excessively showy?  Granted, part of Goldfinger's nature is his desire to be thought of as the cleverest guy in the room (notice how he decides to keep Bond alive a little longer only when he acknowledges how brilliant Operation Grand Slam is), but the whole 'let me bring you all together so I can brag, then kill you' thing seems a bit...pointless, doesn't it?

5) The thing that strikes me about Howard Sakata's Oddjob is how, solely through body language and facial expressions, he creates a fully realized character with menace and, most importantly, a sense of humor.  We never once doubt that Oddjob is anything but a scary individual--partially because Connery treats him thusly--but those little smirks reveal something in his inner life that's extremely vivid.  It's not for nothing that he remains one of the greatest Bond henchmen in the series' history.

6) I have this theory that the films where an American city is the central site of the adventure tend to be lackluster...and this may be the best, but not by much.  Kentucky is so....unphotogenic until we get to Fort Knox, and then the film is almost over.  There's little to engage the eye, so much so that the only thing I was concerned with in one scene involving Felix Leiter was the big ol' Kentucky Fried Chicken sign in the background.
"I'm so glad we had this time together....."

7) I like Shirley Eaton.  Really like.  She's got far more life and fun than either of the other Bond girls, and it's a shame she has to exit so quickly.  It's not for nothing that she is the center of one of the most iconic images in the series' history.

8) I don't know why it bugs me so, but I really wish they hadn't hired such a dowdy, obviously older Felix Leiter.  It makes the whole friendship between the two seem less than close.  Hell, Cec Linder looks and acts more like Connery's uncle and not his friend.

9) Boy, Ken Adams' sets are still amazingly tasty....particularly the one for Fort Knox, which Adams made up whole from his imagination.  These few sets--the Fort, Goldfinger's weird lounge room/planning area, the laser laboratory--just jump out at you amidst all the rather ordinary landscapes, reminding you that yes, this is supposed to be a Bond film.

10) Is it just me, or does Connery just stumble around annoying the crap out of Goldfinger until the goof drags him by the ear into his plan?  For a spy film, Bond doesn't do much in the way of spying...which is why it's so odd how so many of the tropes of the series seem to solidify here.

Overall...I know this is heretical, given how this is usually the default choice people have for Best Bond Film, but this is a film that drags at times, detracting from the generally good acting from its principles.  Not my favorite, although far from the worst of the Connery cycle (that's for the next time we look in on 007....)

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