Goldfinger Review

“No Mister Bond, I Expect You To Die.”

September 17th, 2011

After the success of the second 007 adventure, "From Russia With Love" (1963), producer Albert Romolo Broccoli insisted on producing "Thunderball" (1965) as the third outing, as it was a weekly comic strip of the story which first inspired Cubby to inquire about the film rights, which ultimately lead to his partnership with producer Harry Saltzman. However, a lawsuit prevented the producers from going with that book as their third film, and so they decided to turn to a story which would appeal more to American Audiences as the previous two films were set in the Caribbean & Europe. Ian Fleming's seventh Bond novel "Goldfinger" was just the ticket the producers were looking for, and like its predecessor, it too would set up new staples for the franchise.

Director Terrance Young from the previous two films bowed out of directing the third outing when he learned he'd be denied some percentages of the film's profits. And so, previous directorial candidate Guy Hamilton who turned down "Dr. No" (1962) agreed to replace him. What he would bring with him would alter the course of the Bond films forever. He believed that Bond was portrayed too much like a "superhuman" and felt he'd seem more realistic as a secret agent if the villains seemed more powerful than they actually were. So in short, Bond wouldn't be made out as being even more superhuman by taking on larger enemies, but the illusion of a stronger enemy would heighten the sense of danger and suspense as Bond's endeavors in the previous two films seemed like a walk in the park to Guy Hamilton. By doing this, the film would become all the more exciting, and the scale seemingly bigger than before. It would be a staple in the Bond franchise which still exists today.

In his third adventure, James Bond (Sean Connery) must investigate how a gold magnate smuggles gold internationally. In the process, Bond uncovers a nefarious plot by the magnate involving the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox in Kentucky. Along the way, Bond uses his trademark sensuality to attempt to woo Goldfinger's pilot P*ssy Galore (Honor Blackman) to his side--Yes, that's the character's actual name which is mentioned frequently--and engages in the most popular 'roll in the hay' game in cinema history. The pacing starts slow, and the film build and builds in suspense rather than non-stop action. Oh, and for those wondering, that was a real brand new 'off the lot' Lincoln which was demolished. Yeah, the filmmakers were that daring!

As the titular villain, Auric Goldfinger, the producers first wanted to cast Orson Welles, but he charged too much. The role instead went to Gert Frobe, a german actor whom the producers admired after seeing his role in the german film "It Happened In Broad Daylight" (1958) where he played a child molester. A slight hiccup in casting him occurred when his agent implied that he could speak english, but upon meeting the producers he could only speak common greetings in english. Subsequently, all his dialogue was dubbed by Michael Collins. Frobe's takes were shot with him speaking phonetically to not interrupt the eventual dubbing process, as it'd be too noticeable that he wasn't speaking the lines himself. Only once, when Bond secretly spies on Goldfinger's meeting with the mob can his real voice be heard. Auric also began something which would last the franchise, being coming up with creatively fiendish ways to off his subordinates. Always gentleman like, he rarely loses his temper. Gert's performance made for one of the most memorable Bond villains.

For the role of Goldfinger's Korean manservant Oddjob, the producers turned to Olympic Silver Medalist Weightlifter Harold Sakata. Director Guy Hamilton was impressed by the hawaiian's wrestling, and cast him in the role after proving he could easily smash bricks, cinderblocks, and golf balls with relative ease, using only his bare hands or bare feet. Despite these physical feats, Oddjob's most famous weapon is his steel brimmed black bowler hat which he wears along with his matching black suit throughout the film. He only ever speaks in one scene, and it's in Korean. His demonstrations of his brute strength to convey his feelings towards Bond may seem caveman like, but he's very intimidating. By far the best of the Bond henchmen. And he's the first in the long list of henchmen with an interesting character trait. Sakata would reprise the role for commercials and various publicity spots promoting the film, remaining in character, but breaking it sometimes to reveal his jolly side for the kids. Promoting the film was as easy as standing on a neighborhood corner and smashing bricks. Yessir, he's an instant cash register as the perfect promotional tool for the film.

One of the more notable things about the film, is Honor Blackman's performance as P*ssy Galore. Contrary to the name, she's a serious stunt pilot who tries to foil Bond's every move. But their interactions and her attitude rank her among the most memorable of the Bond girls. She was among the only one of them from the earlier films who could defend herself and put up excellent resistance to Bond's sensual advances. So that's three for three for the villains. The best trio in one of the best films.

Returning crew members from "Dr. No" included stunt coordinator Bob Simmons who'd stage the climatic duel between Bond & Oddjob. Also, the delightful return of production designer Ken Adam. His sets would include Goldfinger's factory, the interior of Goldfinger's Kentucky Ranch, and the infamous Fort Knox, who's interior was a total mystery at the time. Ken Adam envisioned a grand design which resembled a prison in the opinion of producer Harry Saltzman. But Hamilton's praise of it won the day. The comptroller at Fort Knox would write Adam a letter complimenting his creativity in the design. Adam was ultimately pleased he wasn't allowed in the real fort as it allowed him to imagine whatever he wanted. However, as far as not being INSIDE the fort, they were allowed to shoot OUTSIDE, and all but the Fort Knox garage shootout was filmed at the real Fort Knox thanks to Cubby's friendship with Lieutenant Charles Russhon. They even got away with flying stunt airplanes at altitudes of 500' as opposed to the required 3000' they'd originally been allotted. Needless to say, the military freaked out. But the production didn't suffer as a result. After all, soldiers were each given $10 and a beer to appear as extras, so no arguments from them. Ah, aren't the perks of friends in high places just great?

Lastly, lets not forget the biggest attraction to the film. No, it's not the awe inspiring filming locations in Switzerland, or the cast. Rather, it's the car. The classic Aston Martin DB-5, chosen as it was England's most sophisticated car. Completely decked out with rockets, bullets, blades, and even an ejector seat. Yes, an ejector seat. Q (Desmond Llewelyn) never jokes about his work after all. While this was the most popular of all the gadget cars in the Bond franchise, this particular Q segment was considered the best in the franchise. Granted Desmond doesn't play him with as much humor as later films, but it's ultimately his showcasing of the car that makes the scene. It's absolutely spectacular in the car chase shot in a very fast paced manner full of quick cuts by cinematographer Ted Moore, and made all the more thrilling by the editing of Peter R. Hunt. Still among the best of the chase sequences in the Bond franchise, and the most well executed. The innovations in effects to make it work were spectacular, in addition to the optical effects already utilized to make non-existent lasers a reality. Overall, the Aston Martin DB-5 is a must have for any secret agent.

Filming began on 20 January 1964 in Miami Beach with one of the most iconic moments in the franchise involving the golden girl. Filming wrapped on 11 July 1964 in Andermatt, Switzerland. Upon its release, the $3,000,000 budget was recouped within two weeks and ended its run with $124,900,000. It also reigned in the first big merchandise for a single film. This included everything from toys to towels, house hold appliances with "Goldfinger" related imagery, and everything in between. Shirley Bassey's infamous title song was the #1 hit single for weeks on end, and the "Goldfinger" record was the highest selling that season, if not for the whole year. This merchandising hysteria and obsession with the film was referred to as the "Goldfinger Phenomenon," and probably adjusting for inflation made more money on merchandise than any singular film. Sadly, Bond's creator Ian Fleming whom visited the set in the summer did not live to see it, having died on 12 August 1964, which was his son's twelfth birthday. Despite the loss, Bond would go on unhindered into the twenty-first century. However, only his very next reappearance would reign in the same phenomenon as witnessed here.


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