The third James Bond film, the third outing for Sean Connery as the titular super spy, and, let us be honest, the one that most people remember. This is the film that really launched the Bond franchise into the Worldwide mainstream:
- The global earnings from this film were recouped in just two weeks.
- A lot of the Bond canon/ themes you know today were firmly established in this film.
- This film has been parodied, spoofed, and paid homage to in other films in one way or another regularly since its release in 1964.
Before I get into my review, let us get a brief synopsis out of the way…
Holidaying after a successful mission that is not seen on screen Bond finds himself in Miami. He is contacted by M, via CIA agent Felix Leiter, who wants him to investigate gold bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger. Eventually Bond uncovers a plot which would throw the worlds economy into chaos, while making Goldfinger one of the richest and powerful people in the world. Something that Bond obviously must thwart for the good of everyone.
While the last two films had Bond dealing with S.P.E.C.T.R.E. this one is different, the agent of chaos is not affiliated with the evil organisation but is a menace in his own right. German actor Gert Fröbe plays Goldfinger brilliantly, one mood swing away from being outright evil, he plays a powerful and confident bad guy. His henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), commands as much of the limelight in this film as Goldfinger himself does – despite having a single line of dialogue in the entire film. Oddjob is the first (random yet) iconic henchman to appear in a Bond film. Also making an appearance, Honor Blackman is Pussy Galore, a confident, strong, and deadly operative. Pussy Galore is the first real use of tongue-in-cheek name in a Bond film – and it definitely isn’t the last either! Shirley Eaton briefly appears; her final scene in particularly is one of the most iconic scenes in the entirety of the Bond franchise history (which is also later recreated for ‘Life’ magazine too). Already you have some of the elements that you would expect to see in a Bond film canon – a criminal mastermind with plot to rule world (who, for the record, DOES have a giant laser), evil and random henchman who poses a massive physical threat to Bond, a femme fatale who is potentially as dangerous as Bond and could have an impact the plot, naive and delicate objects of affection for Bond to lust over… but there is more yet!
- Gadgets and technology take off in a big way in this film, Q has plenty of things that Bond can use to save the day. Nothing more so than the Aston Martin DB5 that he gets introduced to: Ejector seat, smoke screen, machine guns, oil slick, tire shredding blades, auto changing number plate… just wow! The car was one of the catalysts to a merchandise boom – Corgi made millions of replicas of it for kinds (and ‘young’ adults) the world over.
- A pre-credits action sequence which does not directly link to the current plot they are about to see unfold on the screen, but does introduce the audience to the film event they are about to witness – a blueprint for all future Bond films.
- Speaking of credits, this was the first use of a popular artist singing over the opening credits in a Bond film. Shirley Bassey would go on to sing another 2 Bond songs too, but this is where it started. This wasn’t the first time this had been used in film, but the 60’s saw a massive rise in this as film executives tried to influence younger audiences by using popular music or artists. Nowadays the reveal to find out who is singing on the next Bond film is always an event in itself – Goldfinger started this! (Yes, Matt Monro sang on “From Russia with Love”, but other than on the radio in the background of one of the scenes, it was a post-credits song rather than something to kick things off.)
- Bond meeting the bad guy early in the film and toying with them. Okay, Bond does meet “Dr No” in the film, but not as early as he meets “Goldfinger”. There is a card game and a golf game before any of the real ‘games’ start.
- Convoluted and over complicated torture is seen for the first time in this film via a giant laser. This is the first Bond film to have this occur, and it isn’t the last – and of course this is parodied in other films in the future. (“You expect me to talk?” “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!”) (see “Austin Powers: The Spy who shagged me” for a perfect example.)
- Tongue in cheek humour and script – for example – Bond knocks electric fan into bathtub, kills bad guy “Shocking! Positively Shocking” – or – Gesturing to crushed car with dead bad guy “As you said, he had a pressing engagement”
Despite setting the franchise up with some many ‘Bondian’ elements and themes “Goldfinger” does it in a way that still allows it to remain cool, classy and stylish. Making it stand up as a forerunner in Bond films for many many years to come.
As already mentioned, this recouped its budget in two weeks – it had a budget bigger than both the previous films combined ($2m at the time, equivalent to $25m today). At the time of its release “Goldfinger” was the fastest grossing film in history – and that was from just 64 screens!!
Unlike the previous films, this is not a Terence Young directed film, he would be back for “Thunderball“, but the change of directorship with Guy Hamilton taking the reins breathed a different lease of life into the franchise, without actually spoiling anything. One of the things that Hamilton insisted on is making Bond less of a superhero, making the villain more threatening – which is evident throughout, and especially at the end of the film while Bond is trapped with Oddjob and a bomb inside Fort Knox.
Richard Maibaum returns as a writer, but he was replaced with Paul Dehn, but then rehired to replace Dehn (I’m not getting into that on here!).
After being introduced to the franchise on “007: From Russia with Love” (1963), John Barry was given full control on score on this film. He made it his aim to produce a theme which matched the concept of the film, he took the word ‘gold’ literally and made a metallic heavy score which relied on lots of brass instruments. He wrote the song that Shirley Bassey would go on to sing. He also used elements of that song through out the film to pad out scenes and situations, as an example, he used notes from the song when Goldfinger is on screen, or when Oddjob is approaching menacingly. Working with Barry it was Norman Wanstall that took the lead for editing the sound effects into a something palatable and complimentary to the film. Wanstall went on to win an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing.
The strength of this Bond film opened the door for lots of other film and TV secret agents in the 60’s and beyond; The Man from Uncle, Avengers, Danger Man… but let’s not just stop there. As mentioned right at the start of this review, films throughout the years have spoofed or paid homage to this film; “Last Action Hero“, “Austin Powers“, “The Ipcress File“, “Cars 2“, “The Cannonball Run“, and “Die Hard” to name but a few.
While this may not be everybody’s favourite Bond film, it was the one that set the tone for nearly every future Bond film in the future. It created standards and themes that would shape the franchise for better or worse. Not just the standard bearer for Bond, but for spy films going forward. “Goldfinger” was the first Bond film to win an Oscar and due to it is impact it does not surprise me at all (1 Oscar win and at least 3 more award nominations to be more accurate). Before I get carried away and turn this into an essay about the film I will wrap up and say that I would recommend this film, it is slightly dated but is still a great experience. Judging it by today’s standards would be foolish, this is film from the 1960’s when life, art, culture and film was different – at it’s time this film was the cream of the crop. By today’s standard this is family friendly action/spy movie that is still entertaining. Why not waste away your next rainy Saturday afternoon with this great film.
Title Song: Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey
In terms of Bond films this is a 9 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this an 8 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking