Sunday, November 8, 2020



Director: Guy Hamilton
Screenplay: Richard Maikbaum & Paul Dehn, based on the novel by Ian Fleming (Uncredited)


The recent passing of the great Sean Connery isn't what pushed up "Goldfinger" onto the Canon. Personally, when I thought about it for a minute, my personal favorite Connery performance was actually Gus Van Sant's underrated "Finding Forrester", where he plays a reclusive Salinger-esque novelist who befriends a talented young high school poet/athlete. Yeah, that's the performance I think of when I think of Connery, not the suave and debonair James Bond, which, yes made him iconic, or even his Oscar-winning turn as Eliot Ness's mentor in Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables", which honestly, I never got the big deal with that film. Connery's good in the film, but..., eh, I'm in the "Just watch the TV show" camp on that one. Nah, if I was more inclined to write from scratch these days and if I was doing a Connery entry for this, I'd probably do it for "Finding Forrester". 

That said, as I'm writing/posting this while still in the throws of COVID-19, I guess I can use something lighter and more fun to talk about instead and yeah, "Goldfinger" is the better option. I'm not the James Bond expert that I wish I was right now, honestly, I've only seen, eh, maybe a handful or two of James Bond films, and most of them are the recent Daniel Craig-era Bonds which, are mostly good.  Mostly good, but they're also essentially a reboot of the franchise, literally starting over from Fleming's original novel "Casino Royale", which is probably the only other James Bond film I would seriously consider adding to this Canon. There's other good Bond films of course, including many in the Craig incarnation of the films, but even those have slowly gone more towards the classic Bond archetypes over the years as they've gone on, and eh, I'm not crazy about that.

I mean, I do get it. Exotic locales, edge-of-your-seat stunts and heroics, beautiful swooning women, double-entendres, and a debonair secret service agent with a license to kill for MI-5, who will go at nothing to get the eccentric bad guys from trying to rule the world. That’s not a statement that purely describes “Goldfinger,” that's essentially most of the films, as well as the appeal of the entire franchise, from the novels to the films and most everything in between, but "Goldfinger", the third feature in what has to be considered one of the longest-running continuous character franchise in cinema, at least among characters who came and were invented in the age of film, was basically the first one and best one that mixed those ingredients of the formula perfectly, and while I still need to actually go through and marathon the rest of these, it's probably still the film that stirred these the elements the best to make "Goldfinger" the perfectly mixed martini of Bond. (Unlike, Bond's actual martini, which is actually a very weak and prissy drink; there's a reason martinis are supposed to be stirred.) 

“Dr. No” was made in ’62, and honestly, I find it forgettable in of itself. The second film, "From Russia with Love", was the first really good Bond film, but it could be misconstrued as just a good intense action-thriller. Hell, the movie mostly takes place on a train ride. The style, the gadgets, the martinis, shaken not stirred, and the way he announces his name. Bond, James Bond, to even have a name like that, you better be wearing a tuxedo, they all were eventually there with "Goldfinger". 

Not all the Bond movies are good, some of them are downright awful, but that doesn't really matter 'cause pre-Daniel Craig-Bond era, hardly any of them are in any way realistic, but the character of Bond, played by Sean Connery most notably, with some style points awarded to Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, and the aforementioned Craig, is an iconic, integral part of entertainment over the past 40 years. That said, he probably doesn't pass most politically correct tests of today. Also, he's a lot more rogue in the books, and he might be a bit more misogynistic. 

“Goldfinger,” pretty much nears the top of the list of the best Bond film for anyone, including those who aren’t Bond fans.  A James Bond who’s in the middle of one mission, usually distracted with a girl, gets involved with bad guys trying to kill him, but he’s got some sort new age gizmo, in this case, it's his Aston-Martin's ejector seat option, or he simply outsmarts them and finds inventive ways to kill them, after,  he usually has, ahem, ah… some time to spend with more than a few attractive women, especially the one with an unusual name. Never one more unusual or more able to create puns out of than, Ms. Pussy Galore [Honor Blackman], which is actually kinda odd in this movie, 'cause she's a villain for most of the film, and in the novel, she leads a group of lesbian cat-burglars with acrobat experience...- seriously, James Bond in his original form, does not hold up to modern PC standards, at all. 

Where was I? Anyway, Bond eventually escapes certain death, numerous times, most famously in "Goldfinger", he has to get out of the way of a very precariously-placed laser, and eventually kills/stops a ruthless bad guy from his attempt at, in one form or another rule the world, usually perfecting his strategy on some out-of-the-way location only the very wealthy are able to afford. Aurie Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), one of the best Bond villains, is a gold collector, willing to rob Fort Knox to add to his collection. (Or actually, destroy the gold in Fort Know, in order to make his gold worth more; a truly smart evil plan, btw.) I think what distinguishes “Goldfinger,” is how with less, it’s able to do more. It’s one of the shortest Bond films, only at two hours and six minutes, and it’s filled with every scene that every Bond movie has, but, doesn’t have any extra scenes or backstories, none that are two elaborate and aren’t disposed of quickly, and it doesn’t aim for the greatness of some other Bond films, this one is pure entertainment. No greater theme, no larger goal at hand, just all we want and nothing we don’t. 

On top of that, the dozens of puns that can arise from a girl named Pussy, gives the added benefit of being one of the funnies Bonds as well. (Well, intentionally funny) Still though, when I watch a lot of other Bond movies, I feel like I get caught up in plot minutia and complications, even good Bond movies, when frankly, you don't need all that complications. Bond is more interesting as a passive hero anyway, so just seeing him bumble from one event to another, one action scene to another, one woman to another, that's what makes a classic Bond movie great. Whether this one ranks as high on the list on Bonds as others is subjective, personally I don't know anybody Bond fan or not who outright hates "Goldfinger", and most everybody ranks it among the best Bond films.

Everybody who has any interest in cinema at all, will have to watch at least one Bond movie; I'd hate to have to narrow that down, but if you want the best quintessential example of the iconic classic Bond, then "Goldfinger" is the best. It was the first Bond movie directed by Guy Hamilton, one of four he would end up making. His other major feature is "Force 10 from Navarone", but this is the franchise and the movie he's known for.

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