Connect with us
Goldfinger James Bond 007 Retrospective
Image: United Artists

Film

Goldfinger Warrants Repeated Viewings

Miss Honey and Miss Galore Have James Bond Back For More!

James Bond Spotlight: Goldfinger

Even if you had never seen this film, just as with Ursula Andress rising from the waves like a bikini-clad version of Botticelli’s Venus in Dr. No, you’d recognize the iconic image. The girl, the bed, the gold paint. The sight of gilded Shirley Eaton spread out on the sheets is so evocative that – like Ursula – it was subjected to an ironic nod in a later Bond film. If Halle Berry wore the updated bikini in Die Another Day, instead of gold Gemma Arterton did sheet-duty wearing nothing but a coat of oil for Quantum of Solace.

Gold was the symbol of wealth in 1964, but in today’s world of global warming and fuel station queues, hydrocarbons have taken its place in the cultural lexicon. And Goldfinger is a very old fashioned film – right from the overblown title song (Shirley Bassey chewing the vocals like only a Cardiff girl can), through to Oddjob with his killer bowler and Pussy Galore in skintight leather – the third Bond film is as dated as a High School cheerleader.

Goldfinger
Image: United Artists

But is it still worth watching? A film can be dated, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a classic. Let’s consider.

The premise is this: Auric Goldfinger, industrial tycoon (played by Gert Fröbe who was hired after the producers saw his performance as a child molester in the film Es geschach am hellichten Tag) plans to corner the world market in gold by irradiating the US stocks at Fort Knox and rendering it unusable for decades. He is foiled in his mission by Bond, with the assistance of fly-girl Pussy Galore.

So far, so Bond. This is set pattern stuff: insane megalomaniac attempts to take over the world with his death ray. Only Casino Royale deviates from the formula (and that by not very much). We can’t fault Goldfinger for that, nor for the fact that gold has now been replaced by rare piles of earth and cobalt as the mineral de jour. Like diamonds, gold still has a luster we respond to, with its associations to royalty, greed, and the exploitation of the New World. It’s beautiful and corrupt and, in that sense, a better choice than mundanities such as the oil pipelines of The World is Not Enough or the silicon chips of A View to a Kill.

Goldfinger
Image: United Artists

The Bond is Connery – one of the world’s most attractive men ever (I know this as a scientific fact) – and his masculinity is a perfect foil for Goldfinger’s campy vibe. We can believe in this Bond, even when Oddjob is trying to kill him with a bowler hat, even when Goldfinger leers at him and points a laser at his crotch. Put Moore in the role and the film would collapse under the weight of its own double entendres, but with Connery wearing the smoking jacket and sipping the martini, we can swallow the one-liners with a straight face.

The same goes for the Bond Girl. The two Mastertons (Shirley Eaton’s Jill and Tania Mallet’s Tilly) both die early on, leaving Honor Blackman to handle the man-wrangling and this along with Connery is where Goldfinger really scores. Pussy Galore is arguably the best Bond girl of the posse, beating off stiff competition from Diana Rigg as Tracy Draco and Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin (no pun is too low, seems to be the motto of the Bond writers). Blackman, already well known through her role in the Avengers series, has a salty toughness that balances the saccharine of the love scenes. Most Bond girls don’t put up that much of a fight, but Galore tosses Bond about like she means it, allowing us to accept her eventual capitulation as a meeting of equals (the same formula works for Rigg and Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) rather than the usual Bond-conquest-of-inferior-female-shtick (and if Bond-sexism happens to annoy you, this might make you feel better).

OddJob
Image: United Artists

And what about the anti-hero and his sidekick? The producers originally wanted Orson Welles for Auric Goldfinger, but he wanted too much money (also, think of the catering budget). Casting Gerd Fröbe was a gamble – he spoke no English, requiring all his lines to be dubbed – but the choice works. Fröbe’s Goldfinger is a man you’d pay not to have touch you (‘such a cold finger’ croons Shirley in the title sequence and you know exactly what she means), lending extra creepiness to the coating of Jill in gold paint. Even though Oddjob does the painting, the thought of Auric looking on with his tiny pig eyes is enough to raise more than a few goose-pimples. As for Oddjob, subject of a thousand off-colour jokes – the Japanese-American wrestler Harold Sakata has just the right combination of cartoonish thuggery and genuine physicality to make the fight scenes work. Check out the moment when Bond lugs a gold bar at him and it bounces off Oddjob’s chest. Sakata’s smug grin is a real freeze-frame moment.

Old fashioned? Yes. A classic? Also yes. Goldfinger is one of the few Bond films with a 24-carat quality that warrants repeated viewing.

– Cath Murphy

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight. The article is part of our James Bond Spotlight.

Now Streaming

Written By

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Beyond The Black Rainbow – Austere, Cerebral, and Sometimes Maddening

Film

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time 50 Best HBO Shows of All Time

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time (Part 2)

Culture

Oz Pilot The Routine review Oz Pilot The Routine review

Oz: Revisiting the Pilot Episode of HBO’s Darkest Show

TV

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time 50 Best HBO Shows of All Time

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time (Part 1)

TV

The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age for television The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age for television

The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age of Television

TV

Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked

15 Best Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked

Film

The Wire Season 1 and 2 The Wire Season 1 and 2

20 Years Later, The Wire’s Genre Filmmaking is Still Unmatched (Part 1)

TV

Best of the Wire Best of the Wire

The Best of The Wire: A Superlative List

TV

Apple TV+’s The Big Conn is a Compelling but Overlong True Crime Series  

TV

Jerry West and Mob Hits: HBO’s Winning Time and What Really Happened

TV

We Own This City: Why You Should Be Watching the Anticipated Spiritual Sequel to The Wire

Culture

The Wire Season 3 The Wire Season 3

20 Years Later, The Wire’s Genre Filmmaking is Still Unmatched (Part 2)

TV

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a Multiverse Muddle 

Film

The Fifth Element retrospective The Fifth Element retrospective

The Fifth Element 25 Years Later: Still One of the Greatest Space Operas Ever

Film

best and worst of Star Trek best and worst of Star Trek

The Best and Worst of Star Trek

TV

Ranking Mission Impossible Ranking Mission Impossible

The Definitive Ranking of the Mission: Impossible Series

Film

Connect