With the London 2012 Olympics going on, British pop culture is top-of-mind right now. And with the new Skyfall trailer being released a few days ago, I've got a craving to watch some James Bond. When I first started with my DVD collection, I said I wouldn't get *every* James Bond film...but I would get my favourite with each James Bond actor. In this series, I've already done On Her Majesty`s Secret Service for George Lazenby, and Tomorrow Never Dies from Pierce Brosnan. I've already complained that my The Spy Who Loves Me DVD no longer plays for me, so tonight I decided to tackle the original Bond era...Sean Connery. The film I have from his era...Goldfinger.
Many years ago, I read a literary critic who was complaining that, when an author is writing a series of books, things grow routine after the third book. Because the third book seems to be the one where the formula for that series becomes set in stone. That is very true with the James Bond movies as well. In the first film, Dr. No, there are elements of the formula, but it's not all there yet. The second one, From Russia With Love, is actually a taught little Cold War-era spy thriller. But, in Goldfinger, the third Bond movie made, what we know as the James Bond formula comes in in full force. We have our megalomaniacal villain bent on mass destruction. We have the henchman with an unusual physical trait. We have the scene with Q where Bond gets all his gadgets. The vast majority of James Bond tropes all began in Goldfinger. Lest we forget the first true James Bond theme song.
While I'd been watching James Bond movies throughout my childhood, Goldfinger was the first one I saw after puberty hit and I was finally comprehending all the sex in James Bond movies. I had recently learned what the world "pussy" is a slang term for, and when the Bond girl introduced herself as "Pussy Galore," I was giggling very immaturely. It was a Sunday morning, I knew I should be doing my homework, but when the hormones are surging through your body and a woman says her name is Pussy, everything must stop so I can watch this film.
So the first James Bond trope that this film introduces is the action-packed pre-credit sequence that has nothing to do with the plot. Cue theme song, and the film opens with Bond on R&R in Miami. His old friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter soon shows up to deliver his latest mission. Bond is to keep tabs on a British billionaire industrialist and gold bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger. Poolside at the Miami resort, Bond sees Goldfinger cheating at cards, so Bond seduces Goldfinger's paid companion, gets Goldfinger to throw the game, and spends an intimate evening with that companion.
Of course, is the afterglow, Bond is attacked by Goldfinger's henchman. And when Bond comes to, we see one of the most iconic deaths in James Bond film history. The companion is dead, and she is covered head to toe in gold paint. After this, Bond is recalled to London where he gets the full details of his mission. The Bank of England, which keeps track of all the gold in the UK, has looked at the numbers for Goldfinger's gold reserves, and things aren't adding up. They suspect Goldfinger is smuggling gold, and they've asked the secret service to investigate. They're going to set up Bond as a fellow gold dealer, and get him close to Goldfinger by trying to arrange a sale.
Like all great business transactions, Goldfinger and Bond meet and do business on...the golf course. Goldfinger once again shows his cheating ways by trying to cheat at golf. But, as they said in a very good book, a rigged game is the easiest game to rig, and Bond is able to out-cheat Goldfinger and win the match. This infuriates Goldfinger, as he recognizes Bond as the gentleman in Miami who made him throw the card game. As a threat to stay out of his affairs, Goldfinger introduces Bond to his henchman, Oddjob, and his trademark weapon, a bowler hat with a razor-sharp steel rim that he throws at folks.
After this, Bond tracks Goldfinger to Switzerland, and uncovers evidence that Goldfinger is, in fact, smuggling gold. But while here, Bond sees Goldfinger meeting with a high ranking Chinese nuclear physicist about something called "Operation: Grand Slam." Bond soon gets captured, and we get the now legendary scene where Goldfinger tries to cut Bond in half with a laser. "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" Bond is able to bluff his way out of the situation by convincing Goldfinger that he and his superiors know all about Operation: Grand Slam, and if he turns up dead, other agents will follow. Not willing to take this chance, Goldfinger decides to keep Bond alive.
Bond is knocked out, and awakens on Goldfinger's private jet, headed for Kentucky. It's on the plane that Bond meets Goldfinger's pilot, the aforementioned Pussy Galore. According to legend, their original scripted meeting was to go like this:
"I'm Pussy Galore."
"Of course you are, but what's your name?"
The censors found that too dirty, so it was was changed to:
"I'm Pussy Galore."
"I must be dreaming."
So they arrive at Goldfinger's sprawling Kentucky ranch, and Bond is promptly thrown in a jail cell. Bond promptly escapes, and is able to eavesdrop on Goldfinger briefing all of the organized crime leaders in the USA. Goldfinger lays out his plan. While men have conquered Everest, split the atom, and accomplished other great things, there has yet to be a similar great accomplishment in the world of crime. So Goldfinger proposes his "scaling Everest of crime": breaking into the world's largest gold repository, Fort Knox. Of course, the mob bosses declare him to be mad. So, since Goldfinger got everything he needed from these bosses, and all the exposition has been delivered to the audience, Goldfinger has them all killed.
Bond is quickly recaptured after this, after trying to smuggle the information about Operation Grand Slam out to Felix. But the smuggling backfires. Bond confronts Goldfinger once again, and Bond says he's been doing some math. Because of all the gold in Fort Knox, it would be physically impossible to get all the gold out before the US Armed Forces figure out what's going on and bring down the hammer of God. Bond remembers that Chinese physicist that Goldfinger was talking to, and puts it all together. Goldfinger got a nuke from China. Goldfinger wants to sneak in a nuclear bomb and nuke Fort Knox. With the US Gold reserves destroyed and/or contaminated with radiation, the Communists would succeed in crippling the USA's economy. And with so much gold now off the market, Goldfinger's private reserves would significantly increase in value. "10 times, is the conservative estimate," Goldfinger boasts.
Now see, watching this tonight, this scene blew my mind. When Bond escaped from his cell, they just kind of allow him to roam free about the compound. When he talks to Goldfinger about just now deducing the plan, it should be obvious to Goldfinger that Bond was bluffing earlier. SO WHY DIDN'T GOLDFINGER KILL BOND THEN AND THERE? Boom! All over. Goldfinger wins. James Bond does NOT return. But no. They have to introduce the trope of the elaborate death trap.
So Bond continues to roam the compound, finds Pussy Galore, and him being James Bond, they soon find themselves in the barn and have a roll in the hay...both literally and figuratively.
The next day, Goldfinger launches his heist on Fort Knox. And we see his elaborate death trap for Bond. He locks up Bond in Fort Knox's vault, chained to the nuclear bomb. As part of his plan, Golfinger had Pussy Galore and her flight squad gas all of Fort Knox. But...all the soldiers didn't die. Once they confirm that the nuclear bomb is in Fort Knox, they all wake up and a huge battle ensues! Bond gets locked in the vault with Oddjob, and they have a fight to the death.
Actually, I find the next scene kind of funny. With Oddjob dead, Bond gets to work trying to defuse the nuclear bomb. We see all kinds of moving parts, and we see the confusion on Bond's face. He is clearly out of his element. After cautiously prodding several of the moving parts, Bond settles on pulling a black-and-yellow wire. Bond grabs the wire, and as he's about to pull, we see another hand enter the frame and push Bond's hands away. This other hand then just casually reaches over and flips a switch, shutting down the bomb. The camera pans up, and we see the hand belongs to one of the American soldiers. Bond just sighs a sigh of relief, and says in a very Bond fashion, "What kept you?"
Bond is disappointed to hear that Goldfinger got away. But we learn how the American soldiers found out about the plan and were able to lay a trap. Apparently, while rolling in the hay, Bond was able to get Pussy to turn back to the good side of the Force and she ratted out Goldfinger to the CIA.
With this whole affair behind them, Bond is off to the White House, where he's to get a congratulatory lunch with the President. But before that happens, we're treated to one last James Bond trope: the villain making one last appearance in an attempt to kill Bond. When the plane is in flight, Goldfinger bursts out of the cockpit, ready to kill Bond. Bond and Goldfinger fight over the gun, the gun goes off and pierces the plane's fuselage, and the explosive decompression causes Goldfinger to get sucked out of the plane to his death.
Pussy is flying the plane. She and Bond try to bring the plane back under control, but they can't and it crashes. But they bail out just in time! And in grand James Bond tradition, it ends with Bond and the Bond girl, waiting to be rescued, and passing the time by boikning.
Watching it again tonight, I still had a lot of fun. This is where the James Bond formula started, so you know it hadn't been worn out yet. But what got me was how the entire middle has almost no action. After the laser scene up to the raid on Fort Knox, nothing happens. Goldfinger just kind of drags Bond along with him, explaining things along the way. Which kind of set up another James Bond trope: the villain explaining his entire plot in a lengthy monologue.
But it's very fun, and very deserving of its high regard in the Bond franchise.