James Bond is in the midst of kissing his latest female conquest when he stares deep into her eyes and sees…what? True love? Gushing admiration? Nope. A killer sneaking up behind him, reflected on the femme fatale’s eyeballs. Quicker than you can say, “Cheerio, babe,” Bond spins around with the girl and lets her take the conk on the head.
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And so, the over-sexed one-man spymachine springs into action at the start of 1964’s Goldfinger, the third installment in the wildly successful franchise.
I’ve got a confession to lay on the table right from the start: I don’t normally watch Bond flicks…though not necessarily by choice. My wife, my sweet better-half, my darling angel—she hates James Bond. Despises him with a passion normally reserved for cucumbers and the neighbor’s barking dog. It has something to do with the overt sexism on parade in every film. Or, maybe she just doesn’t like the impossibly suave stunts.
I must sneak J.B. into the house furtively, taking sips of the shaken-not-stirred cinematic martinis when her back is turned or (as in this instance) she’s out of town for the weekend. Hey, what she doesn’t know won’t kill her, right?
I must say I enjoyed my James Bond adultery this weekend and I’m glad I saw Goldfinger, even if it was 36 years after its release.
Sexist? Perhaps. Hedonistic? Possibly. Tons-o-fun? You betcha.
Say what you will about Bond’s egocentric disregard for women and mad dictators, the fact remains that legendary producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman always put together a top-notch show. Goldfinger is one of the best of the bunch.
After Bond blows up a building, gets his paramour cold-cocked (so to speak) and dispatches a bad guy via electrocution (“Shocking!” he quips), we’re off and running with the unforgettable opening credits. I doubt anyone even notices the names of the actors or technicians—those gilded female torsos are such a distraction…not to mention Shirley Bassey’s brassy belting of “Gold-fingah!”
Debates have raged for decades about who makes the best Bond (with poor George Lazenby always ending up at the bottom of the heap). For my money, there’s nothing like the original. Sean Connery is Bond, James Bond. Lithe as a cat and dispensing cheeky humor with that arched eyebrow of his, Mr. Connery moves through this and other Bond flicks with a style Timothy Dalton can only dream about (just for the record, Pierce Brosnan runs a close second in my book). Who else can strip out of a wet suit and into a white tuxedo and make it look like he’s brushing hair out of his eyes?
At the beginning of the film, Bond’s Miami massage is interrupted by a summons from British headquarters: he’s to keep an eye on gold market kingpin Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). “Sounds like a French nail varnish,” James quips.
Bond and Goldfinger begin a deadly game of cat-and-mouse which includes the famous image of James’ latest girlfriend covered completely in gold paint. As Bond snoops closer to Goldfinger’s headquarters, he learns of a world-domination plot (is there ever any other kind?) involving an atomic bomb and all the gold bullion in Fort Knox.
Along the way, he tangles with the mute heavy Oddjob (the 284-pound wrestler Harold Sakata). Oddjob’s even more menacing than the metal-mouthed Jaws of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. He’s a rotund, smiling Buddha who sports a killer hat and gives Bond plenty to sweat about. Oh yeah, and there’s also a laser beam that stops just short of slicing Bond in half, starting at his crotch.
By today’s standards, the special effects are about as convincing as a sunset painted on canvas. There’s plenty of rear-projection shots that betray the fact that the principal actors were in a studio reciting their lines and not on exotic location. But let us also not forget that Goldfinger was the first James Bond film to win an Oscar. For Best Sound Effects. So, some of the technicians knew what they were doing.
But the details don’t really matter in the James Bond canon. The most important issue at stake: does it make us forget about the troubles of the world for two hours, while we watch the superspy deftly handle all his own world-domination troubles up on the screen? Well, of course it does…and with packed-to-the-gills class!
Some feminists might understandably object to the whole aura surrounding the Bond factory. I can’t say as I would blame them too much. Double entendres abound and are positively eyebrow-raising, especially considering the year of Goldfinger’s release. For starters, there’s the blush-to-repeat villainess P*ssy Galore (Honor Blackman) who claims she’s immune to Bond’s charms. Later, a roll in the hay—which is one part sex, one part judo—weakens her willpower.
It’s all potent enough to make my wife irritated enough to serve me cucumbers for the rest of the week. But what she doesn’t realize is, it’s so much fun! Bond, that is…not cucumbers.
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