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Goldfinger (1964)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

GOLDFINGER (1964)

Starring: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Harold Sakata, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet

Written By: Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn, Ian Fleming (novel) Directed By: Guy Hamilton

The Short Version

For many, this is the definitive James Bond movie.

It’s also the start of things being taken over the top.

Two words: Pussy Galore.

This flick has more classic movie moments than most entire franchises do.

Goldfinger is one of the best Bond movies ever, and an all-time cinema great.  Own it.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEDDAR FONDUE.

Mmm… tastes like liquid gold.


Pairs Well With...

GOLDSCHLAGER.

Come on; what else could I have chosen besides that very delicious schnapps which happens to be made with real gold?

Bonus: sing its name like Shirley Bassey.

“You're a woman of many parts, Pussy.”


There are movies, and there are movies.  Without question, Goldfinger is the latter.

Not only is Goldfinger the definitive film of the classic James Bond franchise, but to the majority of fans that I’ve ever met, it’s also the best.  (I won’t go quite that far, but I understand those who do.)  What’s more, it’s one of those rare movies that transcends its franchise and its genre to stand as one of the great motion pictures of all time, and a true cinematic landmark. 

So how does one describe the most famous, most definitive spy adventure in the history of motion pictures?  I’ll try doing so with the help of ten quotes taken from the movie, plus a crescendo.


“Bond.  James Bond.”

It all starts with our hero, 007, here played by Sean Connery for the third time.  Goldfinger is the film that truly brings “007 attitude” to the forefront, and Connery really hits his stride here.   The loosening up of the script that allows things to drift further from the realm of the plausible only plays to Connery’s strengths, taking the character of Bond to a level that no longer simply requires an actor, but rather, one that demands a star.  And yet, for all of his swagger, Connery’s 007 is still believable as the world’s greatest secret agent… so much so that you might not notice that it isn’t really Bond who saves the day in this one.


“Auric Goldfinger.  Sounds like a French nail varnish.”

Mr. Bond has a point about the bad guy’s name, but after nearly five decades, Goldfinger stands as one of the most memorable villains in movie history.  His signature personality trait – an insatiably avaricious appetite for gold – is wonderfully cliché without being ridiculous, and Gert Frobe’s performance (not to mention the unusually great job done by the sound department with his dubbing, since Frobe himself spoke almost no English) if of such high quality that it’s easy for the audience to take him seriously.  (This is never a given for such characters.)  Though it’s obvious that he’d never win a fist fight with 007, Frobe’s strong portrayal makes it equally obvious that he doesn’t have to, with the end result being a very respectable baddie and a megalomaniac that any audience can believe in.


“My name is Pussy Galore.”

…and it happens to be one of the greatest (and, of course, naughtiest) names in the history of motion pictures.  But there’s far more to the most famous Bond girl of all time than just a salacious name, thanks largely to the fact that the production team went out of their way to steal Honor Blackman away from “The Avengers” so she could play the role.  Played by a lesser actress, Pussy Galore is little more than a background character who happens to provide the key to unraveling the villain’s plans after giving in to the charms of the hero.  Thanks to Honor Blackman, however, Pussy Galore is very much in charge of herself, and quite capable of taking Mr. Bond down a peg or three when she feels like doing so.  A naughty name like “Pussy Galore” might grab your attention, but it’s the strong performance of Honor Blackman that has allowed the character to stand the test of time.


“Manners, Oddjob. I thought you always took your hat off to a lady.”

Goldfinger’s musclebound bodyguard Oddjob easily stands alongside Ygor and Darth Vader as one of the greatest henchmen of all time.  Though the character is mute, actor Harold Sakata turns that silence into an asset, speaking volumes through facial expressions and especially through body language.  And when that’s not enough, Ian Fleming was kind enough to give him a hat to serve as one of the most memorable trick weapons ever devised.  Best caddy ever.


“Do you expect me to talk?”

“No, Mr. Bond.  I expect you to die!”

It’s always one of the first jabs taken at spy thrillers: the villain always goes for the elaborate death scheme from which the hero inevitably escapes instead of just shooting the guy.  But it’s movies like Goldfinger that clearly demonstrate why such scenes are written: because when they’re done right, they can be awesome.  The powers that be decided that Ian Fleming’s scene involving Bond being strapped to a table while a buzzsaw blade slowly made its way up between his legs was too old fashioned, so they revamped it a little by making the first ever use of a realistic laser (as opposed to a sci-fi “ray gun”) in a motion picture.  In doing so, they also conjured up one of the all-time classic moments of cinema, topped off by the magnificent exchange of dialogue noted above.  It’s a moment of filmmaking genius, pure and simple.


“I did enjoy your briefing.”

One of the great joys of watching a master villain at work on the silver screen comes from the inevitable moment when he (or she) finally reveals the extent of his (or her) dastardly plan.  With its gigantic scale model of Fort Knox (made by the production team largely from guesswork; the American military is said to have been impressed by the good guessing), over the top speech, and gas mask crescendo, Goldfinger’s explanation of Operation Grand Slam has become the gold standard (had to say it) by which all explanations of evil schemes have come to be judged.  Taken objectively, it’s silly and even superfluous, but this is not the sort of thing that any sane person takes objectively.  This is dripping cheese at its finest, and yet another moment of pure filmmaking genius that has come to stand as one of the all-time classic scenes from any motion picture.


“Strict rules of golf?”

Though not nearly as grandiose as the moments already mentioned, Bond’s golf match against Goldfinger is a joy watch all the same.  It serves as a wonderful sequence through which to size up both characters and how they operate, and it allows the cheeky side of 007 to come through without compromising his standing as a professional.  The “cheating the cheater” twist is delightful, and Oddjob’s hat toss serves as an excellent bit of punctuation to remind the audience that this has, in fact, been a game to take seriously.


“You know, you're much too nice a girl to be mixed up in all this.”

It doesn’t matter that the medical mumbo-jumbo behind the scene is nonsense; Shirley Eaton’s “death by gold paint” paint scene is one of the most memorable still images from any movie ever made, period.  The full scene takes almost no time at all, but it’s a stunningly unforgettable visual that stays with the viewer long after the film is over.  An artistic masterstroke.


“Ejector seat?  You’re joking!”

I think it’s safe to say that until someone decided to turn a DeLorean into a time machine, James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from this film was the single most famous (and coveted) car in all of motion pictures.  Not only is it a sweet set of wheels, but with its machine guns, oil slick, smoke screen, and, of course, its ejector seat, Bond’s Aston Martin also represents the franchise’s first real foray into the over-the-top gadgetry that would come to define both it and the genre as a whole.  It’s enough to make one forget that Goldfinger also happens to be the first time that a Ford Mustang appears in a movie.  (It’s Tilly Masterson’s car.)


“He’s on the move.”

I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person who considers this moment classic, but I just can’t help myself.  Whenever I see Felix Leiter and his nameless CIA partner stopping for lunch at a Kentucky Fried Chicken while they take a breather from staking out Goldfinger’s stud farm, it cracks me up.  I don’t know why.  That scene is just way funnier than it has any right to be.


And, of course…


“He loves GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD!”

I can’t imagine the title theme to Goldfinger working in any other context, but as it stands, it truly is one of the all-time classic movie theme songs, belted out with extreme gusto by Shirley Bassey.  It is as powerful and as epic as the spirit of the picture it heralds, and its tune has since become one of the world’s most recognizable.  If you don’t feel the urge to sing along when this plays, you may be clinically dead.


And even after all of this, there’s still so much more that goes into making Goldfinger a classic, but I think you get the idea now.

Bottom line, Goldfinger is one of the True Greats, not just of the James Bond franchise, but of all of cinema.  If you like movies at all, you need to own this one.  Besides, how can anyone resist having Pussy Galore at one’s fingertips whenever the mood may strike?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2012


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