The Shattered Lens continues the Bond Marathon leading up to the release of Skyfall with 1964’s Goldfinger. Normally, one would figure that the third film in a series is the one with the most danger of ruining everything. You’ve already had two successful stories and you’re asking audiences to come back for yet another round. Yet Goldfinger manages to be considered a favorite by many, and even managed to be the first 007 film to win an Academy Award (for Sound Effects). It does this by expanding on what was already done.
Building on the format that From Russia With Love started, Goldfinger opens with the gun barrel animation and Bond already on a mission. As he reaches what looks like an oil field under the cover of night, he manages to sabotage it (with a little help from C4 or possibly C3, given the time) and arrive back in a neighboring town before it explodes. Heading to his hotel room, he finds a young lady waiting for him who tries to capture his attentions before he catches sight of a thug in the reflection of her eyes. In the fight that ensues, Bond’s quick thinking and a bathtub full of water makes all of the difference. This prologue will become commonplace in all of the EON Production Bond films save for Dr. No (of course) and Quantum of Solace, which gives you the gun barrel at the end of that film.
Sean Connery reprises his role as MI6’s best agent, finding himself in Miami, where he interrupts the card game of one Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), cheating with the help of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). When Bond is caught off guard and knocked out, he wakes up to find Jill dead in her bed, covered in gold paint. The scene actually sparked a number of rumors that Eaton had died in the process of filming it, and as it was mentioned in the film, without leaving a free space near the base of the spine, the actress suffered “skin asphyxiation”. This was later tested on the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, and while skin doesn’t “breathe” the way Fleming wrote, your sweat can’t get out of clogged pores. You end up dying of heat stroke. Guess my science teachers were right there, to a degree. The image is so popular, it was even referenced by Quantum of Solace, though Oil was the substance of choice used there.
Bond is given the mission to track Goldfinger and figure out what he’s up, but not without a quick visit to Q Branch. It’s here where we find James’ new car, the Aston Martin DB5, and are introduced to one of longest professional relationships between an automotive company and a production one. Aston Martin would go on to cover nearly every Bond film save for a few (Goldeneye quickly comes to mind), but I’ll profile that relationship in a separate article. The car is outfitted with machine guns, oil slicks, smoke screens and even an ejector seat, believe it or not. Among the gadgets he’s given are two trackers (one large and one small). In terms of the overall series, this is the point where 007 seemingly becomes more of a gadget hound than relying on his actual abilities. I always felt that the ones in From Russia With Love supported him just when he needed it. In Goldfinger, they come across as utility belt like items, though functional all the same.
One of the other standouts in the film is Goldfinger’s henchman, OddJob (Harold Sakata). With a bowler hat that served as a razor disc, he’s one of the most iconic villains in the series, perhaps second only to Richard Kiel’s Jaws. Tomorrow Never Dies and even Goldeneye went on to use henchmen (or henchwomen in Famke Jassen’s case) to great effect.
In going after Goldfinger, Bond runs into Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), who mistakenly tries to kill him. They’re eventually caught an in classic 007 Fashion, Bond is placed in a situation that causes one to ask why no one has ever tried to kill him outright. The laser scene that has Bond tied to a table features one of the most famous lines in Goldfinger. When Bond asks Auric if he expects him to talk because of the laser that’s due to cut him in two, Goldfinger stops, turns to face him and exclaims, “No, Mister Bond! I expect you to die!” Needless to say, Goldfinger changes his mind after Bond mentions “Operation Grand Slam”, a plot to seemingly rob Fort Knox. It’s only later that we find that Goldfinger isn’t out to rob the reserve, he’s planning on detonating a nuclear weapon in it that would make all of the nation’s gold radioactive (and all of his gold worth billions, as a result). This is all showcased in a grand sequence involving Pussy Galore’s flight team and some knockout gas. As a kid, I loved it.
Finally, what Bond film would be complete without a Bond Girl? For Goldfinger, we have Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. In doing some research on this, I found that according to an article in Empire Magazine, in order to get the name by the American censors, the movie producers took them out to dinner. They decided to not interfere with the name, but it was never exactly listed in any of the US marketing promos. I’d always wondered about that, myself.
As a Bond Girl, Pussy was great in that she handled herself well with both weapons and hand to hand combat. Honor Blackman was well versed in Judo, so her action scenes with Sean Connery were easy to make. Cold and to the point, Pussy Galore wasn’t the “crying over a broken nail” type, but this being the 60’s, they still had the character succumb to Bond’s advances. Personally, I’m not exactly cool with that, but understand that given the time period and possibly the audience, it had to be written as such. Future Bond Girls would make up for it. At least it was good to see that there was a Bond Girl who could stand toe to toe with Bond.
Regarding the casting, one thing that’s also interesting to note that Gert Frobe, who played Goldfinger had a heavy German accent, so heavy in fact that his lines had to be dubbed by someone else. All of the Bond regulars from previous films make a return – Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, in particular. Felix Leiter would be played by a different actor (my favorite being David Hedison from License to Kill).
The impact of Goldfinger has been huge over the years. It’s one of the films everyone usually recalls, and even famed Video Game creator Hideo Kojima pays homage to the film by way of the theme song used in it’s game “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater”, as the game takes place in the same time period as Goldfinger.
Overall, Goldfinger remains one of the strongest parts of the 007 saga. Tomorrow, the Shattered Lens takes on Thunderball, the Fourth Connery film and the controversy surrounding it. I’ll leave you with Shirley Bassey’s iconic theme to the film.