Familiar Faces #10: Harold Sakata, Man of Many Hats!


cracked rear viewer

Most of you know burly Harold Sakata for his role as the steel-hat-flinging Oddjob in GOLDFINGER , the third movie in the James Bond franchise. But Mr. Sakata did much more than that one iconic part. In fact, you could say that Harold Sakata wore many hats during his colorful career, and not just on the Silver Screen!

He wasn’t always known as Harold “Oddjob” Sakata, his given name being Toshiyuki Sakata. Born in Holualoa, Hawaii in 1920, Harold was raised in a large family – six brothers and four sisters! Believe it of not, as a teen he was a scrawny 113 pounds, until he took up weightlifting at age 18. Harold bulked right up, and after a stint in the Army during WWII, he became a top powerlifter, so good he made the U.S Weightlifting team at the 1948 Summer Olympic Games in London, where he won the…

View original post 803 more words

Book Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming


(SPOILERS)

In 1959, Ian Fleming introduced a character who would go on to become the quintessential James Bond villain.  His name? Auric Goldfinger.

When I reread Goldfinger, Fleming’s seventh Bond novel, I was surprised to discover just how faithful the 1964 film adaptation really was.  True, there were a few differences.  While Jill Masterson was still killed via gold paint, it happened off-stage in the book and long after Bond had already left Miami.  Meanwhile, Jill’s sister, Tilly, survived far longer in the book than she did in the movie.  Pussy Galore, on the other hand, doesn’t appear until the very last few chapters of the book.  There’s no scene with Bond being threatened by a laser.  Goldfinger never laughs and says, “I expect you to die.”

And yet, while reading Fleming’s novel, it was impossible for me not to visualize Gert Frobe and Harold Sakata as Goldfinger and Oddjob.  Outside of the actors who have played Bond, the casting of Frobe and Sakata in the film version of Goldfinger may have been the two best casting decisions in the history of the Bond franchise.  And while that giant laser never made an appearance, Oddjob’s killer hat was present in the novel and loving described by Fleming.

Goldfinger’s lunatic plot to rob Fort Knox is present in both the novel and the book, though it’s somehow even more implausible in the book than in the movie.  What’s interesting is that, from the minute Bond hears about Goldfinger’s plot, Bond continually says that it’s a crazy plan that can’t possibly succeed.  Fleming never makes much of an effort to convince us that Bond could possibly be wrong about Goldfinger’s plan, either.  For once, the threat isn’t that the villain will succeed.  The threat is that Goldfinger will cause even more damage while failing.  Bond’s mission is less to thwart Goldfinger than to contain him.

With a personality that is somewhat reminiscent of Moonraker‘s Hugo Drax, Goldfinger is one of Fleming’s best bad guys.  Though there’s nothing subtle about Goldfinger, his flamboyant and cocky villainy serves as a nice contrast to James Bond’s more serious-minded personality.  Like many Bond villains, Goldfinger is so defined by his single obsession (in this case, with gold) that he doesn’t show any interest in any of the activities — drinking, smoking, having sex — that tend to define Bond as a character.  That’s one of the reoccurring themes to found in Fleming’s work.  Men who do not indulge in “gentlemanly vices” are almost always evil.

It’s a good and entertaining book, marred only by some foolishness towards the end in which Bond is upset to realize that 1) Tilly Masterson is a lesbian and 2) she’s more attracted to Pussy Galore than to him.  In fact, during Goldfinger’s assault on Fort Knox, Tilly ignores Bond’s orders and goes looking for Pussy instead.  (I know, I know.  Stop it.)  Tilly is promptly killed by Oddjob and Bond mournfully considers that she would still be alive if only she had been attracted to men instead of women.

(As I mentioned in my review of Live and Let Die, Fleming may have been a “man of the world” but he was also a product of his time and all the prejudices that went along with it.)

Fleming would follow Goldfinger with a collection of short stories.  The next James Bond novel, Thunderball, would not appear until 1961.  We’ll take a look at it tomorrow.

My Favorite Spy: Sean Connery as James Bond in GOLDFINGER (United Artists 1964)


cracked rear viewer

For my money, GOLDFINGER is the ultimate James Bond movie, serving as the blueprint for spy sagas to come. The action begins right off the rip as a scuba diving 007 infiltrates an oil refinery in an unnamed Latin American country, plants some plastique explosives, and changes into a tux as the whole shebang blows, then attends to some “unfinished business” with a beautiful Latina who sets him up to be killed by a bad guy, electrocuting his foe in a tub and wittily remarking “shocking, positively shocking” – all before the opening credits roll and Shirley Bassey belts out the immortal title tune by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse!

Our Man Bond is then off to Miami to meet with his CIA pal Felix Leiter. He’s put on the trail of one Auric Goldfinger, a legit gold bullion dealer suspected of illegal activities. The avaricious Goldfinger isn’t above running…

View original post 607 more words

6 James Bond Films That Should Have Been Nominated For Best Picture


James Bond and Jaws

Other than a few song nominations (and wins) and the occasional technical mentions, the Academy has tended to snub the James Bond franchise.

However, I love the Bond films so here are 6 times that I think 007’s latest adventure should have been nominated for best picture!

From Russia With Love

  1. From Russia With Love (1963)

I not only think that From Russia With Love should have been nominated for best picture, I also think that it should have won.  This film featured Sean Connery at his best and it’s one of the few Bond films to work not only as an adventure but as a romance as well.

Skyfall

2. Skyfall (2012)

I’m not a huge fan of Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character.  If Connery was Killer Bond and Roger Moore was Charming Bond, Craig often seems to be Whiny Bond.  That said, Skyfall was not only one of the best Bond films but one of the best films of 2012 as well.

The Spy Who Loved Me

3. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Nobody does it better!  Not only was this Roger Moore’s best Bond film but it’s a wonderful piece of pop art.

on_her_majestys_secret_service1

4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

This is one of the most underrated of all of the Bond films.  Ignore all the gossip over how George Lazenby came to play James Bond and you’ll discover that it is a Skyfall for the 60s.

goldfinger-movie-poster-1964-1010189635

5. Goldfinger (1964)

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”  Goldfinger is over the top perfection.

LiveandLetDie

6. Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die will probably never be acclaimed as the other Bond films but I don’t care.  I love it.  It’s the closest the Bond franchise ever came to achieving the anything-goes insanity of a classic grindhouse film.

Will a James Bond film ever receive a best picture nomination?  Normally, I’d say no.  But Mad Max: Fury Road changed the rules (for the better).  Given the right Bond, the right director, the right story, and the right year, who knows what could happen?

 

 

Song of the Day: Skyfall (by Adele)


AdeleSkyfall

Today we see the release of Skyfall on Blu-Ray and DVD. This latest James Bond film surprised quite a bit of people who weren’t sure the franchise would be able to recover from the missed opportunity that was Quantum of Solace. So, it came out of left field that this follow-up ended up being one of the best films of 2012. From the acting, direction and writing the film was top-notch. One other thing which truly stood out about this film was it’s theme song.

“Skyfall” by Adele wasn’t just one of the best film songs of 2012, but most like going to turn out to be in the top 5 of best James Bond theme songs when all has been said and done. This is why to commemorate the release of the film on video I’ve chosen the Adele sung theme song of the same name to be the latest “Song of the Day”.

The song harkens back to the true James Bond classic theme songs by Shirley Bassey like “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds are Forever” right up to my personal favorite, Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”. Maybe it was destiny that Adele would end up doing a James Bond theme song. Her soulful vocal range just shouts early James Bond and her “Skyfall” easily holds it’s own against the classic Bond themes of the 60’s and early 70’s.

The song itself has a very simple melody that incorporates the iconic 007 theme. Almost sung like a mournful ballad that hints at the danger and death awaiting the intrepid 007 and those around him, the song spends much of it’s running time with Adele singing in a very subdued fashion until we hit the final third of the track when she finally lets her inner diva shine….and shine she does.

Skyfall

This is the end
Hold your breath and count to ten
Feel the Earth move and then
Hear my heart burst again

For this is the end
I’ve drowned and dreamt this moment
So overdue I owe them
Swept away I’m stolen

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together
At skyfall
At skyfall

Skyfall is where we start
A thousand miles and poles apart
Where worlds collide and days are dark
You may have my number
You can take my name
But you’ll never have my heart

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together
At skyfall

Where you go I go
What you see I see
I know I’d never be me
Without the security

Of your loving arms
Keeping me from harm
Put your hand in my hand
And we’ll stand

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together
At skyfall

Let the sky fall
We will stand tall
At skyfall

James Bond Review – Goldfinger (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


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.