PG because there was no PG-13 at the time. Like many of the James Bond movies, a lot of the objectionable behavior comes from James Bond's commitment to vice and violence. There's more women killed in horrible ways in this one. There's more near nudity, but plenty of sexuality and drinking. There's also the Connery era xenophobia about Asian people, in this case Korean people (to a almost forced plot justification). I'm going to talk about fridging women as well, so keep that in mind. Oh...and Bond confesses that he hates the Beatles, so keep that in mind. PG.
DIRECTOR: Guy Hamilton
It feels like the 007 movies have been the largest goal on my blog. I've had the 50th Anniversary box set forever. I started watching it before this blog was even conceived. When I finally knocked out Spectre, in preparation for No Way to Die, I realize that I hadn't written about any of the Connery Bonds with the exception of Diamonds are Forever. Well, that's going to no longer be a thing because I'm closing up on the Connery Bond films pretty quick. I think I only have Thunderball and You Only Live Twice left and then I'm done with writing about the Bond movies (until No Time to Die). You know, I get a thrill adding a giant list to the Collections Page, right? (NOTE: I'm horrified to realize that I rewatched Spectre, but never actually wrote about it?!?)
In my From Russia with Love entry, I talked about how Goldfinger never really caught my attention, despite the fact that it is the Bond movie that is possibly the most reference. I don't know why. In high school, we tried remaking this movie for my buddy's Brit Lit class. It came out terribly because we started filming it when it was already considered late. But our version has better memories than the actual film. I always thought that it was a little boring for a Bond movie. While other people have memories of James Bond strapped to a table with a laser beam threatening to fry his genitals, I always had the memory of James Bond sitting on a horse farm sipping mint juleps for a sizable portion of the movie. I mean, both those things happen, but I think that I'm more right than the laser folks. See, the lion's share of this movie is James Bond in captivity. I don't think I realized it, but I think of Goldfinger in summary as "James Bond all-of-the-sudden is bad at escaping."
James Bond comes off as a little incompetent in this movie and completely reckless. One of the throughlines of the Bond films is the fact that M expects perfection out of the Double-Os. Bond is always dressed down for being irresponsible and a bit too cavalier for things that are clearly out of his control. He rarely takes it personally because he understands the concept that it is M's role to criticize failure. But Bond rarely deserves that reputation...except in Goldfinger. Let's cut the pre-credit sequence out. There's no actual tie between the pre-credit sequence and the rest of the movie except for the justification that Bond can be at a resort for the beginning of the film for a reason. Bond starts his mission to observe Goldfinger by shaming him for fun. His role is to observe Goldfinger and see what he is up to, but instantly reveals himself by forcing Goldfinger to lose his card game badly. He then seduces Goldfinger's lovely accomplice, Jill Masterson of the soon-to-be-tragic Mastersons. Jill is the only person who could have dropped the ball when it came to Goldfinger losing his card game, so this seduction proves to be irresponsible. It makes her a target and Bond kind of should have realized that. While Goldfinger is the one that kills Jill Masterson, Bond's less than stealthy approach puts her in Goldfinger's sights.
This is where the concept of fridging comes in. M warns Bond that he has to handle this professionally in light of the death of Jill Masterson. He's meant to make contact with Auric Goldfinger with the allure of a Nazi gold bar. Okay. But Bond once again decides to shame Goldfinger. As much as Goldfinger cheats during golf, not dissimilar to gin, so does Bond. By claiming that Goldfinger accidentally shot a Schlesenger 7 instead of a Schlesenger 1, Goldfinger had to realize that wasn't true and it's just another case of humiliating the bad guy without regard for how that will have consequences. For a secret agent, Bond really goes out of his way to raise Goldfinger's ire towards him. It's really weird, because later he has to talk Goldfinger out of killing him just by saying "Operation: Grand Slam". It's actually against Goldfinger's character to offer Bond a reprieve, but the movie needs the hero of the franchise alive so whatever.
And then comes Tilly Masterson. How bad do you feel for this family? Tilly is a woman out for revenge on Auric Goldfinger. Bond mistakes her for being someone trying to kill him, because frankly he deserves it for putting a target on Jill. Tilly is untrained, but Bond isn't. When they are caught out in a shootout behind the Aston Martin DB5 --I believe the Aston Martin is actually the star of the film --Bond tells Tilly to abandon the cover of the bulletproof windshield of the DB5 and run for the woods. It is then that Oddjob shows up and kills her via millinery purchase. Now, one could argue that Bond was thinking that Tilly could escape regular goons with assault rifles, not Oddjob with a hat. Oddjob didn't show up right until that moment. But we are all aware that assault rifles are probably...more deadly than a sharp hat, right? A hat has one shot. I would even argue that Oddjob, despite showing off some pretty sweet tricks with that hat, isn't amazing at using it, as proven by the Fort Knox scene. He doesn't throw it from a distance to take out Bond, who is cuffed to an atomic device. He also misses Bond during that fight.
Because he tells Tilly to run for the woods, he's also partially responsible for her death. If she had stayed behind the bulletproof screen, they probably would have taken her captive like they took Bond captive. And then Bond fails to escape again once he is taken captive. Q puts in this once-in-a-lifetime perfect ejector seat. He uses this ejector seat. And then he still doesn't escape because he confuses a mirror for a car. Why is that mirror there? Why run into a brick wall? Why doesn't the machine gun take out the mirror? It's a lot going on there!
So Bond doesn't escape the laser, so much as he bluffs his way out of it. He escapes his cell once only to be recaptured by Pussy Galore (I can't even with that). He tries to get a message out via homing beacon, but that is crushed in a car. (Also, why didn't Oddjob take the gold out of the trunk before it was cubed? Why bother cube a car if you are just going to bring the evidence back to your estate? I will talk about this in a sec.) Bond is a passive spectator for the majority of this movie. If anything, Pussy Galore is the real hero of this story because she is the one put at the most risk in the film. She is the one who swaps out the nerve gas and organizes one of the most insane decoy plans in the history of the franchise. Bond just sits in a cell for the majority of the film or has fabulous Kentucky horseracing drinks while he figures out the plan that Goldfinger explains to him. (Also, isn't Goldfinger aware that Bond knows nothing when he reiterates the plan to him during the mint julep scene?)
There are two moments that get under my craw even more than these scenes. The first is the gangster scene and the second is Pussy Galore. Goldfinger brings all of America's gangsters to a meeting in his super swivel room. In that room, he's inviting them all to help him take out Fort Knox for the price of ten million dollars a person. One of the gangsters, an aptly named Mr. Solo, decides to back out of the deal and leave with his one million dollars. He's the guy who gets cubed in the car in the most bizarre way possible. When Goldfinger escorts him out, he slaughters the trapped gangsters using VX nerve gas. Why all of this theater? He explains the nuts and bolts of Operation: Grand Slam to these gangsters, only to murder them all? This is when Bond figures out the details of the project. We also know that MI6 knows nothing of Operation Grand Slam because Bond only discovers it when he's hiding under the model of Fort Knox. Why doesn't Goldfinger just murder him post mint julep? Why drive Mr. Solo somewhere to murder him and then extract the gold? There's so much in this moment that my head hurts.
Now, the elephant in the room, Pussy Galore. Pussy Galore in Ian Fleming's novel is homosexual. The movie kind of dances around that idea. It's there, but it's never formally stated. Now, cinema history probably places Pussy Galore as the apex Bond girl. She becomes a template for a specific subcategory of Bond girl, one that will be tossed around throughout the franchise for a while: the bad guy who may / or may not have a heart of gold. (Note: the next film, Thunderball, will immediately subvert this archetype.) But it kind of is gross that Galore's sexuality is so fragile that all it takes is a charismatic secret agent for her to change sides. The biggest thing is that Galore is possibly the most strong willed woman up to this point in the franchise. She's clear about her intentions and affiliations. She clearly has gone through a lot of steps of Operation: Grand Slam to realize that she's going to be labeled a traitor to America for her involvement in the destruction of Fort Knox. She's in the villain's inner circle. To have her 180 because of a literal roll in the hay with Bond, who forces himself on her, is super duper gross. I know, it's 1964. It's a different era. But it also says a lot about the character. If you squint, I suppose you could see Galore's motivation as being unaware that VX nerve gas is fatal and that she doesn't want to be responsible for genocide. But remember, she also is helping install a nuclear device on the base, so keep that in mind.
I mean, I don't hate this movie. I just really don't understand why it is quintessential Bond. Is the fact that it is set in America? Maybe it is because it is the first time we have the big army battle at the end of a Bond movie? Perhaps it's just a pretty movie to look at. But Goldfinger...is not a great film. I mean, I love me some James Bond, but Goldfinger might be one of the dumber films in the franchise. I know. This is all blasphemy. But it's my blasphemy, okay?
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.