Why Goldfinger Is Still The Ultimate Bond Film

As Connery’s third outing as 007 celebrates its 50th anniversary, we look back at what made it so great, from Pussy Galore to that Aston Martin DB5

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We could argue about which Bond film is the best all day long. Is it the false eyebrows and volcano lair of You Only Live Twice? Or is it George Lazenby’s tougher, damaged Bond in the underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Even the Sam Mendes directed, highly-stylised Skyfall?

Whatever your preference, we would argue that 1964’s Goldfinger – the third entry in a series and the Bond film today celebrating its 50th anniversary – has to be the definitive Bond film.

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“007, it spells ‘Bond’”

Everything that we’ve come to consider a ‘James Bond trope’ can trace its origins back to this Terence Young directed classic. There’s more humour than its predecessors Dr No and From Russia With Love, the gadgets are sillier, Bond is given the best car he’s ever driven (The Aston Martin DB5, complete with ejector seat), the role of the super-henchman comes into its own and the whole thing is soundtracked by a bombastic and invigorating theme song, courtesy of Dame Shirley Bassey on the best form of her Bond career (we’ll give you Diamonds Are Forever, at a push).

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Goldfinger stakes its claim as a Bond to remember straight from the pre-title scene in which Bond snorkels into a military base to set a bomb, before stepping next door to the adjoining party just in time for the explosion. The touches of humour that came into their own in the Roger Moore era films are all present in these first few minutes: the stuffed duck attached to Bond’s wetsuit, the flawless white dinner jacket he reveals beneath, and the cheesy but excellent line “shocking”, delivered after an adversary is electrocuted in a bath.

The humour continues with the introduction of femme fatale, Pussy Galore, allowing Bond his famous line, “I must be dreaming”. Even more legendary than Honor Blackman’s leader of the Flying Circus is the image of Goldfinger’s flunky Jill Masterson, sprawled across a hotel bed, covered in gold paint and apparently dead of ‘skin asphyxiation’. The scene – which remains one of the most recognisable images in cinema – even provided pierce Brosnan’s first glimpse of a near-naked woman.

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The villains are equally memorable. As Auric Goldfinger, Gert Fröbe portrayed the first Bond antagonist not to be affiliated with international terrorist ring SPECTRE. Instead, he’s an independent and unhinged gold-trader, intent on radiating the contents of Fort Knox to drive up the value of his own cache of the precious metal. The method by which he attempts to pull this off – employing a group of beautiful female pilots to fly over the fort and gas the guards – is elaborate and ridiculous, just as a good Bond plot should be.

The genius of the laser beam scene – other than perhaps the most quotes Bond lines of all time, “Do you expect me to talk?” “No Mr Bond. I expect you to die!” – is in part accomplished due to Connery’s very real fear of receiving an impromptu laser vasectomy from special effects man Albert J. Luxford, who was crouched beneath the table, cutting through with an acetylene torch. Unable to see how close he was, Luxford ended up shutting down the torch less than three inches from Connery’s crotch.

Of course, Goldfinger wouldn’t have been able to get Bond under the laser in the first place without the assistance of OddJob. Able to crush a golf ball in his hand, withstand getting hit in the stomach with a bar of gold and decapitate a stone statue with his bowler hat, OddJob is the epitome of the silently-menacing Bond henchman and set a standard the later films only achieved with the late Richard Kiel’s portrayal of Jaws, and even imitated by the character of Nick Nack in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Even our introduction to the original ‘super-henchman’ is notable, taking place as it does during a twenty minute round of golf. It’s a scene that would never have been filmed today – imagine Tom Cruise pausing for 18 holes in the next Mission: Impossible – but Goldfinger manages to pull it off, setting the precedent for those tense first meetings between Bond and the film’s antagonist, often set against a sporting wager of some sort.

With Daniel Craig’s fourth and series’ 24th film (or 25th depending on whether you include Sean Connery’s comeback Never Say Never Again) entering production, it’s certain that James Bond will return, but whatever comes next, he’ll never be able to live up to the masterful highpoint of his 50-year-old third outing.


Agree?


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