Review: 'Goldfinger' (1964) Dir. Guy Hamilton
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Third time's a charm for EON as James Bond truly became a world-wide, cinematic phenomena and set the bar high for his own future adventures...
When MI6 agent James Bond (Connery) is assigned to observe gold bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger (Fröbe) in Miami, he does so the only way he knows how – by intimidation. Goldfinger doesn’t let betrayal go unpunished and carries out a gruesome execution on Jill Masteron (Eaton), his assistant who Bond seduces.
Bond is sent to discover how Goldfinger conducts his smuggling operation in Switzerland. After over-hearing a discussion about “Operation Grand Slam”, Bond is captured by Goldfinger’s burly henchman Oddjob (Sakata) and held prisoner.
007 learns of Goldfinger’s plan to break into Fort Knox, detonate an atomic bomb and contaminate the gold, allowing his Chinese partners to dominate Western economy. With the help of Pussy Galore (Blackman), a tough and resourceful pilot, Bond must stop Goldfinger before it is too late…
The third big-screen outing for EON’s James Bond was the one that set the standard for future films in terms of style, iconography and overall fun and excitement, helping sweep general 007 hysteria around the world for film-fans and lovers of the books alike. While ‘Dr.No’ helped introduce the world to the British spy, and ‘From Russia With Love’ enforced the espionage adventures, ‘Goldfinger’ was the one that would feature nearly all iconic elements to continue a near-perfect genre of its own for over 50 years and 22 future films.
The story manages to retain the root of what Bond is – a spy, involved in espionage and plots that threaten global economic, political and security stability. So in securing economic stability in the smuggling investigation and contamination of Fort Knox, this ticks the boxes for a gripping thriller that continues to take us around the globe in bright, vivid locations that many audiences in 1964 would never to get to see in person.
The film manages to keep itself in reality but offers enough fantastical escapism to thrill men, women and children with danger, humour, imaginative gadgetry and show-stopping action.
'Goldfinger' was a huge gamble. It was adding far more depth to the James Bond universe, and adding much more flamboyance and escapism in terms of the action, gadgets and larger-than-life villains. But it paid off by becoming something immortal from the minute all the elements appeared on screen, staying in audience’s subconscious minds as something they had never seen before and still does today.
In 1964, who had ever seen a gorgeous girl painted head to toe in gold paint splayed naked across a bed? Who had seen the inner workings and exciting weaponry of an Aston Martin DB5? Who had been whisked from Europe to America with beautiful girls, evil villains and secret gadgets to save you from death as you battle the baddies?
No-one, and these elements were suddenly unique to James Bond – beautiful girls who weren’t afraid to be exploited for their alluring sexuality, evil villains with dastardly plots and scary henchmen, lots of action and daring stunts, chases and fights and an over-all sense of escapism that allows everyone to want to be Bond, be bedded by Bond or grow up to be like Bond. James Bond was the sudden meaning of “action hero” and “cool”.
It’s cultural, it’s relevant and it’s totally 60s without being obvious. The subject of many film analysis and debate, we have the gratuitous slapping of woman like they are fresh meat, the did he / didn’t he force himself on her scene and the way race and sex is used to depict characters. Obviously, not something you think about when watching, but being the first big movie to push boundaries, it was clear this would be up for scrutiny.
Sean Connery is clearly in his element here as 007; both charming and cold-blooded who never falters - he shows no fear, remains cool in the face of danger and knows everything about how to look good, drive good, live good and talk the talk. With stellar support from the tough-talking Honor Blackman as one of the more stronger and memorable Bond girls who manages to be more than just eye candy and Gert Fröbe and Harold Sakata as one of the most memorable Bond villain duos in the series thanks to their iconic means of killing, this is a template of how to act and how to carry our character, good or evil.
Oddjob vs Bond in Fort Knox is a brilliant example of how EON delivers a great action sequence, especially pre-1995; the brutal, hand-to-hand confrontation that uses the surroundings, diegetic noise and tight camera angles to help deliver all the bone-thudding hits, kicks and falls without a distracting soundtrack or CGI enhancement.
While the film narrative itself is nothing exciting and average at best, it’s the elements used for the first time that capture your imagination and shows what the character and series is all about – a spy thriller wrapped up with action and adventure.
You don’t get villains who use nefarious means of killing like laser beams and bowler hats in any other films, or cars that have ejector seats and machine guns. Bookend this with a bombastic, brassy and bold opening and closing theme by the mighty Shirley Bassey, you are immediately transported into another world, a world that offers to take you into a world you will never experience but will throw you headlong into for a couple of hours.
It’s not hard to see why the winning formula used in 'Goldfinger' captured the imagination of audiences, and also started the 007 franchise snowballing to bigger and better things.
'Goldfinger' is an EON Productions production