Sunday, March 3, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #3: Goldfinger

Now THIS is more like it. Following the success of Dr. No and From Russia with Love, Broccoli and Saltzman were quick to get the third James Bond feature out, and boy was it gonna be a special one. It feels like they finally started examining what worked for their previous two features, and what they needed to improve on. The result of their hard work was Goldfinger, the third movie featuring Sean Connery as Bond, and the first directed by Guy Hamilton. Often considered by many to be the best Bond movie ever made, Goldfinger gave us more of the iconic Bond staples we loved, and upped the bar for themselves big time. If you’re going to make a breezy, light, funny and thrilling action movie, this is the standard you need to hold yourself up to.

Finally moving on from the SPECTRE storyline, Bond is given a mission to find out the plans of criminal mastermind Auric Goldfinger, a man who is, true to his name, obsessed with gold, as an eerie murder by way of gold paint suffocating the skin early in the film shows. Later on, Bond discovers that Goldfinger plans a hostile attack against Fort Knox, which will raise his own financial status. Along the way, Bond will gain some new gadgets, fight killer henchmen with super sharp hats, and come across the now famously named Pussy Galore.

The thing that I love most about this movie is how it raised the bar for action and suspense for the series. Without ever getting too overblown, Goldfinger hits with almost non-stop excitement. When there aren’t any car chases or shoot outs going on, there are some very tense conversations, and plenty of nail biting anticipation. Alongside that, there’s quite a good deal of character. Again, the characters aren’t particularly deep, but they’re still all so entertaining in their own unique ways. The film knows just when to focus on character interactions, and when to focus on the action scenes. The pacing to this movie is perfect, and the whole thing just flies by.

A couple reasons of why Goldfinger is such an iconic film are the aforementioned Bond staples. This was the first film to have Bond’s signature “Shaken. Not stirred.” line, and the first to introduce his fancy gadgets, none more famous than his sleek Aston Martin, my dream car, by the way.

But, probably the most famous staple was the introduction of the main title sequence song. The title theme “Goldfinger” was written for the film by John Barry, and was performed by Shirley Bassey, and this song stands tall in the library of Bond music. The theme is so jazzy, so memorable, and Bassey just sings her heart out with it. Music to my ears, literally…

And then we’ve got to address one other thing, the villain. I said before in my reviews of Dr. No and From Russia with Love that I found the villains in those movies to be pretty weak and even unmemorable. Here, I have the complete opposite reaction. I don’t know what Gert Frobe did, but he was just fantastic as the title character. I guess what made a difference for me was his energy. The other villains just seemed so lifeless to me, and never made an impact. Goldfinger is such a delightful baddie, and there’s such a passion to the role that it’s impossible not to admire it. I love how sinister this character is, how intelligent he is, how malicious he is. This is the classic example of what a great, campy villain should be like, and of course he works wonders against Connery, who is just as charismatic as always.

This is where I feel the series finally tapped into the full potential of what it could be. It knows exactly when to pull back, and when to let loose, it has great and memorable characters, it has some surprisingly good comedy, and it’s just a really fun movie. For many a James Bond fan, it’s simply impossible to top, and could only excite us for what was to come later.

***** / *****

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