This is the big one, the most beloved of the James Bond movies, the one that is universally referenced as the quintessence of James Bond. This one has a lot to live up to. On the other hand I watched it as a teenage, and thought it was just completely boring, so I don’t know what to expect, going in.
The film starts with a famous cold open wherein Bond sneaks into a compound by snorkeling in, then removing his wet suit to reveal a tuxedo. What always seems left out in the many cultural references to this scene, is the part where Bond has a fake duck strapped to his head as he surfaces.
Tuxedoed and de-ducked, Bond sets some explosives to a timer before entering a cabaret. As the explosives go off, he makes small talk with his contact, unfazed by the destruction on the outside. He is cool as can be.
He then returns to his hotel for some “unfinished business.” There is a beautiful woman waiting for him. They embrace and she asks him about his holstered gun. He comments that he wears it due to his inferiority complex. Before they can explore this psychoanalysis in more depth, an attacker that the woman has let in comes at Bond. He uses the lady as a human shield, then kills the dude. He makes a dumb quip as he exits.
Aside from the duck, it is a great opening.
Okay, let’s talk about the credits. These movies all have very stylized opening credits featuring faceless undulating women and guns. This was pretty dull in the last two films, but in Goldfinger, the design is quite striking. The women-as-set-dressing are gold against black with footage of the film projected onto their bodies. It is weird but striking, paired with an absolutely amazing theme song. The titular “Goldfinger”, composed by John Barry and performed by Shirley Bassey is a bold, vaguely menacing, sexyish, very weird song, perfect for a James Bond film.
After the credits, Bond is chillin’ in Miami Beach with a girl named Dink when he is met by Felix Leiter, a minor character from the first film who is now played by a totally different actor. Bond dismisses Dink with a slap of her ass because there is “man talk” to be had. Bond is a creep.
During the man talk they reminisce about that time they investigated Dr. No before Leiter gets down to business. Leiter tells Bond that M back in London wants Bond to Investigate a man named Auric Goldfinger, a rich guy who is currently at Bond’s hotel, hustling gin rummy, poolside. I think this is a coincidence?
Rather than merely investigating, Bond gets proactive and fucks with Goldfinger’s con. Bond effortlessly seduces Goldfinger’s accomplice, Jill Masterson away from Goldfinger and via radio blackmails the hustler into throwing his rummy game. Goldfinger complies, but he breaks his scorekeeping pencil in outrage!
Later, Bond and Jill banter and diss the Beatles. “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” In the midst of this, Bond is suckerchopped by a shadowy brute with a bowler hat.
When he wakes, he discovers that Jill has been murdered by being painted gold. A death that is horrific as it is weird as it is nonsensical.
Returning to the office with a signature hat toss, Bond and Moneypenny flirt and unlike the previous two films, it seems a little unbalanced, as if Moneypenny is chasing Bond. Before it had seemed like banter between equals. Lame.
After the Moneypenny stuff, M briefs Bond. MI6 has tasked Bond with investigating Goldfinger because… er, he has a lot of gold bullion? It’s a dull, exposition-laden scene, but not much is actually made clear about what makes this guy worthy of an investigation. I’m left very confused about how gold trading actually works.
Having seen Moneypenny and M, Bond now visits Q, no longer just a guy handing Bond a Briefcase, but now the head of big fun R&D gadget center, full of cute visual gags. Bond is begrudgingly given an Aston Martin that is as tricked out as it is iconic. As Q shows bond the car’s features, along with some other gadgets, he bitches about how Bond always breaks his equipment. All in all, it has been quite the evolution from a less-womanly in Dr. No to ejector seats a mere two films later.
Now that he is flirted, briefed and equipped, Bond is ready to begin his investigation. To start with,, Bond arranges to have a chance meeting with Goldfinger on a golf course. Goldfinger’s caddy is named Oddjob, a mute Korean brute wearing a bowler hat.
Bond tries to lure Goldfinger into some sort of gold deal but when Goldfinger starts cheating at golf, the espionage stuff takes a backseat as Bond has to outcheat the cheater. The film spends several minutes on these golfing antics. First rummy, now golf. It is all so weirdly petty and low stakes.
As Bond and Goldfinger settle their bets, Goldfinger menaces Bond by having Oddjob decapitate a statue with a flung hat. It’s a perplexing gimmick. Was this as goofy to 60′s audiences as it seems today? Was it scary? Oddjob is right on the knife’s edge, balanced between cool and stupid.
After golf, Bond tails Goldfinger for a dull stretch, but eventually we get to have one of my favorite kinds of scenes. Were we see a character spying on another character, only to zoom back to reveal a third party watching the watchers. The third party in this case is Tilly Masterson, sister of Jill, the painted girl.
Bond and Tilly team up and they get swept up in a decent chase, letting Bond show off all his car’s new tricks. The scene is ultimately disappointing however, as all the tricks avail to nothing. Bond still gets caught and Tilly gets hatted to death.
When Bond comes to, he is in a gorgeous Ken Adam set, tied to a table with a laser pointed at him. This is 1964, so lasers were cutting edge and exotic. Everyone knows this scene, right?
“Do you expect me to talk?”
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” Gert Frobe, the guy who plays Goldfinger gives a great line reading. There’s a reason it is famous.
But immediately after that great moment, it all falls apart. Bond talks Goldfinger out of killing him using the thinnest of all possible bluffs.
Bond has overheard the phrase “Operation Grand Slam” used by Goldfinger. He tells Goldfinger that he knows all about Grand Slam, without giving any evidence that this is true. He further tells Goldfinger that if he were to die, another agent, 008 would be assigned to take over the investigation and that furthermore, 008 knows all about Grand Slam. This is dumb. His argument wouldn’t make sense even if it was factually accurate. Nonetheless, instead of killing Bond or interrogating him, Goldfinger decides to keep him prisoner and knocks him unconscious.
Bond wakes up in a plane. He is now in the custody of a woman pilot named Pussy Galore, a name so childishly dumb, even Bond smirks when he hears it.
Galore rebuffs Bond’s attempts at charm, something no woman has ever done before in these films. She rightfully gets angry at his suggestion that she was hired for her looks. Galore is the captain of Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, a company of lady pilots. Bond, who is used to solving all of his problems by sleeping with beautiful women, keeps trying to find an in with Galore, but she is confident and under no illusions about the company that she keeps. She is cooler than Bond and she’s a hell of a lot more likeable than him. I want to watch a spy movie starring her.
When they land, Goldfinger takes Bond to his compound in Kentucky, where he will be kept prisoner, nevermind why. Bond is thrown in a dungeon, and then Goldfinger assembles a large conference of gangsters into a giant transforming supervillain lair. Goldfinger explains to these criminals his plan to rob Ft. Knox.
Meanwhile, Bond escapes from his cell by winning a game of peekaboo. He hides underneath Goldfinger’s scale model of Fort Knox and eavesdrops on the plan before immediately being recaptured by Galore.
After Goldfinger explains his master plan, he gasses all the mobsters to death. In his giant super complex room created for the sole purpose of illustrating the details of a plan to people who don’t need to know them because they will be murdered. Also, the plan was a lie. No part of that sequence actually makes any sense at all.
Before being tossed back in a cell, Bond slips a message to Leiter and also a tracker into the pocket of the one gangster not being murdered in the murder room. He doesn’t want in on Goldfinger’s phony plan, so he’s taking his gold and going home. This threatens to actually forward the story, but instead Oddjob smashes uses a car crusher to crush the car that contains the note, the tracker, the gangster, and a million dollars worth of gold.
Now that all that murder is out of the way, Goldfinger and Bond have a chat over mint juleps while Bond works out Goldfinger’s real plan, which is to use an atom bomb to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox, thus skyrocketing the value of his own gold. Bond seems pretty impressed by Goldfinger’s ingenuity.
Shortly afterward, Bond forcibly rapes Pussy Galore.
Really, he does. Bond is used to every woman he meets wanting to sleep with him. He meets one that doesn’t, and so he forces himself upon her first chance he gets. It is abhorrent, but the film plays it as if it is sexy.
The next day Goldfinger executes his plan. The Flying Circus gasses all the stationed troops around Knox and Goldfinger’s men break in. Goldfinger brings Bond along for some vague framejob reason. They open the vault, handcuff Bond to the bomb, and set the timer. It is at this point that all the gassed troops reveal that they had only been playing possum because they had been tipped off by Galore, who has switched sides after succumbing to the power of Bond’s sexing.
There is a big gun battle that Bond misses, because he is handcuffed to a bomb.
Bond gets free, ducks a bowler hat and hurls a gold bar at Oddjob’s chest. Smiling, dude just shrugs it off, judo chops an iron bar in half, tosses Bond around, but is tricked into being fatally electrocuted. Bond makes a dumb joke to nobody.
After killing Oddjob, Bond does not disable the bomb, but he does open the bomb casing, allowing an actual expert to disarm it.
Bond gets on a plane to visit the White House, only to discover that Goldfinger is on board, along with Galore. Goldfinger dies in the ensuing scuffle, the plane crashes, and Bond and Galore parachute to safety, where they fuck in the woods, this time apparently consensually. The end.
I can’t believe I just watched what I watched. This is a movie that is resolved by having the hero rape a villain so that she becomes a good guy so that she tips off other good guys who save the day. If this is supposed to be the best of the James Bond movies, what the hell will future installments have to offer?