Goldfinger (United Kingdom, 1964)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Goldfinger Poster

With 1964's Goldfinger, the third James Bond story to reach the screen, the "Bond formula" had reached maturity. Screenwriter Richard Maibaum, a participant in the scripting of the previous two movies, Dr. No and From Russia with Love, had identified those elements of the series that audiences liked. So, for this film, his storyline (adapted loosely from Ian Fleming's 1959 novel) enhanced the action sequences, added more beautiful women, gave 007 an Aston Martin loaded with neat gadgets, and offered actor Sean Connery more opportunities to deliver one-liners and act suave.

One of the last Bond films to clock in at under two hours, Goldfinger is tightly-paced and economical in its usage of extraneous material. The character development of From Russia with Love is replaced by a greater attention to action. There are several memorable fight sequences (including a climactic struggle between 007 and Goldfinger's nasty henchman, Oddjob) and a lengthy car chase that has Bond's Aston Martin trailing smoke screens and oil slicks, firing built-in guns, and ejecting the passenger seat. The level of excitement in Goldfinger is up a notch from its predecessors.

When the British Secret Service decides that they want supposedly-legitimate bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger under observation, agent 007 is chosen for the job. After Bond finds a naked, dead woman on his bed, covered head-to-toe with gold paint, the investigation takes on a new urgency. It seems that Goldfinger is planning something big -- "Operation Grand Slam" -- and anyone who interferes is targeted for elimination, including, of course, Bond. But, when Goldfinger captures the British agent in Switzerland, he decides to keep him as a hostage rather than kill him. So Bond accompanies the criminal and his entourage to Kentucky, where Goldfinger plans to engineer the greatest crime in history: knock over Fort Knox.

Sean Connery, back for the third time in the role that made him famous, plays the lead character with the same easy elegance and wit he displayed in From Russia with Love. 007 can be a man of action or a man of style, and Connery is equally at home as either. In Goldfinger, Bond gets one of his better opponents. The title character (played by Gert Frobe) isn't the most sinister or vicious villain to stand against 007, but he is intelligent, ingenious, and obsessed with gold. Frobe's performance is top- notch for this kind of role. He treads the line between subtlety and overacting, showing different aspects of Goldfinger's shifting personality -- cruelty, greed, playfulness, and a single-minded determination.

In Bond films, the henchman typically provides a more colorful adversary than his leader, and Goldfinger's mute Korean manservant, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), started this trend. Second only to Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker) in near-invincibility, Oddjob is the kind of murder-loving ruffian that Bond can't beat in a fair fight. With his death-dealing, frisbee-like bowler and his immense strength, Oddjob proves a worthy foe for the superspy.

In addition to being one of the most unforgettable of the "Bond Girls", Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore is one of the toughest and most self-sufficient women to cross 007's path. In her own words, she's immune to his charm, and, while this doesn't prevent her from sharing an intimate moment or two with him, she never yields her independence. Pussy has better things to do than follow Bond around like a faithful lap dog.

Goldfinger is studded with moments that have since become deeply embedded in the Bond mythos. John Barry's opening song (sung by Shirley Bassey) is among the series' best. Snippets of dialogue have attained an almost-legendary status, such as the exchange when Goldfinger is about to emasculate 007 with a laser. "Do you expect me to talk?" asks Bond. The response is succinct: "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"

In the midst of Bond's "golden era" of the '60s, it's hard to single out one film as the best, but history has shown Goldfinger to be among the series' most enduring entries. Although more gimmicky than From Russia with Love, this film is equally as entertaining. And, of course, it takes the Bond films in a slightly different direction, blazing a trail that they have been following ever since, all the way from Goldfinger to Goldeneye.

Goldfinger (United Kingdom, 1964)

Run Time: 1:52
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Violence, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1