- Year: 1964
- Director: Guy Hamilton
- Series Rank: #3
- Year Rank: #10 (1964)
- Oscar Nominations: Sound Editing
- Nighthawk Nominations: Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
- Bond Girl: Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Shirley Eaton (Jill Masterson), Tania Mallett (Tilly Masterson)
- Bond Villain: Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger), Harold Sakata (Oddjob)
- Bond Support: Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Cec Linder (Felix Leiter)
If you love the movie Bond, the one with a quick quip, a good gadget and a fun time to be had on-screen, then this is the ultimate Bond film. It has what every Bond film needs to have: a beautiful girl who can actually fight back, a great villain who gets the best Bond villain line ever (“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”), the best villain henchman, a good pre-credits sequence (complete with tuxedo under a wetsuit), a tragic death (more than one), an exciting car chase, a great fight against the henchman to end it all and one of the best grand villain plots. This is the Bond film that, in a sense, all the later Bond films spring from (at least until Daniel Craig). It also had some of those types of scenes that made Veronica just go “Wait a minute, this is ridiculous.” That’s because what she was complaining about was ridiculous and it was all part of the fun. There’s a reason I count these films as Comedies in my Nighthawk Awards.
Let’s start with the plot. The plot in this one takes a while to really unfold. At first, all we know is that Bond has been given an assignment to go after Auric Goldfinger, a man suspected of smuggling large amounts of gold out of Britain. They want to know how he’s doing it and what his ultimate plan is. This will end up involving Bond scoring with Goldfinger’s assistant (who will then end up dead, covered in gold paint), doing a better job of cheating than him at a game of golf (at the conclusion of which, Goldfinger demonstrates to Bond with that picture on the left how deadly his manservant is), chasing him in Switzerland (complete with two car chases) and finally, going to the States where he discovers a plan to take on Fort Knox (I’ll leave out the details – they’re well-developed by the film to overcome a plot hole in the book).
The plot is fun in and of itself, partially because there are some false leads (a woman you think is trying to kill Bond is really trying to kill Goldfinger – Veronica commented on how she’s a lousy shot over ten minutes before Bond tells her the same thing), partially because it takes both us and Bond a while to find out the plan, and partially because the plan is so audacious in the first place. In the middle of it all Bond is actually captured more than once and is threatened with a rather horrible death, leading to the scene on the right and the aforementioned great villain line.
But all of this is just a good time at the movies. There are some very good fight scenes, two very good car chases, one that ends with a good Bond gadget (apparently the Aston was originally only going to have a smokescreen and then various people involved in the production kept coming up with new ideas) and one that ends with Bond outsmarting himself. Bond is scoring with one girl, but we get a hint of the book Bond when we see an assassin’s reflection in her contact lens and he turns her so that she takes the blow instead (“Cold,” Veronica said. “That’s what Bond is like in the books,” I replied). A second girl he turns away from Goldfinger but she ends up dead, covered in gold paint (not really a way you can die). A third girl he tries to protect but she’s killed by Oddjob’s deadly bowler (“It cut the head off a statue but just breaks her neck?” Veronica asked). Then there’s the final Bond girl.
Calling Pussy Galore a girl isn’t really accurate. She is all woman. For one thing, she’s played by Honor Blackman, one of only two Bond women to be older than the actor playing Bond and the only one to be more than a year older (she’s five years older than Connery). For another thing, she can take him down, knocking him down more than once (Blackman actually did know judo and they worked that in just for her). Yes, her name is completely outlandish (and parodied rather appropriately in Austin Powers, as is Oddjob), but she’s a pilot, she’s a leader and she can kick ass.
Now maybe I should deal with some of the ridiculous stuff. No fewer than four different things seen in this film have been tackled by Mythbusters. People don’t die when covered with paint. Tuxedos won’t look good under a wetsuit (although Veronica’s main objection was how good the carnation looked). You don’t get sucked out of a plane quite like that. Car ejector seats wouldn’t work very well (although this will come back in the most humorous moment of Skyfall).
But none of that is the point. This film is ridiculous without being silly, something the later films will struggle with and the point is to sit back and relax and enjoy it. The producers certainly did. The first two films had been successful enough that this film was given a budget the size of the first two films combined. Audiences reacted well – this was one of the biggest films of 1964, making over $50 million (over $500 million when accounting for inflation – one of the top 50 films of all-time). So they would keep this formula – nice, fun pre-credits sequence (usually ending with a girl), finding out who the villain is, having some chases, getting caught, tension with the eventual Bond girl, catching the villain, with some great gadgets and some banter with Moneypenny and Q throw in for good measure. They would never again have the level of artistic success with this formula that they did on Goldfinger, but it would lead to a few decades of good times at the movies ahead.