' Goldfinger represents the peak of the series. It is the most perfectly realised of all the films with hardly a wrong step made throughout its length. It moves at a fast and furious pace, but the plot holds together logically enough ( more logically than the book ) and is a perfect blend of the real and the fantastic. '
James Bond in the Cinema- James Brosnan.
' Goldfinger, he's the man. The man with the Midas touch. ' So does the great Shirley Bassey open up this, the third of the Bond films. This Bond film has me in a real quandary because after Dr. No I thought that was my new favorite. Then From Russia With Love again reinforced itself on me as my favorite. But bugger me if Goldfinger didn't deliver a kick to my cinematic goolies shouting, ' No, I'm your favorite '. The last few weeks have certainly been instructive because these Bond films are my three absolute favorites. But they are more than that because they are unquestionably the three BEST of the franchise as well.
Goldfinger is a difficult Bond film to rate because it is generally regarded that From Russia with Love is THE best of all the Bond films. There is just so little to pick from between the two it almost impossible to be absolute certain. Somehow even though Goldfinger is considered the quintessential Bond film, From Russia With Love is, and will always be, the best. Not by much mind you!
The thing that must be taken into regard with Goldfinger is that it came off the unexpected success of Dr. No. Which only grew with that of From Russia With Love. This is seen in the simple fact that Goldfinger had the budget of both Dr. No and From Russia With Love combined!! It is a case of the next film benefiting from the last. If you have read my previous two reviews you will be aware that I have read all the Bond novel's recently. It has been an extraordinary experience to have read them and then watch the films. This is because it has made me view them in new and different ways. This even though I have watched the Bond films repeatedly I feel I'm watching them again for the very first time!!
The Goldfinger novel for me is one of Fleming's best. But in saying that it is at the lower end of his best. Written in 1959 it was the seventh Bond novel published. I found the novel somewhat jerky because certain parts had dated compared to others. Overall though the story you see in the film is that of the novel's. There are changes of course, mainly out of necessity to fit the medium of film. But I will detail those as they crop up. Again as I have stated in my last two Bond reviews the better Fleming novels made for the better films.
On release in 1964 Goldfinger was an instant success both critically and commercially. In fact the film recouped its $3 million budget in just two weeks!! This is a record for a film and is recorded as so in the Guinness book of Records! It went on to make a staggering $125 million on its first release and 1966 re-release on a double bill with Dr. No. Demand for the film was so high that one cinema in New York had to stay open for 24 hours a day to keep up. At one stage there were 485 individual screens showing the film across America alone.
It was so successful it became the first Bond film to be nominated for, and win, an Oscar ( Best Sound Effects ). There were other nominations for Grammy's and Baftas. The AFI has further honoured the film ranking it 90th for best film quote ( " A martini. Shaken not stirred " ). The title song Goldfinger the 53rd best. Auric Goldfinger as the 49th best villain. And the 71st most thrilling film. But even with all these acknowledgements From Russia With Love is still considered the best!! ( In an aside the film was actually banned in Israel because Gert Frobe, a German, had had connections to the Nazi Party. This ban was later lifted after a Jewish family publicly stated the Frobe family had protected them during the war and thanked them ).
One of cinemas most instantly recognisable and iconic images.
Goldfinger may be considered the second best Bond of them all, but it is the most quintessential. This is because the script became the template for all the Bond films to follow. This comes back to what I previously stated. By this time the franchise was highly, and unexpectedly successful. The ingredients and lessons learnt from the first two films really came to the fore in Goldfinger. For instance it was the first film in which Bond made heavier use of the to be famous gadgets. With this was the audience was first introduced into Q branch and see the gadgets developments ( Desmond Llewelyn was told to inject humour into the scene which started the friendly antagonism between Q and Bond ). Also the pre-credits scene had only a tangentially link to the main story. Up until Casino Royale the last major scene was a reckoning with the villain and his henchmen. For many films this mirrored the large shoot out of Goldfinger's.And of course there came a villain with a particular characteristic.
The film's success was to see an incredible 6 million Bond novels sold in the UK alone that year, ( with 964,00 of those being Goldfinger ). It cannot be overstated that Bond was now a phenomenon. It is said that it was the cause of a boom in espionage films as other studios tried to cash in on the craze. For instance in 1966 there were no less than 22 espionage type films released! Even sales of Aston Martin's increased thanks to the film! Corgi toys also began its decade long association with the franchise, with its Aston the biggest toy of 1964. The success of the film also saw a licensed tie in of clothes, action figures, board games etc ,etc, etc. This makes me laugh because when Pixar done the same thing with Cars the studio was universally savaged for it. Really what is the difference??
Goldfinger was the next novel to be adapted due to the on going court case surrounding the rights to Thunderball. With its $3 million budget it was considered to be the first Bond 'Blockbuster'. It was intentionally chosen with the American cinema market in mind. This was because the previous two films had been in the Caribbean and Europe respectively. Terence Young, who had directed the previous films, opted out of a third after a pay dispute. ( Pay disputes are a common theme with Bond films! Both Connery and Roger Moore had their fair share!! ). Instead Guy Hamilton was brought in for the first time after declining the opportunity with Dr. No. Hamilton had actually known Ian Fleming during the war as he to had worked in Naval Intelligence.
The change Hamilton brought to Bond was to make him appear less like a 'superman' by making the villains appear more powerful. Also returning was stunt coordinator Bob Simmons who choreographed the fight scene in the Fort Knox vault. It is now of course not only one of the great Bond fights, but one of cinema's greatest fight scenes. Actually Harold Sakata who played Oddjob was badly burned during the making of the scene. He was apparently electrocuted as he grabbed the stuck hat but held onto it until the director yelled ' cut'.
Like the previous films the cast is excellently chosen. I commented on this in regards to both Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya's inspired castings in From Russia With Love. Sean Connery is of course into his third outing as Bond. His salary increased again over that of From Russia With Love's, but even then a dispute broke out during filming. It was settled after he suffered a back injury in the scene where Oddjob knocks him out in the hotel room. A deal was struck that was to see Connery receive 5% of the gross from all his future Bond films. In all my readings of the franchise this issue of pay is a constant in Connery's tenure. It was to arise in Moore's as well. It is an enduring shame that it was this that soured Connery's feelings to the role in subsequent films and later life.
Funnily enough it was on the set of Goldfinger that Connery became a life long golf fan! Of course this was from the golf match Bond and Goldfinger play. In the book it takes up almost three entire chapters!! This is one of the reasons why the novel is somewhat jerky. The scene is far too long and slowed the novel down as it played out. But this was very typical of Fleming. Right throughout the Bond novels he incorporated many things that were of personal interest to him, such as golf, diving, and skiing.
Gert Frobe was a masterful casting!! He perfectly replicates the fat feral physical picture Fleming paints of him in the novel. But as is often the case he was not the first consideration. Orson Welles was first considered, but his financial price was too high ( again notice the money issue here in regards to actors ). His obvious size being the attraction as Goldfinger is a big rotund man in the novel.Theodore Bickel of The African Queen and The Defiant Ones fame auditioned, but was rejected. Frobe was cast because the producers saw him in a German film about a child molester. But just like Ursula Andress and Danielle Bianka he spoke limited English and his voice was dubbed. The only time his real voice is heard is when Bond is hiding beneath Goldfinger's model of Fort Knox.
Goldfinger's henchman is of course Oddjob. He is also masterfully cast. Because just like Goldfinger himself the picture Fleming paints of Oddjob is very much the one we see in the film. Harold Sakata was an American of Japanese descent and an Olympic silver medalist in weightlifting. He was cast after Guy Hamilton had seen him on a wrestling programme! Hamilton states Sakata had a unique way of moving which he felt mirrored those of the novel's Oddjob.
For me one of the shames of the film is that one scene from the novel involving Oddjob isn't included. We of course know the famous razor sharp hat rim, but in the novel Bond is shown a demonstration of Oddjob's karate skills. Goldfinger has him chop through a six inch thick staircase banister with his hand. And then kick a fireplace mantelpiece in half six feet off the ground!! They are impressive feats and would have looked awe inspiring in the film. In the novel they are quite chilling displays to Bond on Oddjob's strength and menace. The hat in the film just doesn't quite portray this on its own.
In Goldfinger Bond gets to be an extremely busy man when it comes to female companionship!! For me one of my most favorite scenes in the whole film is when Bond gives his masseur a friendly smack on the arse as she walks off!! It has that classic 1960's sound to it!! You know...slap/crack!! Beautiful...and a lot of fun!! But then Bond goes onto both Masterson girls just as in the novel....and then Pussy! It is instructive here to note that the Bond films have produced two of cinemas most iconic and enduring images. Both of them involving women. In Dr. No it is of course Ursula Andress walking out of the surf........and that bikini! In Goldfinger it is of course Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson and the all body gold paint. It is an instantly identifiable image and truly iconic. ( Ian Fleming actually invented the idea of suffocation through the all over body paint just for the novel ).
In fact in came to grace the cover of Life magazine in the same year. Eaton was sent by her agent to meet Harry Saltzman and agreed to take the part if the nudity was done tastefully. It took 1 1/2 hours to apply the paint. The thing here is that in her short scenes the character and the image gained more recognition of main Bond girl Pussy Galore! Tania Mallet plays Jill's sister Tilly. She was a model at the time who had actually previously tested for the role of Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With love. Tilly Masterson was to be her only major film role as she returned to modeling. Why?? The money. She said it was 'dreadful' as she made the same on set as she did as a model. Again the money issue hangs over things doesn't it?
And then there is the frigid but flashy Pussy Galore!! Played by Honor Blackman she was cast in the role because of her turn in the television series The Avengers. The role was seriously beefed up from that of the novels, because in all reality Pussy is a very minor figure in it. In fact Tilly Masterson is the main female lead, but her role is down graded in the film. She is killed off by Oddjob well before her demise in the novel. Up till then though the scenes of her in the film are fairly much those of the novels. Except that Bond stops her before she is able to fire off a shot at Goldfinger. This scene is in the film but she had not fired of the previous shot as in the film.
In the novel Pussy Galore's lesbianism is rampantly obvious. Ian Fleming playing out his fetishes again! ( It is also the novel in which he displays his homophobia in a quite distasteful way. Hypocrite!! Lesbianism is OK but not homosexuality? ).The film tones it down drastically. But we all know she is lesbian from the wonderful line when she first meets Bond on Goldfinger's personal plane. She says to him 'You can turn off the charm. I'm immune.' We all know what she is saying in the subtle way of referring to her sexual preferences. I don't know why the role was expanded as much as it was. Maybe because of the way Goldfinger delivers the knock out gas. In the novel he poisons Fort Knox's water supply. Of course in the film it is delivered aerially by Pussy's 'girl's and her 'circus'. By changing the delivery they had to increase the role of Pussy into a bigger more viable character I assume.
The script to was adapted to suit Blackman. She could perform judo which was incorporated into her scenes with Bond. Initially the name Pussy was going to be changed to Kitty. It was felt the double entendre of Pussy wouldn't be accepted by American censors. But some sweet talking to the chief American censor saw it accepted on condition the name didn't appear on any promotional material. When doing interviews in America Blackman used to enjoy embarrassing reporters with repeated use of the name!
Interestingly even though many parts were filmed in America at no did Sean Connery actually travel State side! All his scenes were filmed either at Pinewood Studios or in Europe. This leads to how much of the film's Fort Knox is actually Fort Knox? Broccoli was able to secure rights to film in the location from an American Lt. Colonel he knew. But for obvious security reasons no filming was allowed at the Depository itself, let alone inside the building. Photos were able to taken of the exteriors though. The aerial scenes of Pussy Galores Flying Circus though are filmed above the site. They were only supposed to fly at 3,000 feet, but Hamilton found this 'hopeles', and it was dropped to '300'. Suffice to say the Americans weren't impressed! The scenes showing soldiers being knocked out by the gas are actually the same group of men, but moved to different locations!!
For the interior scenes the sets were built from scratch on the Pinewood Studios lot. The producers had absolutely no idea what the interior of the depository looked like. So Ken Adam's the set designer used his imagination. Saltzman disliked the end result though as he thought it too much like a prison. But Hamilton did, and hence it stayed. The comptroller of Fort Knox later sent a letter to Adams complimenting him on the imaginative depiction of the vault! United Artists even received mail asking how it was the British could ever be allowed to film in the Depository! The atomic device Goldfinger intends to irradiate the gold supply with is also total imagination. Hamilton asked that it look inventive instead of realistic. Who can ever forget the tongue in cheek joke of the clock stopping at 007!!!
Other elements of the film are imaginative especially in regards to the first real use of the Bond gadgets. Ken Adam chose the Aston Martin as the film's car because it was the latest version' and considered England's most sophisticated car. ( In the novel Bond is driving his Bentley ). At first Aston were reluctant to enter into a product placement, but were eventually convinced to a deal. In the initial script the car was only armed with a smoke screen. But the crew kept coming up with new ideas of which we now know of those that were accepted! Interestingly the oil dispenser was initially going to be a nail dispenser, but the idea was dropped in case of viewers doing copy cat imitations. The majority of gadgets were installed in six weeks, but the ejector seats and wheel spikes weren't. Another car was also created and was later used in Thunderball,( after all the one used in Goldfinger was actually crashed!! ).
The film's laser scene is a deviation from the film as well. In the novel the laser is actually a huge saw. I'm sure for filming sakes this was impractical. Hamilton thought up the idea of a laser and the two Harvard University scientists who advised on the reactor in Dr. No helped with the design. The laser itself was added in post-production. And the actually heat and cutting seen in the film was a technician under the table with a blow torch! Of course this is now one of the franchise's best known scenes. It also gave us the immortal lines, ' Do you expect me to talk ? ' Of which Goldfinger replies brutally, ' No Mr Bond, I expect you to die. '
I could go on and on with such details! But I just wanted to give an indication of the huge logistics involved in making the film. The film follows the novel fairly well but deviates from the laser scene onwards somewhat. I've gone into the scene from the novel where Oddjob karate's up Goldfinger's house. But there is also another scene before that that is omitted...involving a cat. In the novel both Bond and Masterson are unknowingly transported into the States and forced by Goldfinger to help in his scheme to rob Fort Knox. The plan is a real plot hole, because even though Goldfinger intends to use a train to load the gold onto it, it would in fact take days to do so. So in many respects the films irradiation premise is superior.
Shirley Eaton in a publicity shot.
Also the death of Oddjob is changed. In the novel it is actually Oddjob who is sucked out of the depressurised plane window and not Goldfinger. Bond's last view of him is his 'fat arse'!! The film and novel are both the same in the depositories guards faking the effects of the gas/toxin though. Both Goldfinger and Oddjob escape in the train, with Bond taking a pot shot at it with a bazooka Felix Leiter just happens to turn up with! The film ends in pretty much the same fashion as the novel's except for Oddjob's and Goldfinger's demises. In the novel Bond quite happily strangles Goldfinger ( who goes to play with his 'golden harp'!! ), before the plane crashes as in the film.
The highest selling toy of 1964.
The novel itself is one of Flemings better Bond outings. But it is somewhat up and down. The golf match is too long and brings the novel to a screeching halt. It picks up again, but I found a dated feel to the scene where Bond is following Goldfinger through France into Switzerland. The meeting of Tilly Masterson is similar to that of the films, but she meets her demise in front of the depository from Oddjob's hat. Etc, etc etc. There are changes through necessity but overall I think the film is a very good adaptation of a solid Bond novel. It is a flawed novel but not as palpably dated as some of the other novels certainly are.
After watching this last week I had quite forgotten just how good this film was. I still think From Russia With love the franchise's best, but Goldfinger is unquestionably its second. It is the quintessential Bond film though because it takes the films away from the novels, more so than Dr. No and From Russia With Love did. But the success of Goldfinger came from the success and lessons learnt from the first two films. In the process it introduced the template that was to remain in place right up until Casino Royale. After this though the next few Connery films just wasn't able to capture the charm, fun and feel of the first three films. Even as Connery outings several don't rate well as Bond films, particularly Diamonds are Forever.
IMDB has this with 7.9/10. If that is the case I give From Russia With Love an 8.1/10!!
We all have our favorite Bond films and ones we regard as the best. I don't think anyone can really argue with Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger being the best of the 22 though. This is my list of the best five in order: