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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Goldfinger

Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Frobe
Director: Guy Hamilton
Rated: PG
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: December 1964
Genres: 007, Action, Suspense, Classic

*Also starring: Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Tania Mallett

Review by Dragan Antulov
4 stars out of 4

When we are dealing with movie series made out of twenty or so titles, finding the best of them might look like a difficult task. But, in the case of James Bond films, it isn't so. Almost everyone agrees that the best Bond films used to be made in 1960s, in a Golden Age that spawned Sean Connery and set the standards that would never be satisfied again in later decades. Choice is even simpler when we discount first two films - DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA AND LOVE - which were some sort of experiments for the series creators. The third film in the series, GOLDFINGER, directed in 1964 by Guy Hamilton, is often considered to be the first "true" Bond, the one that firmly established formula that we all know and love. GOLDFINGER also has a very special meaning for the author of this review. It was the first Bond film I have ever watched, and, although some time had to pass before I started truly appreciating its quality, it sets my standards for all the future Bond viewing experiences.

The plot of the film begins when British secret agent James Bond (played by Sean Connery) crosses path with Auric Goldfinger (played by Gert Froebe), wealthy international gold trader, whose character is unscrupulous enough to cheat even in trivial games of poker and golf. British and American authorities suspect that he could break rules even in even more serious matters like international trade, and Bond is being sent to investigate possible Goldfinger's involvement in grand-scale gold smuggling operation. Goldfinger is too shrewd to allow himself being fooled by Bond's cover as fellow smuggler, but Bond won't stop the investigation. The trail leads him to Switzerland, where he would hear Goldfinger discussing some sinister plan called "Grand Slam". Unfortunately, he can't report his findings to his superiors, since Goldfinger's henchmen capture him. Goldfinger decides to leave Bond alive for a while, and his personal pilot Pussy Galore (played by Honor Blackman) would fly him over the Atlantic to Goldfinger's stables in Kentucky. Bond there sees what the "Grand Slam" actually is - spectacular raid on the US government golden reserves in Fort Knox. Equipped with this knowledge, Bond must find a way to escape and foil Goldfinger's plan.

GOLDFINGER is often referred as the best example of what Bond movie is and what every Bond movie should be. Made in 1964, as a third movie of a well-established series, it was the fortunate transition between realism and seriousness of first two films, and spectacle and glamour of later Bond films. The plot is, relatively speaking, realistic (at least for the Bond series standards), and the script by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn actually improved Ian Fleming's original novel in this area. The character of Bond is hardly invincible and in the film he often makes mistakes, gets beaten or captured, and his survival generally depends more on the mere luck and good will of other people than on his own brain or charm. Sean Connery again shows his great talent making his jovial attitude even in direst of circumstances quite believable.

This time character of James Bond has quite a match in the character of chief Bond Villain. Auric Goldfinger is brilliantly played by German actor Gert Froebe and, unlike the usual cardboard villains of the Bond series, this one looks genuine. From the first scene, he is clearly identified as Bad Guy and audience is spared from the unnecessary and time-consuming attempts to shed doubts about his moral alignment. Goldfinger is also portrayed as truly intelligent villain, someone who relies more on his brain than on his immense wealth or underground armies of henchmen, and, in the end, has enough brains to think about back-up plans. Such Bond Villain truly deserves to have quality assistants at his disposal, and Korean bodyguard Oddjob, played by Harold Sakata. Equipped with funny yet deadly hat, and almost invincible, Oddjob gives Bond run for his money and turns out to be the best Bond Villain ever (or at least shares that spot with 1970s Jaws).

Bond Villain is not the only category that makes this Bond movie superior to the rest. Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman, is more than interesting Bond Girl. She is quite believable character - tough, no-nonsense and able to take care of herself. But most of all, she is mature, at least compared to usual Bond Girl stock (in case of Honor Blackman term "girl" might not be quite appropriate, since she was 38 years old in time of production). However, despite her relatively old age, she manages to stay not just impressive, but very sexy and sometimes even more desirable than two other younger yet more shallow Bond beauties in the form of Shirley Eaton and Tanya Mallet. Even her defection to the side of the Good Guys couldn't be explained as simple capitulation to Bond's masculine charm - Bond appealed to her common sense as well as her feminine desires.

In terms of spectacle, GOLDFINGER represents the obvious improvement over first two sequels. The series introduces one of not so important and obligatory, yet attractive elements of Bond formula - spectacular battle between Good Guys and Bad Guys. But most attractive thing about GOLDFINGER is its style. Guy Hamilton paces film brilliantly, never allowing a single minute of the film to seem boring. Musical soundtrack by John Barry is one of the best ever made in history of cinema, and the title song, sung by Shirley Bassey, became some sort of Bond's alternative anthem. GOLDFINGER is also great in visual sense, with Ted Moore providing excellent photography and Ken Adam creating truly impressive production settings. But the most memorable thing about GOLDFINGER is, of course, dead girl being covered with gold paint - one of the most memorable images not only in history of cinema, but also in history of art. There are few examples when artists are able to create images that are haunting, terrifying and erotic in the same time.

Another thing that makes GOLDFINGER truly attractive is the fact that such films couldn't be made in this time and age. Feminists would cringe at the sight of women being treated like nothing more than easily disposable sexual objects, and PC police would be infuriated with the fact that the majority of villains happens to be of Asian origin. Newer generations would probably grin after Bond's Beatles remark, which shows how deeply Bond series was ingrained in its time. Such remark shows how deeply Bond series was ingrained in its time, and, consequently, all attempts to adapt it to more "modern" sensibilities turn it into pathetic parody of itself. Despite being set in past times, GOLDFINGER found its way to the modern audiences and it is quite understandable how even the generations born decades later don't hesitate to name it the best Bond film ever made.

Copyright 2000 Dragan Antulov

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