Written by Kieran Murphy
Thursday, 18 April 2013
There was only 11 months between the releases of "From Russia With Love" and "Goldfinger" but what a huge difference a year (and a cultural explosion) can make!
This film has everything a 60's movie needs! Lesbians! Frickin' lasers! A gorgeous troupe of buxom blonde pilots! Namechecking The Beatles!
I particularly love the establishing aerial shot of Miami Beach accompanied by a soundtrack of dreamy harp and strings - you can tell from the very beginning of this movie that the studio has thrown the $$$ into this production. Boy did they get their money's worth..!
The title sequence by Robert Brownjohn reminded me as well that it's such a strange holdover from a bygone era that the title sequences for new Bond films have becomes such a rare treat. These days, titles rarely exhibit any kind of style and are more often than not slipped in between the introductory scenes of the film. I wish more movies would do title sequences with kick-arse songs. Bond title sequences are like dreams in a way, presenting thematic elements and tantalising clues as to what will unfold in the film but never in an obvious way. And sometimes they have boobies.
"Goldfinger" is the first film in the series that really feels like a James Bond film and not just because we've settled into the familiar pattern and elements of the pre-title sequence, bombastic theme song and main titles, the stern briefing with M, the playful banter with Moneypenny, avuncular discourse with Q, female victim, memorable henchman and the playful one-liners. This feels like Bond, because Connery IS Bond. Sean Connery pretty much strides through the whole film, carefully dodging plot holes and potential silliness knowing full well that he is James Bond and that he doesn't need to prove it to anyone.
Probably my favourite part of "Goldfinger" though is Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger. Frobe's presence onscreen and his incredibly expressionate face gives the Bond series the first supervillain. Dr. No seems like a Scooby Doo nemesis. Grant and Klebb in "From Russia With Love" are excellent, but small scale. Goldfinger is named for the title character because he is such a fully-realised super baddie. The success of the film really hinged on getting the casting of the part right. Although apparently his spoken English was pretty rubbish which meant he had to say everything quickly so that the dubbing would be less obvious, a strange stylistic solution which adds to the sense that this portly, red-haired weirdo is actually a maniacal genius. Kudos should also go to voice over artist Michael Collins for providing the other half of Goldfinger's awesome portrayal.
After being left off the production team for "From Russia With Love" (due to prior commitments?) Ken Adam is back with those great set designs that lend themselves to low camera angles and his handiwork is immediately apparent.
There's quite a bit of clunkiness and silliness throughout, but I find myself far more forgiving than I was with "From Russia With Love". The "romp in the hay with Pussy Galore" sequence is pretty stupid and is second only to the slide flute sound that accompanies the spiral car jump in "The Man With The Golden Gun" for poor choice of musical accompaniment. The clunky 'listening to the Beatles without earmuffs' quote annoys me every time. Tania Mallet who plays Tilly Masterson couldn't act to save her life. Still, none of this really gets to me. Why? Because when the film is a winner overall, you can forgive a few niggling inconsistencies.
Director Guy Hamilton is definitely responsible for the change in tone that would serve the series so well for the rest of the 60's, until things got a little too fanciful (under his direction again) in the 70's. More of that later.