License to Review #3: Goldfinger (1964)

James Bond will return to cinemas this November with his twenty-fifth adventure, No Time to Die. In preparation, David Alkhed will take a look at all the previous entries in the franchise and see which ones are deserving of praise (shaken) and which ones aren’t (stirred).

When watching the early James Bond films featuring Sean Connery, I get the feeling that the filmmakers were still trying to figure out what constituted a James Bond film. The first film that truly feels like a step in the right direction for the franchise is the series third installment, which some would argue is still the best of the franchise so far, 1964’s Goldfinger. Whether or not it actually is is up to debate, but we’ll get there.

In Goldfinger, we see Bond relaxing in Miami on vacation when approached by friend from the CIA Felix Leiter (played this time by Cec Linder) about a German millionaire Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) who just happens to stay at the same hotel. Bond makes his presence known to Goldfinger, as he’s hooking up with Goldfinger’s assistant Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). But to Bond’s shock, he finds Jill dead and covered in gold in one of cinema’s most iconic scenes. Bond must investigate Goldfinger, who plots an elaborate heist of Fort Knox alongside the dangerous yet seductive Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).

As previously stated, Goldfinger truly feels like the true proper James Bond film and a lot of the things that we now take for granted with the franchise really come to form here. Yes they were first started in Dr. No and From Russia with Love, but Goldfinger was the one that in many ways perfected them. Besides Connery’s still-excellent performance as Bond we get the first true Bond villain in the shape of Auric Goldfinger, and he comes to set the standard for every villain for the remainder of the franchise. He is rich, he owns several houses and mansions, he plays golf and he speaks with a nonspecific European accent, just about everything you need for your spy movie villain right? We also get the first proper henchman with Oddjob, who is a fun and iconic character. And of course who could forget perhaps the two most iconic aspects of the film: the theme song performed by Shirley Bassey and the Bond girl, Pussy Galore. What else can be said? Much credit should go to director Guy Hamilton and writers Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, whose work set the standard for a majority of the future Bond films being used as a template.

It must be stated however that it’s far from perfect and I don’t rank it as highly as most people do when it comes to the Bond franchise. For instance, and I know I’m gonna get maimed for saying this, but I’m not the biggest fan of the song. I know it’s iconic and it’s certainly not a bad song, but it just doesn’t do it for me to truly consider it one of my favorite Bond themes. I much prefer future ones like Thunderball, Nobody Does It Better, For Your Eyes Only etc. Hell even from Shirley Bassey I much prefer Diamonds Are Forever. Another thing, and this is a little more serious, is that I’m starting to feel slightly uncomfortable in regards to Bond’s relationship and views of women. Sure, sometimes it can range from something slightly more innocent but at other times when he uses a woman as a human shield or simply sees her as an obstacle in his way, I start to feel weird about it.

So this isn’t my favorite Bond film, although I would agree with the sentiment that it’s still the best Connery-led film and is certainly deserving of its classic status. It’s just for me personally perhaps not what I look for the most with Bond, but Goldfinger is still definitely shaken.

James Bond will return in Thunderball. But it’s not quite as…shocking…as Goldfinger.


Published by davidalkhed

Co-creator, critic and columnist for A Fistful of Film.

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