It seems as though I hardly need to tell you anything about Goldfinger, so famous is it. Other than the Brosnan movies, which I saw roughly as they came out (that is, as they came out months after release on home theater pay per view), I think Goldfinger is the first Bond film I saw. Probably it’s similar for others. But, hey, some of it is filmed in lovely Lexington, Kentucky. Felix eats at a KFC!
Intro time! James sneaks around in a diving / tactical suit, blows up a building, shucks it off to reveal white evening dress, and returns to a party. He doesn’t leave straightaway, but goes to the hotel room of some girl, who is in cahoots with whoever James just fucked. So they have something in common I suppose. A dude sneaks up on him, James turns so the dude saps the girl on the head, and they fight, James getting the crap kicked out of him. The dude does eventually get tossed into the bathtub, but draws James’ gun from the hanger nearby. James tosses a toaster or fan or something in, electrocuting him. It begins that sense of Bond as the more resourceful, more inventive person in the fight, which continues now, even if sometimes it was goofy and contrived and other times he has to grow back into that role.
Oh, and of course Shirley Bassey. I think they may play bits of “Goldfinger” in the movie more than the Bond theme itself.
More recognizable still is the post-intro bit, where Bond screws Goldfinger’s plan to cheat at gin rummy, and in retaliation Goldfinger kills the employee that helped him do it, and who is in bed with Bond. Odd Job – not yet fully revealed – sneaks in while James is getting champagne, karate chops the hell out of him, and somehow paints Jill Masterson to death.
Bond is assigned to figure out how Goldfinger is sneaking his gold across borders, and plays golf with him. This is the only Bond novel I have read at this point, and there is an excruciating chapter about golf in the book. It all has to do with Bond as a player of games, which is cool, but it is also Fleming being really into golf. Authors into golf tend to get dotty when it comes up. In the film, of course, it’s great. Bond and Goldfinger cheat at games, we learn, because both, really, are after something, not just enjoying themselves. It’s a good reminder to take into the film, since Bond is imprisoned for over half of it. Bond is goal-oriented, and depending on the film either distracted by women or using them to get farther. This movie they seem to be a form of relaxation after work, but work and that relaxation get tied together in a way that gets worrisome for him.
Masterson’s sister shows up, they try to run / break in to Goldfinger’s compound, fail, the sister dies as well. Then they strap James to the laser table thing, on a slab of gold, and he really does freak out. There’s no way out except tricking Goldfinger, which he does, using his justifiable paranoia about his plans to insist he needs to be kept around just to make sure MI6 doesn’t know all about Goldfinger’s plans. It helps that this is the first Bond villain who wants to show off as an aspect of his personality – the whole first segment is about proving that Goldfinger wants to win, even at gin rummy, and doesn’t care if he cheats or not. It’s not about the thrill of the game for him, it’s about success. So he shuts off the laser and just imprisons Bond.
There are some great Connery Face moments – moments when Sean Connery just makes faces and things happen. The best is when he’s in a jail cell and tricks the guard by making faces at him, going back and forth in his cell and returning to the little grate each time, and then disappears by obviously crouching down. This eventually freaks the guard out, and he never considers that James could have crawled away. Of course, really he’s up on the ceiling and knocks the guard out. He gets caught eventually, by Pussy Galore (yes, the lesbian Bond turns by being just too damn charming), but not before he spies on the meeting between Goldfinger and his investors. This is a weird little thing, but he explains his entire plan to them as though he’s offering to let them in on it. He can give their money back now, or multiply it ten times after he knocks over Fort Knox. But then he gasses everyone to death instead. Again, he has to show off. He even has a model of the fort he shows them, presumably built for this moment as though the pitch were genuine. He really likes to show off.
You know the rest. Bond is chained to the atomic bomb they put in the fort, the plan being to make it unusable and increase the price of Goldfinger’s own bullion. He gets away and fights Odd Job, electrocuting him as well, just like the nameless dude from the film’s beginning. His message to Felix Leiter gets through, so the military comes in after convincing everyone to behave as though they’ve been killed by gas that Pussy Galore’s pilots drop – except she’s now betraying Goldfinger as well, and there’s no gas. Hence the need to fake it.
Two things that are really interesting, other than the obsession with winning I’ve already talked about: Odd Job and Pussy Galore. Odd Job is silent, apparently mute except for awkward squawkings. He is the foil to Goldfinger’s obsession with showing off. He’s the perfect servant – loyal even when betrayed and silent, to better appreciate Goldfinger’s musings and monologues (I assume he indulges often, given what we see of him). Pussy Galore shows Bond to be a manipulator, just like the golf game, as he convinces someone in line to get a lot of money to give that up, help him, and betray a very vindictive, very powerful man to the U.S. military. All while apparently charming her away from being a lesbian (which, in the book by the way, is the result of sexual abuse when she was a child, and she can be “turned” because she’s never had a good man who wasn’t abusing here. Yay horrible 50s POV).
So the whole film, then, turns out to be about manipulating personalities. I wish we would get to see him really alone once or twice, like in Doctor No, in order to contrast his real self with his persona, but there is the sense that he is constantly using his persona to change the way people think, to best them in this dangerous job of his. And, of course, he’s almost never really alone, at least not when he doesn’t have something to do. So there’s a sense of pressure, absent really good paranoia, in there that is really good.