Welcome back to third third entry in “007(x3) Weeks of 007,” our weekly investigation of a James Bond movie as we head towards the release of “Spectre.” Up this week, the most James Bond movie of all James Bond movies, “Goldfinger.”
For two weeks we have talked about how the first Bond films were establishing the tropes of the franchise. By the time the producers got to “Goldfinger,” they had it all worked out. “Goldfinger” is the mold for Bond movies, it has each and every element you need from a Bond in the middle of some action in the pre-title sequence to an incredible opening song to witty repartee with Moneypenny, a scene in Q branch with Q scolding Bond, an early meeting with the bad guy where he and Bond feel each other out, a memorable henchman, a car chase, Bond getting captured, an outsized set for a climactic battle, and on and on and on.
“Goldfinger” is the one to follow, and follow it they would in future installments. It has one memorable scene and line of dialogue after the next, and not a single scene or moment feels out of place.
Of course, as I said last week, “Goldfinger” isn’t my favorite Bond movie, that’s “From Russia with Love.” This one is certainly high on the list, but it isn’t number one. Unlike other Bond films, I don’t know the first time I saw it, it just seems to have always existed in my consciousness.
Speaking of number one, there is one thing here that is quite different from the first Bond films – “Goldfinger” lacks a mention of SPECTRE. Dr. No identifies himself as working for SPECTRE in the first film, and then we go so far as seeing Blofeld from behind in “From Russia With Love,” but there’s nothing here in “Goldfinger” about the organization or its boss. The movie doesn’t suffer for the lack of SPECTRE, but that does make it different from the rest of the Connery films and sets it aside from that template somehow… or does it?
One of the things I find so interesting about the Bond films is their relationship to SPECTRE. In the real world this has a lot to do with legal issues, but I’m concerned about the in-film world at the moment. I always think of SPECTRE as being a huge part of the Bond movies, but the truth is that they’re only a huge part of the early Bond movies, they do appear in Lazenby’s film and a Blofeld-like character briefly appears in a Moore (we’ll get there eventually), but that’s it. SPECTRE, no matter how tightly associated they are with Bond, don’t exist on film in any substantial form after Connery is done with the role. That is going to change this fall, but for now it’s true and odd for such an iconic organization. It really goes to show the power of these first films.
“Goldfinger” successfully establishes a world for Bond outside of the presence of SPECTRE – Bond doesn’t only go after this one group of baddies, there can always be megalomaniacal loons for our hero to takedown outside of a larger organization. I don’t know that “Goldfinger” set out to establish that possibility on purpose—that is to say, I need to do some research and find out if it was a concern—but it did it successfully nonetheless.
You know, no matter how much I want to move away from the discussion of iconic moments in “Goldfinger,” it’s impossible. The film is just so filled with them. From Jill Masterson’s gold-painted death to Bond’s Aston Martin to the incredible back and forth 007 has with everyone in the film (how great is the moment he wakes up on the plane and meets Goldfinger’s private pilot?), it’s one iconic moment after the next. So, give a few sentences on one more.
I am going to eagerly watch the rest of the films to find out if I’m wrong, but, “Do you expect me to talk,” “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” might be the best exchange between Bond and a villain in the entire franchise. Of course, Bond escapes the laser, but it is this calculating, cruel, moment. It is the moment that puts Gert Fröbe’s Auric Goldfinger on the AFI list of top villains (#49) and Fröbe delivers the line with such zeal, such a ruthless animosity. It isn’t dark and gritty, like we might expect a bad guy to be today, but it does the job of terrifying our hero and causing fans to wonder just how 007 might escape. “Goldfinger” isn’t my favorite Bond movie, but that bit of it is cinematic perfection.
And, because it’s something I can’t top, I’m going to end the discussion here. “007(x3) Weeks of 007” will return with “Thunderball.”
photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment