Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964) is classic Bond. It is rightfully considered one of the best entries in the franchise. Its timelessness mainly derives from its status as the Bond prototype. Goldfinger is formula. It is fan scripture. As such, it runs like clockwork. Bond scholars and fans see it as the engine that fuels the year-long franchise. From the brilliant pre-credits to Shirley Bassey’s song to the explosive finale at Fort Knox, Goldfinger programs the Bond code to the most minute detail – perfectly illustrated in the close-up of the final bomb counter 0:07. This is franchise style at its best, programmed for the fan.
Beyond that, Goldfinger is a masterful agent adventure tale in its own right. In Auric Goldfinger, Bond faces a villain whose is neither faceless nor cartoonish. Gert Froebe’s performance set a standard only few of the later movies could rival. The character both constructs and deconstructs the icon of the Bond nemesis. “Do you expect me to talk? No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” Goldfinger is a surgeon of evil, sober and focused. His lack of physical strength is set off by his henchman Oddjob, played superbly by Harold Sakata. Like Goldfinger, Oddjob is larger-than-life, but strangely grounded in realism. It is what distinguishes the movie, and many of the best in the series. It turns the ridiculous into a serious game with stakes.
Goldfinger is full of powerful scenes that stand the test of time. My favorite is the opening. It shows Bond infiltrating a drug lab. He scubas in, takes out a couple of guards, materializes in a white tuxedo at a party (note the outfit Indiana Jones is wearing at the beginning of Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg, 1984) and you can see an example of the series paying homage to Bond), charms and interrogates a woman, and kills an assassin by electrocuting him in a bathtub. It ends with the franchise’s ironic signature, a one-liner. Shocking – one of the series’ greatest lines. The sequence flows in a crescendo-like rhythm. The fact that each pre-credit sequence is followed by a song is no coincidence. The Goldfinger-patented beginning is a musical composition. The way the pre-credits build up is almost operatic – the widely maligned Quantum of Solace (Marc Forster, 2008) offered a brilliant take on this convention with its baroque opera shoot-out.
I do not think Goldfinger is the best movie in the series. But it undoubtedly influenced the best work in the canon. It remains the ultimate inspiration for the universe’s ongoing iterations.
This blog will return with … Thunderball.