directed by Guy Hamilton
(United Artists/MGM, 1964)

The James Bond franchise raised the quality of its film-making yet another notch with the release of Goldfinger, the third feature in its ongoing action-adventure series.

Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe, with Michael Collins dubbing his voice) is a charismatic, petulant, purely self-motivated villain who provides an excellent match for Britain's premier spy and saboteur, 007 (Sean Connery). Bond begins his investigation in order to uncover suspected gold smuggling; what he finds is a plot to irradiate all of the gold at Fort Knox. The game of wits between Bond and Goldfinger is exceptionally clever, drawing the viewers' interest out for the entire two-hour span of the film. It also spawns some memorable lines, such as Goldfinger's parting retort, just before a laser is supposed to slice our hero in twain: "Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond, it may be your last."

In addition to the regular elements of the early Bond films (Bernard Lee as M, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny and Cec Linder replacing Jack Lord as CIA operative Felix Leiter), Goldfinger adds two new traditions: the nearly superhuman henchman, in this case the malicious hat-tossing Oddjob (Harold Sakata), and the instantly recognizable theme song. Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" set a high standard for Bond openers.

Oh, and here's another one: the outrageously sexual names for female leads. The bar was set with this one: Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), a pilot in the employ of the bad guy. ("I must be dreaming," Bond mutters after she introduces herself.)

Sadly, Bond continues using the women he meets along the way as disposable objects, the big failing of many Bond films. In Goldfinger, his casual passion first costs Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) her life in a particularly unpleasant (if visually appealing) manner, and later leads to the death of her vengeful sister, Tilly (Tania Mallet). It might not be so bad if Bond weren't so careless with their lives.

The other failing in the plot was the assumption that an amoral woman (in this case, Pussy Galore) would sacrifice her dreams of wealth and power simply because she had really good sex with the hero. (In a rare twist, Bond had to force himself on her; unlike most of his female conquests, Pussy was unwilling -- at least, until their first kiss.) Somehow, I'd like to think there could have been a better, more creative plot device for turning this one around.

That glaring problem aside, Goldfinger remains one of the best of the early Bonds.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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