Guy Hamilton, 1964
Starring: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata
"Do you expect me to talk?"
"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."
Though Dr. No was first and From Russia With Love is a popular favorite, Goldfinger will always be the quintessential Bond film for me. This is the first Bond film with a solid formula where all the beloved franchise elements are in place: girls, cars, gadgets, dastardly villains, insurmountable odds and 007 keeping his cool all the while.
Based on the novel Goldfinger, Bond blows up a drug lab in Latin America in a truly wonderful sequence, before hitting up Miami Beach for some relaxation. There he observes Auric Goldfinger, a gold dealer and jeweler with a suspicious background. He steals Goldfinger's assistant, the lovely Jill, but after Jill and Bond get better acquainted, Goldfinger has her killed. She is suffocated to death with gold paint in the beautiful, iconic scene that made it all the way to the cover of Time Magazine. (In case you were wondering, you can't actually suffocate someone to death that way.)
Bond follows Goldfinger around Europe to spy on his smuggling operation. Jill's sister Tilly arrives and attempts to kill Goldfinger, but is killed by Goldfinger's manservant, Oddjob, the same man who presumably killed Jill. Bond overhears Goldfinger discussing Operation Grand Slam and gets kidnapped. Goldfinger almost kills Bond with a giant laser, but spares his life to trick MI6 and the CIA into thinking everything is running smoothly. They move to Fort Knox, where Goldfinger plans to steal from the US treasury. Bond meets the inscrutable Pussy Galore, who resists his many attempts at seduction. He alerts the CIA to his presents and continues spying on Goldfinger, hoping to disrupt his plans. But is it that simple?
Goldfinger has a number of fantastic elements: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, a dead, naked Jill Shirley Eaton (playing Jill) covered in gold and Gert Fröbe’s excellent Auric Goldfinger. He is one of the first villains to appear more powerful than Bond and almost kills Bond several times, sparing him only because he is more useful alive than dead. Fröbe, despite his total inability to speak English at the time, gave a powerful performance. Yes, that is overdubbing you hear. He said all his lines phonetically, which still wasn't convincing enough. Even more incredibly, the part was supposed to go to Orson Welles, but he was too expensive.
Goldfinger was the first Bond film to reach blockbuster status and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the fastest grossing film of all time. This is probably due to a combination of Robert Bronjohn’s excellent opening sequence, where he projected clips of the first two Bond film on Margaret Nolan’s naked, gold-painting body. This is Shirley Bassey’s first time singing the theme song; she would return for Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker, though possibly no Bond theme is as memorable as Goldfinger. The tricked out Aston Martin DB5 is the first time Q-branch gadgets, as we typically think of them, were used and the first time this particular car came to be associate with Bond. Some of the change in direction is likely due to the introduction of director Guy Hamilton, who would return for four more films.
Goldfinger comes highly, highly recommended. It’s only flaw is that some of the elements feel a little dated, like Harold Sakata's Oddjob or the name of Operation Grand Slam, which just makes me think of a breakfast special at Denny's. There are plenty of ways to see the film on DVD, including the Special Edition DVD from MGM and the Blu-ray, though I'm reviewing the two-disc Ultimate Edition, which also comes in volume one of the Ultimate Edition box set.