James Bond films

Movie Review: Goldfinger – James Bond #3

Written by Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn, and Ian Fleming
Directed by Guy Hamilton

For the third James Bond film, Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli chose to get away from the menacing evil organization known as SPECTRE and bring in a new villain. Goldfinger is a madman, and the first in a long line of rather eccentric, sometimes lunatic, Bond villains.

Sean Connery is back as James Bond. He’s on holiday in Miami after a mission in the opening sequence when he’s called back to MI6. It seems an evil man known as Goldfinger (portrayed by Gert Frobe) has been smuggling and stockpiling enough gold to gain the attention of the British Secret Service. On initial contact, Goldfinger doesn’t seem to be much of a threat as Bond easily stops his cheating ways at Gin Rummy. However, there’s much more beneath the surface as the plot thickens but never strays too far from the initial premise. It seems that Goldfinger has his eyes on Fort Knox. Bond manages to tempt the would-be gold thief with a bar of gold, allegedly plucked from a sunken Nazi stash. Unfortunately, his ploy gets him in more hot water, and nearly sliced and diced until he makes Goldfinger think he knows more about his plot than he really does.

This gets Bond what Goldfinger intends to be a one-way ticket to his horse farm in Kentucky. Pussy Galore (portrayed by Honor Blackman) is there, with her all-female flying troupe. She declares herself off-limits to Bond’s charms, but when has that been known to stop him? Bond knows she can be an ally in getting him out of Goldfinger’s clutches and stopping his plot, if only he can turn her to his side…

Goldfinger marked a bit of a change in direction for the Bond films. It gets more gimmicky with this film, and many staples of Bond movies get their origins in this film. Rather than relying totally on his wits, charm, and charisma, Bond has a series of gadgets given to him by a man who now calls himself Q (portrayed by the same Desmond Llewellyn from the previous film), including a car that comes in rather handy during a high-speed chase.

It’s also the start of the sinister henchman. Oddjob (portrayed by Harold Sakata) is Goldfinger’s “bodyguard” who also does his dirty bidding for him. He is magnificent in this role, however, and adds quite a bit to the film. He’s not written as campy as some later henchmen are, but is truly a nasty man who gives Bond a run for his money.

The acting is stellar. Sean Connery is magnificent and seems to shift gears with the character he has played now through three films quite easily. He still has Bond as the calm, cool, and calculating master spy. However, the focus seems to be drifting from how much he can outwit his rival and more into the action area. Still, Connery nails the part is a way that oozes confidence, even when he is about to be cut to pieces. This is what makes his ability to outwit Goldfinger to escape certain death at several intervals convincing.

Gert Frobe gets what is probably the best villain in any Bond film. Goldfinger doesn’t seem to descend into madness, but just oozes evil in every way. It’s especially hideous the way he dispatches his one-time conspirator at cards once she has changed sides and hopped into Bond’s bed. He’s remorseless and vicious and offers no apologies or explanations. Frobe doesn’t even try to gain sympathy for the character, but portrays him as cut and dried greedy and evil and is perfect.

His henchman Oddjob is an excellent addition as well. Harold Sakata did such a great job as the twisted side-kick that every story since felt the need to have a character fill the same role as he did. No one did it quite as well, with him coming off as indestructible but not because he was bigger or stronger than Bond. He’s just a cold man who enjoys what he does, even if it is just doing his boss’ dirty work.

For the women, I wasn’t impressed with either of the Masterson sisters whom Bond has as allies for a time. Both Shirley Eaton and Tania Mallet add little to the role and aren’t strong characters. Honor Blackman does much better in her role opposite the hero. She infers to Bond that she’s a lesbian and there’s no need for him to try to charm her, and keeps the spy at an arm’s length for most of the film. It’s because of this I found myself wryly waiting to see how he would finally get to her, and it made that chase and conquest quite interesting. In the modern day where we think differently, some might be offended by the idea that a role in the hay with the suave spy would change her orientation, but it was a product of the times and needs to be taken in that context.

The story itself has a basic premise and at times gets convoluted in telling it. Still, it kept my attention. The action sequences were good, especially considering the time period. However, it did seem that the story was starting to head for a plot wrapped around the action, rather action bolstering the story.

While Goldfinger changed a lot of things in the Bond franchise, it wasn’t all bad. Some of it was a lot of fun. At the same time, I wish more focus had remained on Bond outsmarting his enemy rather than lots of knock-down, drag-out action. I thoroughly enjoyed the third film in the Bond franchise.


• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Guy Hamilton
• Audio Commentary Featuring Members of the Cast & Crew

Previous film in the series (link): From Russia With Love

Next film in the series (link): Thunderball

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