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Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #166: Goldfinger

Goldfinger (1964), one of four Bond films directed by Guy Hamilton, is the one that set the template for the rest of one of the most successful franchise in history. Dr. No was the first, but it was a small first step. From Russia With Love is great, but it can pass as a regular Cold War spy film. With Goldfinger however, we get the cold open followed by a song interpreted by a popular artist, a villain with a dastardly plot, a henchman with a special weapon, life-saving gadgets provided by Q branch, an Aston Martin, and a vodka martini; shaken, not stirred. Then of course you have the women. I know it was the 60s, but seriously, Pussy Galore?

As I grew up in the 90s, my first Bond was Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye, after which I was hooked. I then spent hours playing the best-selling game on Nintendo 64, I watched every new movie on the big screen, and I made it my goal to get every Bond movie on VHS, from Sean Connery to Timothy Dalton. I got a an illustrated book detailing all of Bond’s vehicles, suits, weapons, and used it for a school project. Clearly there is a special place in my movie lover’s heart for Bond, maybe because of the globe trotting adventure, the cool gadgets, the over-the-top villains, or the ever-evolving Bond girls. Forget Star Trek conventions, I am waiting for the Bond conventions where guys will dress in tuxedos and the bars will serve martinis.

There are of course endless debates about who is the best Bond, but Sean Connery deserves the crown by default for being the first to play the character, and thus set the tone for the other actors who would follow in his step. Of course the Bond you see in Goldfinger could probably not behave the same way today as he does in the 60s. He slaps women on the rear as they leave and easily seduces them, even though it will mostly likely lead to their deaths, or in the case of Shirley Eaton, being covered in gold paint by the villain. However you have to admit it is pretty cool when in the cold open he takes off his wetsuit to reveal he was wearing a tuxedo underneath the whole time.

That is one of the key characteristics of Bond: staying cool under pressure no matter what. In one of the most iconic scenes in the movie and the franchise, the villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) has captured Bond after his henchmen have chased Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, equipped with everything from machine guns to an ejector seat. Bond now finds himself strapped to a table with a laser slowly making its way towards his Downton Abbey. There is no one coming to rescue him, no gadget by the resourceful Q (Desmond Llewelyn) that can save him now, and Goldfinger tells him he does not expect him to talk, but to die. This is not an interrogation; it’s a painful execution. Yet Bond does talk, bluffing about knowing everything about Goldfinger’s scheme and that if he dies now Bond’s people will come looking for him.

The bluff works, temporarily sparring Bond and allowing him to actually get to know Goldfinger’s evil plot, which targets the American gold deposit in Fort Knox, Kentucky. In what can only be described as one of the most detailed exposition scenes ever recorded, Goldfinger reveals a huge maquette to members of organized crime to explain how he will gas the guards, blow up the gates, and make his way to the gold deposit. Oddly enough, Goldfinger then kills the gangsters using the gas intended for the heist, so really the exposition was intended for the audience.

This of course leads to the inevitable third act when Bond must defeat the villain with the help of the girl, in this case Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore, Goldfinger’s pilot and the leader of an all-female team of pilots called Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus. Again, this was the 60s. Bond must also fight the villain’s personal henchman, silent Korean killer Oddjod, who in addition to being built like a small tank has a hat equipped with a razor blade that he uses like a lethal boomerang.

From the general plot to characters’ names, this can all seem very ridiculous, but it is undeniably fun. Who wouldn’t like a movie about a smooth-talking British spy travelling to Florida, Switzerland, and Fort Knox while fighting the bad guys and ultimately getting the girl? No wonder the same formula has worked for 24 movies (as of 2015). At this point it is a forgone conclusion that, yes, “Bond will be back.”


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