Happy 2016, folks. (That still sounds so “futuristic” to me. And yet, quality hover boards remain commercially unavailable. Oh well…) A good friend of mine suggested that I start a movie review blog, and since I do admittedly watch a lot of random, unconventional cinema, I figured what the hell?
I kicked this new year off with the classic James Bond flick, Goldfinger, interestingly enough, and immediately decided that it represents one of the best entries in the series. After Skyfall caught me rather off-guard with its surprisingly artistic direction and mildly poignant script, I decided to start the whole franchise over from the beginning, watching Dr. No and From Russia With Love first. I had almost forgotten how light and breezy 007 could be before Daniel Craig and co. turned him into the super-serious, 21st-century assassin that he is today! (And, for the record, I do know how to enjoy both versions of the MI6 superstar — the campy and colorful playboy of yesteryear and the mumbling, dead-eyed killer we’re given today.) But Goldfinger is definitely one of the best depictions of the infamous secret agent: It’s much more fun than any of the post-GoldenEye attempts, and it beats out its two 1960’s predecessors in almost every category as well.
Released in ’64, Goldfinger has everything that makes the Bond films so memorable: an irreverent-but-explosive opening scene, a psychedelic sequence of opening credits, a titular song (sung by Shirley Bassey this time), a sexy Aston Martin car, a bunch of nifty gadgets from Q Branch, an absolutely ridiculously-named “Bond girl” (Pussy Galore), the lethal fedora-wielding henchman (Oddjob, who later became my favorite character in Nintendo 64’s GoldenEye), an appropriately diabolical supervillain in Goldfinger himself (who had a house like Tony Stark’s), and gorgeous views of the Swiss countryside. The movie is also responsible for about 73% of the jokes cracked in the Austin Powers series. (And I believe it may be the first film to ever feature a laser beam inching slowly toward somebody’s crotch.) The opening scene, which shows Sean Connery emerging from the ocean with a wet seagull attached to his head, sets the tone of the film perfectly. By this third outing, the handsome actor had struck a commendable balance between professional badass and vulnerable human being. We actually hear Bond remind himself of “discipline” aloud at on point, as he tries to avoid the distractions posed by the opposite sex. And when things get really hairy for our hero, his ego evaporates and we see him genuinely fearing for his life.
The direction of Guy Hamilton, who replaced the director of the first two Bond films (Terrance Young), seems a bit more confident and evenhanded here too. The script is straightforward and coherent, and Hamilton doesn’t complicate it with extraneous shots or mumbled dialogue. Unlike more recent Bond flicks, which feature some of the most incredibly nuanced fight choreography ever conceived, Goldfinger gets points for its refreshingly awkward fight sequences, which are filled with sloppy face-palms and rib-kicks — just like most of the hand-to-hand man-grappling I’ve witnessed in my storied life. Anyhow, in the final analysis, I’ve got to rate Goldfinger higher than both Dr. No and From Russia With Love. It seems to be the high water mark of the series so far…
Four pot leafs out of five: