Monday, January 31, 2011

Goldfinger's Launching of the Bond Series

Goldfinger could easily be described as the Bond film that launched the series into full swing, and most would say it's the quintessential Bond film that set the precedent for Bond films from that point on.  Most people will agree that the "Bond formula" all started here.  Dr. No and From Russia With Love were hits, but Goldfinger was a smash hit.

I think it's important to note, and I comment on this because I've read a lot of misconceptions in movie reviews and such regarding the film, this was not the first Bond film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q.  He appeared in From Russia With Love; this was the first film, however, to establish him as a recurring character… a character that would later become an essential Bond character and an iconic legend.  Nor is this the first film to feature "Bond, James Bond" as a catchphrase, as we saw this, for certain, in Dr. No.  However, it is the first film where we hear that other iconic line for the first time, "shaken, not stirred."  He said a similar variation in Dr. No, but not "shaken, not stirred" exactly.  Muahahahahahahahahah.      

I also think this is the first film where we see Bond's character emerge as suave and sophisticated, which is less in-tune with Flemming's writing, but more in-tune with the precedent that captures the series (until the "bronze" Daniel Craig era).  Flemming's writing was better represented by Goldfinger's predec-essors, which were much darker, more serious motion pictures (without the tongue-in-cheek humor).

Like its predecessors, this film was extremely risque for 1964.  We see, like in the other prior films, sexual scenes, constant innuendo and references, implications of lesbianism (which we also saw in From Russia With Love), brief nudity in the credits, etc…  Not to mention Honor Blackman's character "Pussy Galore."

Speaking of Pussy Galore, this is the first real film where we get Bond "hooking up with every attractive woman within a 45 mile radius," which becomes yet another staple to the series.
I also think this is the first Bond film to have a real hatchet man.  Oddjob establishes this precedent with perfection.  And he's probably the greatest hatchet man in the Bond series next to Jaws (who's in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker).  We see that classic structure that sets up a pre-climactic confrontation between Bond and the hatchet man, which is usually a more physical confrontation, before Bond takes down the main mastermind villain (in this case Goldfinger).  This is also the first Bond film that makes real use of, and puts emphasis on, the high-tech gadgetry provided by Q.  Q actually gets some screen time in this one, and we get our first peep into his laboratory.  We saw that briefcase in From Russia With Love, which Bond used to get the best of Robert Shaw's character, but in Goldfinger we see a homing/tracking device, the snorkel suit, and best of all, the Aston Martin with an ejector seat, bulletproof windows, missiles (I think), smoke, etc… the first real Bond mobile.

There's also the fantastic, and somewhat unbelievable, plot line.  This is used off and on throughout the series, mostly for a lot of later Bond films (especially during the Brosnan era).  I like the over-the-top far-fetched plots, personally; I think they make for a more enjoyable film.  These "realistic" plot lines we're getting with the Daniel Craig films are boring boring boring.  Nobody wants a Bond plot to be centered around an evil villain's mastermind plan to make 60% of Bolivia's water cost more (should he get his way).  Only James Bond - the secret agent who foiled a plot to destroy London with nuclear missiles - can make water more affordable for Bolivians (Maddox reference).  Yeah… I don't watch Bond movies for "realism."  Give me a plot about a gold dealer trying to detonate a nuclear device in the U.S. gold supply vaults at Fort Knox so the gold will be radioactive for 58 years, thus making his own gold collection skyrocket in value. 

Yes, this film is the "gold" standard for Bond films.           


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