BUTTERFINGER, or, The Case For Firing 007.
There are two mentions of “008” in GOLDFINGER. Are we being reminded of James Bond 007 being dispensable? Or is it because in this third outing (from the 7th Bond novel by Ian Fleming), Bond keeps proving how terrible he is at his job?
Consider, from this film: how easy it is to sneak up on this “superspy” to Spock Chop him after sex; that he is knocked out more than once, captured no less than 4 times (with captures overlapping in their frequency!); that he fails to prevent his new girl’s bizarre murder, is locked in a cell for a large part of the movie’s runtime, and ultimately has to let another agent defuse a bomb right under his nose. Seriously, how can this guy be so smug?
GOLDFINGER cold-opens on a manly mission, with Bond (Sean Connery’s third time) showing off the qualities that greenlit the funding for this Bond adventure: knocking out soldiers, blowing up factories and bedding a nubile wench (Nadja Regin, the most beautiful woman in the film; it’s funny that Bond films are renowned for their prurience, yet Nadja exits a bath holding a big towel over her front-parts to kiss Bond, and even when they’re interrupted by an assassin who knocks her out, she goes down clutching that dishrag for dear life over those mounds of justice that would cause children to become murderers were they to catch a glimpse.) Unrelated to the actual plot, simply an action piece to demonstrate Bond’s proficiency, this opening would be the only time Bond is ahead of the game.
The opening titles slink in over gold-painted girls in golden bikinis, with Shirley Bassey ululating Goldfinger, backed by blaring discordant horns that sound like elephants having sex.
Miami Beach. Swinging music. Reminding us that Bond is a young hep cat; not only a sophisticated rake for the ladies, also a Boys’ Adventure role model. But he’s given a contra-character line: “That’s as bad as listening to The Beatles without earmuffs” – the hell–?! Makes us question what demographic producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli was aiming at, back in that groovy year of 1964. Because Bond’s juvenile punch-explode-screw plots were surely not for conservative old white men, but teenage boys’ fantasies. So why alienate them with that derisive jab at their idols, the number one selling band in the world? The world is not enough to tease out the sociology of those different times…
Agent Felix (Cec Linder, replacing Jack Lord – was Lord too good-looking?) alerts Bond to a card shark at the swinging Miami hotel, Auric Goldfinger (big bloated blond Gert Frobe), whom Bond quickly calls out, then beds Goldfinger’s girlfriend accomplice (Shirley Eaton) because he’s a homewrecker. After sex, Bond is Spock Chopped and out for hours, waking to find the girlfriend covered head to toe in gold paint, dead. An iconic shot (even if the logistics of killing someone like that are totally economically unfeasible, from the killer’s wages, to the paint expended, to the danger of being discovered with the time spent over the corpse; and Bond says later she died from suffocation of the paint, which means she lay there patiently while the killer covered her?). All Bond’s fault.
M (Bernard Lee) and a Bank of England toff assign Bond to infiltrate Goldfinger’s organization, to find out why he’s stockpiling gold at an alarming rate.
After the assigning, as usual, Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) flirts with Bond, then Q (Desmond Llewelyn) shouts at Bond for never bringing back his gadgets in one piece; this time Bond gets an Aston Martin (instead of a Bentley from his last outing) with missiles, ejector seat, smokescreen and other toys… We’re sensing a pattern emerging in Bond movies…
So Bond tails Goldfinger with the finesse of a first-year acting student trying to cry on cue, enjoining the gold baron to a game of golf as if he’s some visitor to the club. But Oddjob (Harold Sakata) is Goldfinger’s caddy – the guy who Spock Chopped Bond and covered the girl in gold – so HE knows who Bond is, which means Goldfinger should also know. Goldfinger gets Oddjob to demonstrate his oomph Bond gimmick – a bowler hat with a cutting edge that he throws at a statue, decapitating it. What’s he trying to convey to Bond with that move? That he’s onto Bond as a spy? That if Bond starts winning, Oddjob starts decapitating? Just a pointless move, to go with all the other pointless moves in Bond movies…
Yet the game proceeds without any animosity (with both players cheating for no reason, as it doesn’t affect the plot), until the end, when Goldfinger angrily intimates Bond has a secret agenda. Either the director miscommunicated to these actors how they should convey this complex web of emotions or the actors couldn’t pull it off. Either way, it’s just a naff sequence, with Bond eventually planting a tracker on Goldfinger’s car, which he could have done a million different ways, without the padding of the golf scene. Maybe Connery just wanted to play golf while pretending to act? After Andy Garcia’s stories of Connery on the set of THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) turning up in golf clobber, I’m inclined to believe the latter.
Tailing Goldfinger, there is one great pullback shot, of Bond watching him from a cliff, camera pulling back to see that Bond himself is being watched from a higher cliff.
Bond meets Tilly (Tania Mallet, sister of the dead, gold-covered girl), who wants revenge on Goldfinger. After a rear-projection car chase, Oddjob captures Bond and kills Tilly, and that’s the end of that thread, making her presence almost as unnecessary as Bond being here.
Richard Maibaum – who screenplayed almost every Bond film until LICENSE TO KILL – writes this movie like he hasn’t the first idea of story structure. Guy Hamilton directs (his first of four Bond films) with a languid basic action style.
Tied to a table spread-eagled, a laser inching its way up to his balls (the laser efx are quite good actually), Bond asks: “Do you exshpect me to talk?” Goldfinger: “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” It’s funny because we expect Bond NOT to talk, and instead, escape!– But wait! Bond starts talking! When he realizes honey badger Goldfinger don’t give a shit, the only way OUT of this trap IS to talk! He starts blabbing about everything he knows about Goldy’s plan, which means that even if it wasn’t Goldy’s intent to make Bond talk, Bond talked! Goldfinger wins! Bond is SO terrible at his job! He blabs: “If I fail to report, 008 will replace me!” Seems reasonable; Goldy doesn’t want an additional agent on his tail, so he keeps Bond alive; we understand his strategy—but wait! Bond never reports back to base. Goldy’s men just knock him out and fly him to another location, courtesy of Goldfinger’s female pilot, Pussy Galore—[record scratch] Okay, now they’re just fucking with us, right?!
Honor Blackman plays Pussy like a busty schoolmarm who’s just waiting for a misogynist to slap her to the ground and take her roughly from behind. Which Bond does. I think it’s called rape these days. When they spar in the barn, Pussy matching Bond throw for throw, Bond asks, “Pushy, who taught you judo?” Because girls don’t have the time for learning a craft, what with all the cooking and cleaning… (I’m guessing Bond’s question is a jab (ha!) at Honor Blackman coming directly from the hit British TV spy series THE AVENGERS (co-starring in Seasons 2 and 3, 1962), where she was renowned for her judo, her leather attire, and taking down her male co-star with saucy dialogue. Though the Bond production gave her a little power, they burdened her with a name that just branded her man-toy from the outset.)
Pussy heads a team of 5 female pilots called The Pointy Bra Brigade (because does anyone really give a fuck what they’re called after a name like Pussy Galore?).
Goldfinger gathers all the U.S. mob bosses in a big room and outlines Operation Grand Slam: breaking into Fort Knox to explode an atomic bomb inside and make all the gold radioactive, so that his gold will be worth more on the world market. He uses giant dioramas that rise from the floor, which make the bosses trip balls on the wondrous technology as if they were 3D holograms or something. Those good old days of 1964 when carpentry was the new CGI.
Then Goldfinger kills all the mob bosses.
Again Richard Maibaum’s plotting never fails to make us go: Really? Goldy just wasted his breath, and those snappy dioramas, on guys he intended to kill? The only purpose it served was Bond eavesdropping and reporting the plan back to MI6. By the way, one of the bosses said he wanted no part of Grand Slam, so Oddjob drives him out to a backstreet and shoots him. These guys really have nothing better to do with their day than waste time with people they intend to kill anyway.
Then they capture Bond for the – I’m guessing – 12th time, and ferry him around in his three-piece suit, cuffed to Oddjob for the duration of the caper. No more rationale of “they might send other agents”; it seems Bond’s only purpose now is to satisfy the narcissism of Goldfinger.
Pussy’s Pointy Pilotesses spray gas over the Fort Knox property, knocking out thousands of troops patrolling the grounds (including Felix and MI6 agents waiting nearby), so that Goldfinger’s troops in gas masks can storm the gates, explode the front door, and wheel in a big box that looks like a lighting truss roadcase for Judas Priest – but it’s full of atom bomb. Oddjob cuffs Bond to the Judas Priest roadcase and sets the timer…
Let’s take a step back: Bra Brigade flies around unmolested and unnoticed as if every inch of airspace over Fort Knox is not monitored; like five planes in close formation can put the 109,000 acres of Fort Knox personnel to sleep; the lead Bra counting down: “5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 0!” What happened to 1? That Maibaum magic at work again…
Then something miraculous happens – all the Fort Knox troops wake up! Felix reports “They’ve armed the bomb!” and everyone rushes to shoot down Goldy’s faceless Chinese troops inside. We find out later that Pussy was banged so studly by Bond that she replaced the gas canisters in the planes with harmless whatever. So let me get the MI6 plan straight: they PRETEND to be knocked out so that the villain can transport an atom bomb into Fort Knox and arm it before they make a move? And I thought if I said it out loud it might sound stupid or something.
Bond manages to kill Oddjob, but fiddles around with the bomb’s controls ineffectually until another agent steps up and defuses it – with 007 seconds to spare– hahaha! Didja see what they did there? [eyeroll]
Hilariously, I don’t think even the filmmakers realized how they emasculated Bond in GOLDFINGER. In a movie this sexist, Bond is ironically the person who proves he is only good for one thing – the same one and only thing he has used women for since he began these adventures. He proved himself such a good lay that the villainess betrayed her organization, thereby saving the day. Bond did nothing else to actively bring the villain to justice. He screwed every opportunity he had, and then screwed to make it right.
But what happened to Goldy? Well, since he is such a unique character (big bloated blond), one would think that no one could miss that Nazi-lookin’ roly-poly amongst all the Chinese henchmen and American troops – but apparently, all it takes to fool these Knox troops is to put on an American uniform and saunter out. Ah yes, the Clark Kent Five Point Palm Exploding Hat Technique.
The last set piece is a wonder of confused script-writing, as Bond is on a private plane to receive a medal from the president. Goldy appears with a golden gun. And talks instead of shooting, telling Bond that Pussy is flying the plane– Wait-what?! By this time, Goldy must know it was Pussy who betrayed him with the gas, and yet he’s hired her to fly for him? And the amount of maneuvering for Goldy to have commandeered this government plane specifically commissioned to fly Bond to the white house– I don’t even wanna think of the logistics – and neither did Maibaum.
Goldfinger goes out the window, and Bond ends the adventure in Pussy. (Geez, innuendo’s no fun anymore.)