Tuesday, October 16, 2012

007 goes Alex Carriére: A guest review of Goldfinger (1964)

I'm happy to have a guest reviewer on Ninja Dixon...and it's my friend and fellow Bond-fan Alex Carriére who's doing the scribbling! Enjoy!

I’ll start by saying that Goldfinger isn’t my favorite James Bond film, as it seems to be for many people. Though I do love Goldfinger, I enjoy other Connery Bond films more, and other Moore Bond films even greater still. I was looking at Rotten Tomatoes while Goldfinger was on, and I noticed that Dr. No had the highest approval rating of any Bond film (98%). I haven’t seen Dr. No in MANY years, and this is partly because the last time I watched it I thought it was super boring (though I do want to revisit it soon, and perhaps I will for this event Fred is holding). I think that it all comes down to what you as a viewer would like to get out of a Bond flick. If you want a more serious style of 60s espionage, you definitely want to watch the early Connery Bond films. Goldfinger marks the start of a change in the Bond series, from a more conventional spy story to a more playful and entertaining action movie. After Goldfinger, Bond didn’t take itself very seriously, and personally I’m glad that happened. Part of what makes the James Bond series so fabulous is the formula they began to develop, really starting with Goldfinger.

Goldfinger starts with a pre-credit action sequence, one that is much more in depth than the previous two Bond films in the series, and is really just something to get the audience pulled in right away. This is followed by a beautiful credit sequence that was designed by Robert Brownjohn, featuring gilded women and the classic Goldfinger theme sung by Shirley Bassey. The pre-credit sequence allows for James to end up in Miami Beach, Florida, which introduces him to Goldfinger. In Miami Beach, Bond is making progress with the ladies, as always. For me, Connery always brought a real sense of a sex god to the Bond character; women seem unable to control themselves around him. Though this movie’s “Bond Girl,” Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), puts up a fight against Bond’s sexual presence, she eventually gets her very own rape kiss. This sexual prowess is something that continues with Roger Moore, and even though I think he is more suave (looking and acting) than Connery, it still just doesn’t seem to be as convincing, maybe it’s just because Connery was in the habit of forcing himself onto women.

We get to see Bond visit the Q branch under its new title, which is always a special treat, especially for fans of the series. Q is played by Desmond Llewelyn, who has become famously known for playing Q in the Bond films. The Q gadgets become a huge part of the series after Goldfinger, and you can tell that the gadgets are new to this film because they aren’t extremely extravagant at this point. The Q branch and gadgets would eventually become a point of comic relief and connivence in the Bond series. Bond and Q have a great relationship with Q always telling Bond to, “Pay attention” when he is fooling around with the experimental gadgets, or even Q’s sandwich as he does in Goldeneye.

Goldfinger has a solid story that is fun to get engaged in. Goldfinger himself is a great character, he has a great screen presence (which became a standard for Bond villains), and such a fun personality. Like most Bond villains though, he is too confident in his plans. One of my biggest issues with this movie though is that I never once felt like Bond wasn’t going to make it, the stakes seemed incredibly low the entire time, especially compared to Bond’s future endeavors. There were times where Bond would just give up when being chased, which is more realistic I suppose, but not what I want from a Bond movie. I want to see James Bond driving the front half of a car around, then jumping into a cake. The car chase through the woods, where the Aston Martin shows off it’s Q tricks was pretty lacking, but the chase directly following that around the warehouse buildings was a lot better.

There is a scene on the plane when Bond is changing clothes and the stewardess is trying to keep an eye on him and Bond keeps blocking the peep holes. This is a lot closer to the kind of lighthearted nature of the Bond series that I enjoy a lot. I always enjoy James Bond movies a lot more when they have the playful attitude that they grew to embrace later on in the series, really starting with Goldfinger in a lot of ways. Though Goldfinger is a great movie, and a great addition to the Bond series, I feel that the series was still coming out of its shell at this point, and had a little more work to do before it became the amazing series it was. I should emphasize “was,” because I find that the Brosnan (except Goldeneye) and particularly the Craig Bond films lack that playful attitude, though not completely devoid of their moments. If you are interested in seeing a James Bond flick, there are few that you can do better with as far as status than Goldfinger, and it’s a damn good movie too! It isn’t my personal best, but it’s up there for sure.

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