What has become of the James Bond franchise can all be derived from the success of the first three films that were released: Dr. No, From Russia with Love & Goldfinger. Goldfinger somehow surpassing its predecessors yet the first two are near perfect films in their own right. These first three installments in the longest running franchise set the standard for future films that will eventually follow. It’s no secret that more films will be made after Goldfinger, the budget has grown by 1 million each film as well as the box office return. Safe to say these first three Bond films should be used as a template for other franchises looking to make a name for themselves.
At the center of the success, which can be attributed to many different elements in the films is the title character of James Bond (Sean Connery). In his third time portraying the titular secret agent, the two have become synonymous with one another. Obviously, there will be other actors to take the baton passed by Connery, but Connery is the true embodiment for this character in mind, body, and spirit. Watching Connery act so naturally in his portrayal of Bond, its hard to picture anyone else in the role, Connery brings the charisma, the charm, the tongue-and-cheek humor, and the physicality to the role. He can also pull of any type of tuxedo with zero effort.
Goldfinger follows a pattern set up by its predecessors – the opening title card with original song and graphic (the best of the three), the flirtatious Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) scenes with the sexual tension cranked up to 11, the exotic cars and locals from across the globe, the high tech gadgets from Q that fuse science fiction and reality, the nefarious villains plotting to take over said globe, this time its Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), and the love interest with a name that resembles a double entendre Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).
All these elements are thrown into a cauldron and serve as the DNA of the Ian Fleming adapted novel. Goldfinger is the 7th novel released by Fleming after Dr. No & From Russia with Love. The film follows Bond on vacation in Miami when he crosses paths with Goldfinger and his mute, brute henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata). Goldfinger is plain and simple obsessed with gold – even killing his associate Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) by dousing her entire body in gold which causes her to suffocate due to a lack of oxygen. Goldfinger’s plan, which is more show and tell in nature of a typical villain trope is to break into Fort Knox and contaminate the gold supply to ensure he would be the only supplier of the precious currency.
Not having read the novel myself, the one plot hole that Fleming wrote is addressed by Bond talking to Goldfinger – it would take 2 weeks to steal all the gold that Fort Knox holds. Instead, having the gold become contaminated was the alternative option that best suited the story written by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, Maibaum also being the writer for the previous two installments.
Looking at these early Bond films today, the biggest criticism everyone can agree on is the films are shown through the male gaze. At least with these first three films, and I’m sure the ones that follow, the misogyny is a glaring issue that can cause a film of any kind not to be received well in today’s world. Every woman that encounters James, is only there to be objectified by James and seduced. Pussy Galore’s name alone is enough to raise the alarm, add to that when her and James wrestle in the barn. The dialogue alone suggests that as fact. In the time these films were made, that issue wouldn’t be discussed let alone thought about – what man didn’t want to be James Bond? Every film features a Bond girl, there are debates and over who should be the next, it’s in the DNA of the franchise but as the films move forward the misogynistic view of women gets better, for the most part, it’s still in your face but more subtle. Today’s Bond girls aren’t written that way, they can’t and shouldn’t be after the #metoo movement.
James Bond films aren’t just spy thrillers with dialogue of the villain telling the hero his plan before he sets it in motion. There is plenty of action and stunts that only get bigger and bolder with each installment. The villains too get more formidable to deal with as the stakes to save the world become more urgent. Oddjob alone is enough to cause a large headache, most of Bond’s humor ad Connery’s slick timing of the dialogue comes when interacting with the mute.
Finally, the shaken, not stirred line is introduced here, the signature martini that Bond enjoys most of all.
Judging by these first three films, it’s easy to see how inspirational the franchise has become on the genre. Plenty of films take what James Bond has done rather successfully and applied it to their own films and franchises. Even the parody films like Austin Power’s pay homage to Ian Fleming’s legacy on page and on screen. For their time, these films are the gold standard. In today’s film landscape they still hold up effects and all especially Goldfinger.
Goldfinger is written by Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn, directed by Guy Hamilton is Rated PG and has an 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Goldfinger was released on September 18, 1964 in the United Kingdom and on December 22, 1964 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Goldfinger can be bought from online retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Google. 5 out of 5.