Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Goldfinger (1964) | Bond

Actors and Allies

I don't have much to say about Sean Connery as Bond here. He's still at the top of his game and seems to be enjoying himself. The success of Goldfinger will change that when he's not allowed to profit from it the way the producers do, but for now he's still turning in a great performance with plenty of charm, humor, and - when needed - gravitas.

Bernard Lee is also still excellent as M, even though the script makes him the butt of Bond's snobbery at one point. I love his impatience with that though and M never loses authority, even if he doesn't know what region the brandy's cognac came from.

Speaking of power shifts, it feels like something's changed in Bond's relationship with Moneypenny. For the most part, they're flirting like they always do and it seems harmless, but there's something in her eyes that suggests she'd be willing to pursue something with him if only he'd give her hope. It's subtle and it's nothing she couldn't back away from, but I don't like it.

I also don't care for the turn that Bond's relationship with Q has taken. In From Russia With Love, we saw that they have very different attitudes towards technology. Q is professional and even a little reverent about it, while Bond is amused and playful. In Goldfinger, Q is openly resentful of Bond's flippancy. That by itself is fun and I like watching them together. The problem is with the gadgets that Q's so serious about. They're ridiculous, which makes him ridiculous too. As the Bond series becomes farcical, Q is an early casualty.

Which brings us to Felix. Goldfinger's Felix is the worst of them all, partly because Cec Linder plays him as such a square, but also because of how he's written. In Dr. No, Jack Lord criticized Bond for his focus on women, but Linder's entire approach is to smile enviously and shake his head. While tailing someone he thinks is Bond, Felix speculates about where Bond might be going. "Ten'll get you one, it's a drink or a dame." He doesn't take Bond seriously at all, so it's tough for me too, either.

(I will say this in Bond's defense, though: He's not as ineffectual as people accuse him of being in this movie. I'll have more to say about that tomorrow, but for all the problems I have with Goldfinger, that's not one of them.)

Best Quip

If I limit "quip" to little lines that Bond says after he kills someone, the best in Goldfinger has to be, "Shocking." But a lot of times, Bond's funniest lines pop up in other places. My favorite in Goldfinger is when the villain appears in Bond's plane dressed as a general. Bond nonchalantly compliments him on his promotion and asks, "Are you having lunch at the White House, too?" It's perfect.

Worst Quip

Shortly after the above, once Goldfinger has been sucked out of the decompressed cabin. Pussy asks where he is and Bond replies, "Playing his golden harp." Ugh.


My main problem with Goldfinger is how it sets the table for so many excesses in later films. I mentioned above how some of Bond's relationships are getting cartoony and how the gadgets play a direct role in how seriously I'm able to take Q. In addition to the parking meter/smoke bomb in Q's lab, there's the seagull hat that Bond wears in the pre-credits teaser.

I'm totally okay with the Aston Martin, though. It's the craziest gadget in the film, but the car itself has such style that I can't hate it and seriously... who wouldn't want to drive that? It's easy for me to dismiss the seagull hat as ridiculous and out of place, but the car is awesome. It's only when later films try to top it that I get cranky.

Now that we're starting to see gadgets in Q's workshop, I need to make a rule about what's eligible for my Top Ten Gadgets list. I'm only going to rank things that Bond actually takes and uses in the field, but I'll be sure to honorably mention other favorites as we go.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger)
2. Attaché case (From Russia With Love)
3. SPECTRE shoe-knife (From Russia With Love)
4. Camera-tape recorder; mostly because it reminds me of a camera my dad used to use (From Russia With Love)
5. Grant's garrote-watch (From Russia With Love)
6. Seagull SCUBA hat (Goldfinger)
7. TBD
8. TBD
9. TBD
10. TBD

Bond's Best Outfit

I'm a sucker for gray suits and sharp vests. Vests are out right now, but I totally dig them. Love this suit that Bond wears for the whole middle part of the movie.

Bond's Worst Outfit

A blue terry-cloth onesie. And that's how he meets Jill Masterson. Good thing you're James Bond, buddy.

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