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Goldfinger - Bond with the Midas touch

Every week, though it is fun seeing all the new offerings out there, it's nice once in a while, to go back to the classics, and revisit old friends. In the first of those revisits of the classics, I am taking a look at one of the most celebrated, seminal and path-breaking films of the longest running (58 years so far) and most prolific franchise in movie history (24 films and counting, the 25th one No Time to Die would have released last week but was postponed to November due to the pandemic, which is what got me thinking about it), the James Bond series.

Goldfinger (1964), was the third Bond movie, after Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963), but while those first two films got the ball rolling, it was Goldfinger that set the stage for the worldwide craze that would ensure Bond immortality in the movie pantheon. Like the uber-cool Scotsman Sean Connery (he will turn 90 this August, God bless him), who set the bar high for all the other Bonds that followed, Goldfinger too set the template for what every Bond fan came to expect soon after the walk, turn and shoot looking down the gun barrel accompanied by the unforgettable "dang da da dang dang" Monty Norman theme music - a pulse-pounding pre-credit sequence, an opening credit roll with a sexy background and original song, cool gadgets, fast cars, beautiful women, and a megalomaniac villain hell bent on world domination with a quirky evil sidekick.

Dame Shirley Bassey and her rich voice kicks off proceedings with the title song with its signature trumpet sound - she went on to sing for Diamonds are Forever (1971) and Moonraker (1979) - followed soon after by one of the most stunning visuals, the gold paint covered dead body of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), another signature Bond movie trope - the early demise of a beautiful woman. The main "Bond girl", an anachronistic term in today's age, called Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), also heralded the start of many, shall we say, Dada Kondke style names - Plenty O'Toole ("named after your father no doubt" says Bond in Diamonds are Forever), Octopussy, Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye (1995) and many more. Gert Frobe, the German actor who played Auric Goldfinger, has one of the best ripostes in Bond filmdom. When Bond, who is tied down on a table with a laser slowly coming perilously close to his, ahem, other deadly weapon, besides his Walther PPK gun, says "Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?", and Goldfinger replies, "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die". Golden, just golden. His silent but deadly sidekick, Oddjob, with the killer bowler hat, also laid the groundwork for later ones like Jaws in The Spy who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker.

Bond perennials from that era are reliably there as well - Bond's cherubic, slightly irritated boss M (Bernard Lee), his flirty assistant Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), and the fan favorite, cantankerous gadget guru Q (Desmond Llewelyn), whose subdued but genuine excitement at showing off his new toys was matched only by his exasperation at Bond's cavalier treatment of them. One of them, the Aston Martin DB5, with its multiple offensive and defensive weapons, wheel shredders, GPS precursor screen, and of course the ejector seat (even Bond is incredulous at that saying "Ejector seat? You must be joking") again set the stage for all the cool cars to come in the later movies. One fun bit of trivia - we always associate Bond with driving fast cars, but in only one movie, he never drove at all, You Only Live Twice (1967).

Yes, some of it may seem chauvinistic, racist and sexist to our evolved sensibilities of today, but it's always easy to judge a bygone era with a modern lens and look askance and feel superior. What is unchangeable however, is that a Bond film is a damn good time at the movies, and as the theme songs say, a thunderball, an all time high, nobody does it better.

April 17, 2020

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