Performed by legendary Welsh singer Shirley Bassey, her eponymous tune is the first in the franchise’s storied history to accompany the opening title sequence: a tradition that would continue for all subsequent James Bond flicks, save for the Daniel Craig movies.
A decent tune made iconic by Shirley Bassey’s truly rip-roaring rendition, ask the average person to recite the words of a Bond theme song, and this would probably top the list. So impressed by her inimitable style were the producers, in fact, she was asked to return for two further films, giving her the distinction of being the only performer to record the signature track for three separate films.
Goldfinger sees the return of Sean (Ssshocking…positively ssshocking) Connery for his third outing as 007. Taking a much-needed break at a luxury hotel in Miami after blowing up an illicit drug laboratory somewhere in South America, Bond’s holiday is rudely interrupted by his old friend and CIA agent Felix Lighter (Cec Linder). He explains that M (Bernard Lee) has orders for the suave super spy to investigate fortuitously named bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) who happens to be staying in the same hotel. Never one to disobey orders… Bond shoos away his typically statuesque masseuse so as he can indulge in a bit of “man talk” with Felix (yes, that actually happened) and hash out the details of his next assignment.
It doesn’t take long for 007 to spot his target, who’s currently to be found cheating at cards with the help of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), prompting him, in the most conspicuous example yet of Bond’s complete lack of subtlety, to “have a bit of fun” at the dodgy dealer’s expense; all while Miss Masterson watches on in amusement as Bond blackmails Goldfinger into an ignominious defeat. After indulging in a bit of hanky-panky (naturally), stopping to make a disparaging comment regarding the musical talents of The Beatles, James is suddenly knocked unconscious by Goldfinger’s golf-ball-crushing, amusingly named manservant Oddjob – awakening some time later to find poor Jill covered in gold paint and dead from skin asphyxiation, providing one of the more memorable (if scientifically inaccurate) deaths, if not scenes, in the entire Bond franchise.
Back in good old blighty, apparently unconcerned by his role in the late Jill Masterson’s death, 007 receives orders to continue the investigation into Goldfinger, and a meeting is arranged between the hero and the villain over a not-so friendly game of golf. Triumphing over his increasingly frustrated opponent thanks to a combination of his innate skill (yes, he’s a world class talent here, too) and a bit of schoolboyish trickery, the audience is treated to its first glimpse of Oddjob’s secret but deadly weapon of choice, his steel-brimmed hat, which he uses to decapitate an almost certainly priceless statue; a warning shot fired across Bond’s bows telling him not to meddle in old Goldie’s affairs.
Undeterred, 007 precedes to follow his prey to Switzerland in what has to be the seminal Bond car, the Aston Martin DB5, equipped with all the usual gadgets we’d expect to see from MI6’s finest – including an ejector seat (no Q wasn’t joking). Along the way, Bond finds time to engage in some banter with an attractive young woman named Tilly (Tania Mallet) who, it transpires, is the late Jill Masterson’s sister and is herself stalking Goldfinger looking for an opportunity to avenge her beloved sibling.
Unfortunately, her attempt at assassinating the portly gold enthusiast ends in failure; shooting so wide of the mark she nearly kills Bond by accident. It’s not the last we see of the would-be assassin however, as, during a covert assault on Goldfinger’s base, the pair cross paths once again; agreeing to work together to bring down the heinous villain and ruin his latest sinister plot. Sadly for Tilly, as they attempt to flee the compound, she trips the alarm, leading to a brief and ultimately unsuccessful escape attempt during which he rather conveniently gets to use all the gadgets in the modified Aston Martin’s arsenal; which includes launching a goon out of the vehicle’s passenger seat using its in-built ejector mechanism (you couldn’t make it up… well actually, it seems you could). This hectic scene culminates, sadly, with Tilly’s eventual death via decapitation, of all things (at the hands of Oddjob and his deadly hat) and Bond’s incarceration.
Awaking from his enforced slumber, Bond finds himself in a rather uncomfortable position: tied to a modified operating table with a laser beam inching ever closer to his unmentionables. Oh how womankind would have wept. Just before the laser reaches the no go zone however, 007 craftily bluffs his way to a reprieve, feigning knowledge of Goldfinger’s plot to persuade him it would be in his best interests to keep Bond alive for at least a little while longer (kill him, just kill him!)
Concussed for what must be the 3000th time, by this point, James is greeted by an altogether more pleasant site: the stunningly beautiful face of the equally brilliantly named Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Goldfinger’s personal pilot who, it just so happens, has no interest in men (spoiler, this doesn’t last). Now a prisoner at Goldfinger’s exclusive stud farm in Kentucky (a fitting location for 007) Bond escapes… again and finds his way to a secret conference room wherein he hears the full details of the gold obsessed megalomaniac’s plan to knock off Fort Knox, with the help of some well-to-do American criminals he’s assembled. It goes without saying, their excitement at the prospect of the profits to come doesn’t last long when, before they’ve even finished toasting their impending victory, Goldfinger poisons them with the deadly gas he plans to use in his attack on Fort Knox.
Another tête-à-tête between hero and villain ensues, shortly after, during which, as is common practice in Bond films, Goldfinger reveals his entire plan to 007 which, in a nutshell, is to detonate a dirty bomb inside the gold depository vault, rendering Fort Knox’s gold reserves useless; giving the US bullion depository’s Chinese counterparts a substantial financial advantage and Goldfinger a tidy profit. Bond’s response? To aggressively seduce Pussy, whose flying circus was going to kill all the military presence at the fort using the aforementioned nerve gas and convince her to betray her employer. Presumably he didn’t mention what happened to Jill when she decided to stab Goldfinger in the back.
Now onside, Pussy’s circus sprays the Fort with a non-lethal gas instead, giving the US military time to play possum and surround Goldfinger’s forces once inside the Fort. Realising his original plan has been foiled, Goldfinger escapes disguised as a general, killing everyone (friend and foe) around him as he flees, leaving Bond handcuffed to the bomb and locked inside the vault with Oddjob. The ever-resourceful spy isn’t trapped for long, however, using a pair of gold ingots to extricate himself from his predicament before defeating his ridiculously strong, devoted, and exceedingly stupid foe by electrocution, as the hulking henchman goes to retrieve his METAL-lined hat from the highly-conductive metal bars in which it’s wedged.
Now free of distractions and with the help of both Felix and a bomb-defusal specialist, Jamessssh has just enough time to disarm the device, stopping the countdown at the 007 second mark. Phew, that was fortunate.
After saving the world yet again, Bond is then invited to the White House to meet the president for, I can only assume, a few celebratory Vodka Martini’s. But, on his way to this prestigious rendezvous, his plane is hijacked by larger than life heel Goldfinger (still in his US General’s get up, bizarrely). After a brief struggle over possession of the golden gun (different one, in case you were wondering), Goldfinger is finally disposed of when a gunshot compromises one of the plane’s windows, sucking the overweight nutter through the painfully small opening and into the clouds (what a way to go).
Bond and Pussy, who, her complicity in the original plot forgiven and forgotten, was naturally given command of the plane for this important journey, parachute to safety, conveniently landing safely on a remote patch of land where they have one final ‘sesh’ to close out the film.
Goldfinger is a bona fide classic. Arguably the most memorable, it’s also one of the most popular; and for good reason.
Despite an over the top, and let’s be honest, ridiculous plot (knock-off Fort Knox… haha! Good one); silly names (Pussy Galore… Oddjob, Auric Goldfinger); some, shall we say, questionable individual scenes that haven’t aged well (his ‘seduction’ of Pussy Galore borders on rape, while the aforementioned “man talk” is horrendously inappropriate); and more narrow escapes than you can shake a stick at, the film works on pretty much every level. High-octane action sequences withstand comparison to many a modern film, with cinema’s coolest car and an iconic (if chronically idiotic) henchman providing bucketloads of character. There’s also plenty of tongue-in-cheek jokes to lighten the tone that are sure to bring a sardonic smile to your face, one of my personal favourite Bond girls in Jill Masterson, and an absolute belter of a theme tune.
This flick also sees the return of various much-loved characters, including Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, Bernard Lee as M, and of course Desmond Llewellyn as Q – alongside the man himself Sean Connery, who put’s in another effortlessly cool display as 007.
That being said, and while it’s no doubt a classic, after watching it again the other day, I have to say it didn’t seem as good as I remember. So, although it symbolises what makes Bond such a unique and interesting series, I think I prefer From Russia With Love overall.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting old? Who knows. Nevertheless, this is definitely still one of the stronger films in the franchise and, more importantly, a seminal one in terms of the wider series – 8/10.