James Bond is an agent who has a hard time getting any rest. In the 1964 spy caper Goldfinger, Bond (Sean Connery) plans to take a break in Miami after completing a mission in Latin America. An urgent matter, though, has come to the attention of his chief, M (Bernard Lee), and M gets help from CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) to get a hold of 007. British Secret Service has been tracking the activity of Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), a businessman who has a special interest in gold, and has made waves dealing in it. Goldfinger is also in Miami, but he's there on business, which includes cheating a fellow hotel guest at gin. Bond sees that, and discovers his man has been abetted by Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) by way of a transmitter. Bond shuts down the cheat, but Goldfinger's aid, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), shuts down Bond. When he awakens, Jill is dead as a result of being covered in gold paint.
Both James and Auric head to England, where 007 has another encounter on a golf course that doesn't go Goldfinger's way. That gives 007 the opportunity to plant a tracking device supplied him by Q (Desmond Llewelyn), who also supplies Bond with a specially equipped Aston Martin. Bond is not alone in his pursuit of Goldfinger. As James tracks the man to his factory in Switzerland, Jill's sister Tillie (Tania Mallet) looks to avenge her sister's death. Her presence brings attention to them and gets them captured. In an escape attempt, Oddjob kills Tillie and recaptures James. He spares his own life by convincing Goldfinger MI6 will still pursue because of their knowledge of Goldfinger's Operation Grand Slam. He takes Bond with him to Kentucky, leaving him in the hands of his personal pilot, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). With an international team of bad guys which include the Chinese and the American mob, Goldfinger plans to use nerve gas and a small nuclear weapon to break into Fort Knox and make their gold reserves unusable. While in Goldfinger's custody, Bond looks for a way to alert his allies.
Goldfinger, which is based on Ian Fleming's 1959 novel, marks the first of four pictures that Guy Hamilton would direct in this ongoing franchise. Goldfinger also debuted a stand-alone sequence where the movie's title song, which was performed in this case by Shirley Bassey. The movie doesn't look as polished or as serious compared to the latest entries, but it's full of the good twists and turns viewers expect from the Bond series. Bond may still takes the time to make time with the ladies, but they're not necessarily safe around him. Bond tries to outsmart his adversaries, but things don't always go Bond's way. Some of the references have become dated, such as the end of the gold standard stateside. In addition to Hamilton, others who made multiple appearances behind the scenes include co-scenarist Richard Maibaum, cinematographer Ted Moore, and film scorer John Barry.
The movie also marked Connery's third appearance as Bond, and he's as smart as he is enjoyable. He toys with Goldfinger at first, but he also uses Q's tools to learn the name of Operation Grand Slam. Dispatching an enemy for Bond comes with a witty remark such as "Shocking" or "He blew a fuse." Frobe is even more lethal as Goldfinger who will use someone for their skill, only to kill that person when they're no longer useful. Gold is all that matters to him, and Frobe captures that madness well. Blackman, who got the role of Miss Galore because of her work as secret agent Cathy Gale on The Avengers, shows she can sometimes keep Bond in check, in spite of his best efforts. Sakata, who has no spoken lines, is one of the most memorable Bond adversaries as Oddjob. He's tougher than Bond, and has a bowler that's a lethal weapon. Lois Maxwell makes a cameo appearance as M's secretary Miss Moneypenny, trying to charm James in her own way. Burt Kwouk, best known as Cato in the Pink Panther movies, is Goldfinger's bomb maker, Mr. Ling.
Goldfinger seems a bit far-fetched, but it's sufficiently grounded in reality to compensate for the perceived creativity. James Bond goes directly from one mission to another, ready to keep the world safe from the madmen who threaten it. He may not act completely act within the protocols of MI6 agents, but he does his work with dignity, style, and as much discretion as an encounter will allow. After all that, James Bond deserves to enjoy a martini and a good woman. The actors change, but the appeal remains the same.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Goldfinger three stars. A golden oldie that's still a goodie.
© 2020 Pat Mills