A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 553 – James Bond: Goldfinger

James Bond: Goldfinger – September 4th, 2011

When discussing what Bond movies to get to fill in my Bond education a bit, we decided on an earlier one and a later one. And let’s face it: Sean Connery is very much the classic James Bond. I know everyone has their personal favorite but without having seen much Bond, Connery is the one I think of when I think of the name. So! I figured a Connery Bond movie was probably a requirement. Faced with which one to get, Andy went with this one. And I understand why. It’s iconic, really. The gold-covered woman, the death-by-slow-moving-laser bit, it’s all been done and done again and done to death by everyone who wants to refer to a Bond trope. And now I’ve seen the source for all of that.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it that much. Oh, I enjoyed parts of it, and I enjoyed the very young Sean Connery as Bond. Until he forced himself on Pussy Galore and the movie treated it like romance. Ick. Ick ick, a million times ick. For future reference, if a woman says no, and then says no again, continuing to kiss her will not make her actually want it. Acquiescing is not romantic. And it’s not consenting. I was aware that Bond’s a total player. I had not quite realized the womanizing went to this point. And to be honest? It ruined the movie for me. No matter what else I think when I look back on it, I cannot get that scene out of my head. As it happened I watched with a sort of dawning realization that it was not going to get better. She wasn’t playing at saying no to tease him. He wasn’t going to leave off and let her go. And then apparently he has a magic penis that makes it all okay. It’s presented as seduction, but it sure didn’t look that way to me.

I will try to put that scene aside for the moment and review the rest of the movie without its incredibly squickful effects in my head. Because without that scene? Or if it had been handled a little differently? I would have enjoyed the movie a hell of a lot more. It still wouldn’t be my favorite of the ones I’ve seen, but it wouldn’t be below the others and every single other Bond movie that I haven’t seen. Because it’s got a ridiculous over-the-top villain! And it’s full of ridiculous plots and Bond being suave and there are gadgets! Yay gadgets! And I like Pussy Galore and her eminently capable character. Honor Blackman is one of two Bond girls who was also in The Avengers with Patrick Macnee, making three Avengers main cast who’ve also been in Bond movies. And I’m totally up for that. Maybe it’s because I grew watching that show. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for touchstones here. And I will note that this movie is referred to in The Avengers episode Too Many Christmas trees, when Steed gets a Christmas card from Cathy Gale and wonders aloud about what she’s up to at Fort Knox.

It was an interesting experience, watching this for the first time through the past experiences of everything I’ve seen that’s referred to it, from Austin Powers to MST3K movies to Mythbusters. It was almost like overhearing a story, then seeing it play out in front of you later. I felt like I could predict the plot and its basic points regardless of not having seen the actual movie. What I didn’t predict was that Bond’s kind of a dick. And I don’t just mean the scene I mentioned above. As Andy noted later on, Bond spends a lot of his time just prodding Auric Goldfinger because he can. Goldfinger is the villain here. He’s a bombastic sort of guy, but not in the cheerful Brian Blessed way. He’s got a big temper and a big love of gold and he’s willing to kill a heck of a lot of people in order to get more and make it more valuable. The plot follows Bond as he taunts Goldfinger, tails Goldfinger, gets captured by Goldfinger, conspires against Goldfinger, thwarts Goldfinger, saves the day, then is kidnapped by Goldfinger again before Chekhov’s Handy Plot Point sends Goldfinger out the window of a plane.

Goldfinger’s plan is a novel one, or it was at the time I suppose. Really though, I kind of like how ostentatious it is: He plans on gaining manpower from a variety of different criminal organizations from all over the world by promising them money, convinces them to help him rob Fort Knox, then kills them off and keeps their dudes because his real plan is to detonate an atomic bomb in Fort Knox, making the gold untouchable until the radioactive cobalt and iodine aren’t radioactive anymore. Now, I’m not a nuclear physicist, but I suspect that the science here is a little wonky and about as reliable as the movie’s other scientific assertions. Unfortunately, while the Mythbusters have proven that covering oneself with gold paint won’t cause “skin suffocation” and that shooting a hole in the side of an airplane won’t cause a person to be immediately sucked out, I doubt they’ll be testing to see how long a cobalt and iodine bomb cause gold to be too radioactive to go near. It’s the idea of it that I like. It’s a nice twist on both a “let’s steal lots of money” plot and use of nuclear weapons as a threat.

I really do wish I could have enjoyed this movie more. It had some really fun moments and while it wasn’t gunning for my top spy movie, it was certainly holding its own in the middle range up until the so-called seduction. It was good to finally see a lot of the sources for things that show up all over the cultural landscape now, and I’m glad I’ve seen it in that it was definitely a hole in my pop-culture knowledge. It had a lot of positives. I just can’t forgive that one huge negative. And what makes it worse is that I can think of a few minor adjustments that would have changed the tone of the scene enough to make it less creeptastic. But alas, it was not to be. I probably won’t be running out to go buy more classic Bond, but perhaps it will be telling that when the next Daniel Craig Bond movie comes out I’m looking forward to it.

September 4, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

James Bond: Goldfinger

September 4, 2011

James Bond: Goldfinger

Tonight we’re continuing Amanda’s James Bond education with the movie that is pretty widely accepted to be the best Bond movie, at least before they began playing with the formula on the last couple. I really felt that this needed to be in our collection if we were going to be exploring older Bond films because it is the quintessential Bond flick. It has the gadgets, the cool car, the mad plot, the babes, the bad puns. There were two films before this one in the franchise, but it wasn’t until this one that everything that you expect in a James Bond film truly came together. This movie established the formula not just for the whole James Bond franchise but for some of the knock-off films that came out around the same time. (For example the two MST3K films Secret Agent Super Dragon and Danger! Death Ray.)

This was one of the classic Sean Connery James Bonds, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him at work. Where his successor Roger Moore, who we watched a couple days ago in A View to a Kill, was cheesy and corny Sean Connery was much more suave. He simply projects machismo, from the moment he takes off his wetsuit in the prologue to reveal his white tuxedo jacket to his banter with the nefarious Goldfinger.

In this film James Bond, suave super-secret super-spy must find out how a madman named Auric (get it?) Goldfinger has been smuggling gold around Europe and devaluing the UK currency. Ultimately of course it turns out that Goldfinger’s plan goes far beyond mere smuggling – he intends to break into Fort Knox and using a dirty nuclear weapon to irradiate the American gold reserves, rendering it un-usable and thus raising the value of his own supply. Along the way Bond naturally sleeps with every woman he encounters and gets to use his usual collection of cool gadgets and toys.

One thing I can’t help noticing about Bond in this movie however is that he’s a bit of a dick. I expect all the womanising – hell that’s part of his charm – but he also spends a lot of time needlessly antagonising Goldfinger. His method of investigation seems to be to go piss off his subject as much as he can for no apparent reason. If he hadn’t messed with Goldfinger’s gin rummy game then the alluring Jill Masterson wouldn’t have been gilded. Then Bond challenges Goldfinger to a golf game and sneakily switches balls to prevent him from winning. Why does Bond go out of his way to antagonise Goldfinger at every turn? I honestly couldn’t say.

I do enjoy his car here though. The other gadget he gets from Q is his high-tech magnetic tracking device which probably seemed high-tech in the sixties but in the day of modern smart phones with GPS seems outrageously dated. His awesome silver Aston Martin on the other hand is as cool today as it ever was. It’s so full of cool tech! It has the rotating license plates, ejector seat, smole screen, oil slick, machine-gun headlights, spinning blades on the hubcaps and bulletproof windows. (All of which have been confirmed effective by Mythbusters, the authority on spy veracity by the way.) When I was in high school my best friend Jeff had a die-cast model of this car with spring loaded missiles, windcreen and ejector seat, which is proof that even in the eighties this car still had appeal to teenaged boys. I suspect that holds true to this very day.

As to the womanising, well, that’s a mixed bag. The first woman Bond hooks up with, a flamenco dancer, betrays him. Then he woos a pair of attractive sisters, each of whom is killed. Finally he aggressively “seduces” the very independent Pussy Galore who insists for most of the movie that she’s immune to his charms. Yes, she does eventually succumb and ultimately betrays her employer because Bond is just that good a roll in the hay, but the means by which he overcomes her reticence are a little too direct for modern audiences. Indeed I have to wonder if the scene where he forces himself on her seemed appropriate even in the sixties. And I had so been looking forward to seeing Honor Blackman of Avengers fame in the role of Pussy. Different times, I suppose.

It must have been interesting for Amanda watching this for the first time tonight. So much of this movie is so firmly entrenched in the modern pop culture lexicon. This movie is lampooned in everything from Austin Powers to the Simpsons. In Austin Powers when Random Task throws his shoe is it as funny if you haven’t seen Odd Job throwing his deadly hat in this movie? I’m guessing that Amanda was well aware of the scene where Bond is strapped to a table with a laser menacing his crotch but she had never seen it in context as part of the movie. Now at last she’s seen the film and she can understand just what the fuss is all about. I think with the four Bond films she has now seen she has a pretty good idea just what the whole character is about down through the years. There’s no need for us to collect all twenty of them I think.

September 4, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment