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Goldfinger Retro Review: Spy’s Out, Thighs Out

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BY July 22, 2020
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Welcome back to our Retro Reviews! If this is your first time here, here’s what you need to know. Retro Reviews are when we review movies and such we missed upon their release. For example, I’m currently watching all the James Bond movies. While I know some things about 007 thanks to his cultural influence, I missed a lot of the movies because you can’t prove I was alive when they came out. And that brings us to the latest movie with my Retro Review of Goldfinger.

(And to start at the beginning, here’s my review of Dr. No. Then go on to my review of From Russia with Love.)

Goldfinger: The Plot Summary

goldfinger retro review IT’S CALLED FASHION, image via Eon Productions and United Artists

First of all, I feel like we’re on a first-name basis here, especially since I’ve seen every sinew of his thighs. So. After a mission in which he wears a fake seagull as a hat, so he can sneak into a South American drug lab, James takes a rest in Miami. While he’s there, CIA agent Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) delivers a message from M. He wants James to observe a man called Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), who’s also staying at the hotel. It’s kind of a vague instruction, obviously, but James attends to his duties by being the professional we all know him to be.

And by that, I mean that he immediately hones in on the gal working for Goldfinger, Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). She’s supposed to be helping Goldfinger cheat at gin rummy, but 007 James Bonds her into having sex with him. Naturally. After they’re finished, though, someone knocks out James. And when he comes to, Jill is dead from “skin suffocation”–someone has covered her entirely in gold paint. It’s quite the sight.

Upon his return to London, M, with help from the Governor of the Bank of England–the highest-ranking person in the UK’s central bank–tells James why they’re looking at Goldfinger. It’s really quite simple. If you can buy gold cheap in one country, then sell it in another country where the price is higher, you can make a tidy profit. And that’s what Goldfinger’s doing. The trouble is, they don’t know how. They want James to figure out how Goldfinger smuggles all that gold.

So he trails the magnate to his plant in Switzerland. He finds out how the business works, but James stumbles onto something even bigger–a plan called Operation Grand Slam. Through this plan, Goldfinger will destroy the United States gold reserve at Fort Knox, upending the world economy. Easy as pie.

Into the Bondiverse

goldfinger retro review image via Eon Productions and United Artists

Each of these early Bond movies introduces something new into the canon and Goldfinger is no different. For example, this is the first movie in which James himself orders a martini “shaken, not stirred.” There are also two other big additions to the canon.

First, there is the song. Although the first two movies had music, they didn’t have an official title song in the way that Goldfinger does. And boy, does it. The legendary Shirley Bassey belts the theme song, whose lyrics aren’t exactly subtle (“HE LOVES ONLY GOLD!”). But it works.

The second contribution is the car. Specifically, the Aston Martin DB5. Although James will go on to drive a number of different cars–and a lot of other vehicles–there is perhaps no brand with which he’s more associated than Aston Martin. Goldfinger sees Q introduce the DB5, on Bond’s first trip to the Q Branch labs, and it’s Bond’s main Wonderful Toy for the film. Sure, he’s got a very prescient tracking device, but it can’t beat the coupe. Just look at everything it can do.

First of all, it has a revolving license plate, in case you need to be sneaky (and don’t have a seagull hat). It also has side spikes to destroy other cars’ wheels. And if that isn’t enough, it’s equipped with an oil sprayer, so you can quickly lose a tail. But if it’s really dire, and an enemy is in the car with you, just pop the top on the gear lever and push the button for the EJECTOR SEAT. That’s right–my man’s got an ejector seat. Take that, villainry.

No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Die!

Speaking of villains, besides uttering that famous line, Goldfinger has a few other contributions to the canon to make. First of all, there’s his rumpus room. It’s by far the coolest interior design a villain has had to this point. From the flipping pool table to the sliding floor panels, it’s a room of wonders. (You can see all the details on the official site, but be advised that the page contains spoilers.)

goldfinger retro review image via Eon Productions and United Artists

He also has the best henchpeople so far. I alluded to him in the review for From Russia with Love, but this is the film in which we meet Oddjob (Harold Sakata). Parodied in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery as Random Task–and definitely don’t look up what that guy’s up to these days–he’s a strange cat. He never speaks, unless “Aha!” counts, but he doesn’t need to. All he needs is a razor-edged hat and a strong throw. And nothing shakes him, not even a bar of gold bullion thrown squarely at his chest. He just smiles and shakes it off, which is honestly a mood.

And then there’s Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Jill might be the official Bond Girl of the flick, but she ain’t got nothin’ on Pussy. Whether she’s commanding her Flying Circus or brushing off James’s attempts to James Bond her, she’s a super-capable badass. I just love her so much. (And it was probably her, by the way, that Austin Powers was parodying with the character Alotta Fagina.)

Goldfinger Retro Review

goldfinger retro review image via Eon Productions and United Artists

In case it hasn’t already become crystal clear in this Goldfinger Retro Review, I loved this movie. It was well-paced and well-written and well worth the time it takes to watch it. It was also funny, definitely the funniest in the series so far. Sean Connery is mostly coasting at this point, but it’s fine. By this point in the series, he is James Bond, the casually cool spy, so the effortlessness that he exudes feels right. And as for the folks who play off him, what a line-up.

I mentioned Pussy Galore, but I didn’t really go into detail on her boss. And I should, because Goldfinger is the most compelling villain to me so far. Donald Grant, a foe in From Russia with Love, oozed menace. Goldfinger, however, is almost the complete opposite. He’s almost a gentleman. You know, if you ignored the many murders he commits.

Goldfinger reacts to Bond with something like bemusement. He knows James is going to keep coming at him, but he just keeps batting him away, like a cat. He stays unruffled, and he’s never petty, at least not until the very end.

I mean, don’t get me wrong–his plan is dumb as hell. (For one thing, he’s not the only person with gold in the world.) But it sure is fun watching him try to pull it off. And that’s what this movie is–fun, and my reigning favorite.

What did you think of Goldfinger? Unlike Goldfinger, I do expect you to talk, either in the comments or on social media.

featured image via Eon Productions and United Artists

MoviesGoldfingerjames bondmoviesRetro Review

Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

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