Film Review by Dean Duncan May 8, 2015

Epidermal suffocation, eh? Goldfinger is at least partly pleasing, in its own excessive, winkingly suave way. The evening clothes under the wet suit and all. By this third entry the franchise is already too big for its own britches, but it’s not quite elephantine, yet. For instance, the spectacular-to-preposterous Fort Knox climax is offset by the very small scale opening sequence, which quite effectively revolves around a simple card game and a single pair of binoculars. And the women? That first tryst, which is interrupted by Bond’s seeing the reflection of an assailant in his true love’s eye, is very cynical, very funny, and not at all harmful. In itself. This is make believe, after all, and a genre piece, and we can suspend our disbelief without relinquishing our moral agency or responsibility.

After the prologue that first actual young woman registers, maybe because the seductive blocking on that balcony is plausibly related to what attractive, unaffiliated young people in those circumstances might actually do. The gold paint is pretty cool of course, and it may also be the Bond series’ original sin, or the beginning of the end. After this gimmick, and after this spectacle, all they can really do is one-up themselves. They’ll keep trying, successfully or not, all the way until Daniel Craig comes along.

In that spirit, some of what follows in the film is pretty good, and then some what follows immediately afterward is pretty dumb. The Q episode is nice, firmly tongue in cheek, but not quite yet smacking of the Fonz. Oddjob is forbidding, but once having established the hat as his weapon of choice, they go to increasingly silly lengths to contrive its varied use. There is some excellent location work in Switzerland, and some really cool cars as well.

Back and forth, continued: that Swiss car chase is pretty good. Oops! We just killed off that girl. No matter, seemingly. Is the next bit somehow related? Now come the lasers, and that threatened emasculation. ZZZ! Is it that the cold war over, or that I personally am so surrounded by daughters and gentle sons? Whichever the cause, this kind of testosterone hysteria/anxiety never quite registers or makes sense to me. That’s true whether their flinching over threats to Bond’s virility, or just being grossly aggressive again. Let’s be frank here. “Pussy Galore” is kind of unforgivable, partly because it’s so inelegant. There’s a place for double entendre, but this is like a pair of 2X4’s. Granted, the character herself is a bit autonomous. Until James literally rolls her in the hay, that is.

(Here is a clip from a much better film, which is entitled Whisky Galore

Being positive (and there really is much to be positive about): Goldfinger’s lair is pretty design-impressive, and it’s impressively captured. The gangsters are funny. The humour’s not all intentional, but what filmmakers don’t anticipate or intend can still be awfully interesting. Again, we’re seeing some really significant un-unpacked stuff about maleness, ethnicity, class or social mobility. The car-crushing incident is impressive. That switch from anticipated gold robbery to actual nuclear mischief is unexpected, and quite clever.

This is fun. In Fort Knox there’s an hilariously extended bit of parallel montage.  Elapsed screen time doubles, even triples the actual ticking of your watch. You can see Oddjob’s demise coming from several kilometres away, but when it comes it is kind of cathartic. It’s a very nice touch that a mere scientist eventually disarms the device, since James clearly, at least in this particular setting, has no clue. Bloated heroism, suddenly, humourously punctured by a plain guy who knows what he’s doing.

Now, after all of the geo-jeopardy, Goldfinger closes with what would soon become an obligatory winking ending.

Here’s a poser, to conclude. Consider, or compare, the Bond films’ mores with, say, the Beatles’ long hair and drug use and such. Is it because of the Beatles that BYU still doesn’t allow beards? Who knows? But I ask you, which institution actually mucked things up the most? Long-haired, regionally rooted, partly impertinent utter-genius, or the close-cropped woman-consuming rationalizations of the Establishment?

It needn’t have been thus. There’s a place, there’s a need for the frank exploration/representation of ambiguity and realpolitik and even perfidy. What if Saltzman/Broccoli/audiences had treated similar subject matter a little more sensitively, or seriously?