Blu-ray: Goldfinger (1964) by Guy Hamilton
In “Goldfinger”, the third installment of the James Bond series, Bond (Sean Connery) is ordered to break down the gold smuggling operation of Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe). The adventure leads him to Florida, England, Switzerland and Kentucky culminating in a showdown in Fort Knox, where the majority of the U.S. gold is kept. Goldfinger’s plan involves a bunch of female show pilots spraying nerve gas, an atomic bomb and knowledge of the commodity market.
Cinematically speaking James Bond is very much a phenomenon belonging to the early 1960s when many of the elements that incorporate the Bond series coincided. The political and sociological circumstances were ideal for the franchise to take off. Due to the cold war and continuous nuclear threat the spy-business had the general public’s attention. The James Bond novels were written in the past decade and were very popular. Everybody was still wearing suits and the cars were as cool as can be. In the 1960s design and architecture were as modern as ever which is fitting considering that science fiction is an integral component of the James Bond movies. Back then, traveling was not as common as nowadays so many of the locations appeared even more exotic than they already are. Most importantly the unique leading man, Sean Connery, was at his physical peak and was able to create a character to whom all future spies have been compared.
In "Goldfinger" everything fell into place in a way that it became the blueprint of most future entries in the Bond canon and for many it is the ultimate Bond film. The pre-credit sequence, the "Bond song" sung over the credits, the larger-than-life villain, the eccentric henchman, the numerous bond girls, the bond car stuffed with hidden gimmicks, the humor, the bottle of Dom Perignon ’53, the “martini shaken-not-stirred” and the exotic locations are all elements that set the standard for Bond movies to come. Still, all this works best in an early 1960s setting. “Diamonds are Forever” (1972) shows this. This film has got a lot of similarities with “Goldfinger”. Like "Goldfinger" this movie featured Connery as Bond, Guy Hamilton as the director, Ken Adam handling production design and Shirley Bassey singing the credit song. Nevertheless it is odd to see 1970s cars, clothes and hairstyles in this movie. Bond feels a bit like an anachronism which he arguable has remained ever since in a way.
Sean Connery is in his prime as James Bond in “Goldfinger”. When shooting the movie Connery was 33 years of age; the perfect age for James Bond. Of course he had the edge on his successors because he was the first Bond but regardless of that he was a hard act to follow. The most important asset of an action movie star is the way he moves. Connery moves with catlike grace and explosiveness. In addition none of his successors could match his charisma. He pairs charm, wit and smoldering sexuality with his ability to be ice cold and ruthless when needed. The perfect example of this is the scene in which Connery spots the reflection of a bad guy in the eye of the woman he is kissing and subsequently blocks the thug’s blow with the lady in question.
Auric Goldfinger, the villain played by German actor Gert Fröbe is one of the most memorable of the series. He is not in the bad guy business just to get rich. To him crime is an art. “Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He's fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor... except crime!”, Goldfinger explains his motivation. Fröbe hardly spoke any English and was dubbed magnificently by English actor Michael Collins (although in the German version of the movie Fröbe dubbed himself) and thus being responsible for some of the most memorable lines in the series. When Goldfinger attempts to dissect 007 with a laser beam Bond asks: “Do you expect me to speak?” Goldfinger replies: “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!”
Obviously there are plenty of beautiful Bond girls. The main troupe is headed by Honor Blackman who plays Pussy Galore (what’s in a name). Still, the most memorable character in the movie is Goldfinger’s main henchman Oddjob, played by Harold Sakata, a weightlifting silver medalist at the 1948 Olympics in London. As a henchman he is rivaled only by Richard Kiehl’s character “Jaws” in “The Spy who Loved Me” (1977) and “Moonraker” (1979). Oddjob’s weapon, a steel-rimmed bowler hat, is unforgettable.
Production designer Ken Adam, in my mind one of the best in film history, returned to the series in “Goldfinger”. He had not worked on the previous Bond film, “From Russia with Love” (1963), because he had accepted Stanley Kubrick’s offer to do the production design for “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). One of the high points of his designs in “Goldfinger” is the main room in Goldfinger’s Kentucky farm. The magnificent interior, the rotating pool table turning into a control pad, the floor turning into maps and miniature sets of the crime scene in order to allow Goldfinger to unveil his evil plans to his associates in crime are particularly noteworthy. Ken Adam is also responsible for amending the ultimate James Bond car, an Aston Martin DB5 by packing it full of spy-gimmicks. It amongst others features rotating license plates, hidden Browning machine guns, a smoke generator, a radar screen and an ejectable chair.
The stand-alone pre-credit mini adventure was perfected in “Goldfinger". In the previous Bond film the pre credit teaser was introduced but it was part of the overall narrative and not yet a little story in itself. The sequence also features nice touches like the seagull Bond wears on his head for camouflage, the tuxedo underneath the wetsuit and the flower 007 puts in his lapel after having completed the mission. The subsequent title song, composed by John Barry and performed by Shirley Bassey during the credit sequence, has forever set the standard and style for all future Bond songs. In fact, I dare state it has never been bettered. All in all, “Goldfinger” is the ultimate Bond movie and one of the finest examples of an action film ever.
The blu-ray is a good as the movie. The video and audio are top notch. The disc is loaded with extra features. I particularly like the "commentary by Guy Hamilton". It is made up of interviews with director Guy Hamilton and others patched together by a narrator, Bond scholar Lee Pfeiffer. It is scene specific, very insightful and most enjoyable. No self-respecting film buff can be without this blu-ray.
Frederick von Schtupp
Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Cec Linder
Year of release: 1964
Released by: MGM/Fox
Year of release: 2009
Disc: Dual layered blu-ray, MPEG4 AVC, 1080p
Region code: A, B, C
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Running time: 109 mins
Language: English, French, German, Czech
Subtitles: English for the hearing impaired, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Swedish, none
Special features: audio commentary featuring director Guy Hamilton, audio commentary featuring members of the crew, Sean Connery from the set of Goldfinger, Honor Blackman Open-Ended Interview, Original publicity featurette, TV Broadcasts, Radio Communications, Theodore Bikel screen test, Tito Vandis screen test, The Making of Goldfinger, The Goldfinger Phenomenon, On Tour with the Aston Martin DB5, original theatrical trailer, Image Database, 007 Mission Control: search content feature: 007, women, allies, villains, Q branch, mission combat manual, 007 Mission Control: exotic locations, opening titles
Packaging: thick UK blu-ray case with slipcover