Bond contemplates necrophilia while Goldfinger says hello to his grandmother back home.

WHAT DOES THE BAD GUY WANT?  One of the chief joys of Goldfinger is the bad-guy plot.  Goldfinger’s scheme is logical, surprising and utterly horrifying and evil.  Goldfinger trades in gold, but instead of robbing Fort Knox he plans to set off a “dirty bomb” inside it, killing tens of thousands of people, making America’s gold worthless and his own ten times more valuable.  On his way to achieving this goal, he’s willing to kill just about anybody he feels like, even his own financiers and allies.

WHAT DOES BOND ACTUALLY DO TO SAVE THE WORLD?  Surprisingly little.  One of the enduring mysteries of Goldfinger is that it remains monstrously entertaining even though the protagonist’s actions have absolutely no direct influence on the bad-guy plot.  Bond investigates Goldfinger for suspicious activity indirectly related to the task at hand, is kidnapped, and spends the rest of the movie utterly powerless while the plot unfolds around him.  He can’t even defuse a nuclear bomb when he’s chained to it (that duty falls to Nameless Guy In Glasses).  The only direct action he takes is to rape (let’s call it what it is) Pussy Galore, which somehow encourages her to alert the CIA to Goldfinger’s plot.  Now there’s initiative!  “Hmm, I’m a prisoner in a nightmare of intrigue which spells the end of western dominance, what can I do?  Hey!  What about if I rape that airplane pilot?”

WOMEN?  Four: a fiery Latina before the titles, good-sport “Dink”(!) in Miami, poor doomed Jill Masterson in the hotel, and then the more challenging Pussy Galore.  In general, the sexual politics in Goldfinger are more complicated than in the previous two movies.  Not all women simply jump into bed with Bond any more — some are femmes fatale, some are easy pickings, some aren’t interested in sex at all (and don’t get it), and some are classy, independent thinkers who must be, um, persuaded.

FRIENDLY ANIMAL Felix Leiter is back, but has been re-cast as older and frumpier (don’t tell me they couldn’t “get” Jack Lord).  But it’s still the same Felix Leiter, Bond even refers to their Jamaica adventure.  Maybe the past few years have been tough on the CIA, what with the Bay of Pigs and the assassination of Kennedy and all.

HOW COOL IS THE BAD GUY?  Goldfinger is a riveting and fascinating character, played with startling realism by Gert Frobe.  He’s not a moustache-twirling bad guy, he’s a disgusting slob with a dyspeptic grimace, but an extremely wealthy and powerful one, which makes all the difference in the world.  Speaking of Cold War villains, he reminds me of no less a personage than Col Tom Parker.  Goldfinger is so evil, the Italian mobsters assembled at his home in Kentucky come off like a bunch of yahoos and cheeseheads (and this is back when the Italian mafia was a true force to be reckoned with).  How cool is Goldfinger?  He’s responsible for not one but two urban legends about ways to die: the “getting painted to death” legend and the “getting sucked out of an airplane window” legend, both of which, we now know, are total hogwash.  How sick is Goldfinger?  He has a prison cell in the basement of his Ken Adam-designed house and not one but two peepholes into the bathroom of his private jet.  He gets -1 point for hustling gin games in Miami Beach, 1 point for ultra-cool henchman Oddjob, 1 point for living in a Ken Adam set, 1 point for killing a woman by painting her gold (you can’t tell me that’s Oddjob’s job) and 100 points for his brilliant, devious plan.

NOTES: This is the first Bond movie to offer the pre-title sequence.  Let’s run through this one:  Bond swims through the ocean to a dock with a fake gull taped to his head.  He climbs over a wall to a field of oil tanks.  He goes to a specific tank, throws a secret switch and goes inside.  The inside of the oil tank is someone’s secret living quarters (designed by Ken Adam — he was everywhere in the 60s).  This person’s secret living quarters are lush, spacious and well-appointed.  In addition to the swank furnishings, there is a pile of red oil drums marked “NITRO.”  Because hey, you never know when you need a pile of gigantic oil drums filled with nitro.  Bond plants a bomb in the nitro, escapes from the secret living quarters, sheds his wetsuit to reveal a white dinner jacket, then goes to hang out in a local bar while the oil field explodes and the town’s economy evaporates.  Later, he goes to visit a local exotic dancer, who, it turns out, doesn’t appreciate him bombing the hell out of her town, and before you know it he’s got to kill a guy.  Just a day’s work for our pilot-raping super-spy.

Apart from the rape thing (and Bond’s stated abhorrence of the Beatles), this is by far the best script in the series up to this point.  It’s like the filmmakers have finally found their voice or hit their stride or something.  It’s a real detective story with plenty of twists and surprises, actual clue-sorting and legwork, and Bond interacts with the bad guy from the very beginning.  Oddjob is still killer stuff 43 years later, brutal and implacable, although I can’t for the life of me figure out how his hat works.  I get that it’s got some kind of razor-sharp blade in, but I can’t figure out how he could possibly throw it hard enough to cut a cable or behead a statue (or a lady sharpshooter).

I understand why Goldfinger needs a big laser, but I can’t understand why it needs a coiled blue neon light on it.

I note that the air squadron is called Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, and I wonder if perhaps, on some level, the name Monty Python is meant as a kind of reply to Pussy Galore.

I also note that Bond (or, rather, a Bond-rehabilitated Pussy) alerts the CIA to Goldfinger’s plot, and wonder if Fort Knox actually falls within the CIA’s jurisdiction.  Would Kentucky not be the FBI’s territory?  I also wonder what, exactly, the CIA would do with a warning from a woman named Pussy Galore, when they couldn’t bring themselves to respond to a memo titled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike Within US.”

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21 Responses to “Goldfinger”
  1. I love the chronological Bond breakdowns! I’ve been thinking of going through them all in order myself, and this probably seals it — though while I loved them all growing up, the last time I revisited a couple on broadcast TV, I was rather disappointed (of course, those were Diamonds Are Forever and A View to a Kill).

    Isn’t the sequence where Robert Shaw kills the phony “Bond” in the rubber face a pre-credit sequence in From Russia With Love? Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.

    Also, as to the CIA/FBI thing, do they have to work together when it’s a foreign plan happening on American soil? I dunno.

    • black13 says:

      I also remember the Shaw vs. Phoney-Bondie fight (if you can call such a one-sided affair that) as a pre-title sequence.

      Sadly, my videotape is gone and I haven’t gotten around to getting the DVD yet, so I can’t verify.

    • Todd says:

      I love the chronological Bond breakdowns!

      Watching them in order has certainly given me a new appreciation of the series. I’m trying to wipe my Bond slate clean, so to speak, and it really helps when one removes ones preconceptions — especially since, as the series goes on, the weight of expectation and demand of signature moments really begins to distort the dramatic potential of the stories.

      Isn’t the sequence where Robert Shaw kills the phony “Bond” in the rubber face a pre-credit sequence in From Russia With Love?

      Indeed it is — I was thinking of what we now know as the classic “Bond wrapping up the last case” action beat, which has become yet another albatross around the character’s neck.

      • Watching them in order has certainly given me a new appreciation of the series. I’m trying to wipe my Bond slate clean, so to speak, and it really helps when one removes ones preconceptions — especially since, as the series goes on, the weight of expectation and demand of signature moments really begins to distort the dramatic potential of the stories.

        I’ll be very interested to see how the next one in the series comes out — the “we-now-have-so-much-money-we-can-do-whatever-we-want” Thunderball, which I always remember as overlong and plodding. Then I heard that all of the prints shown on TV and originally released on video were of a “bad” version of the film, with an incomplete, scratch audio mix and some odd cuts. I have no idea if the recent DVDs can actually improve it, but maybe — I’ve always felt it had a lot of promise, but no drive.

  2. sheherazahde says:


    I agree that “getting sucked out of an airplane window” was totally busted but I recall “getting painted to death” was very dangerous, more dangerous than one might think. I believe their conclusion was “plausible”. The guy who got painted (Jamie, I think) was in distress and they had to strip the paint off of him fast.

    The problem is overheating because you can’t sweat, not asphyxiation (as stated in the movie).

    • Todd says:

      Re: Mythbusters

      In either case, according to modern medicine, murdering Jill Masterson by painting her is a bad plan — too much risk that it might not work, almost like dropping a spider (or a pair of squiggly bugs, as in Clones) into someone’s hotel room window. Goldfinger shows no other predilection toward sloppy logic in the movie — although his choice of high-powered laser beam to kill Bond instead of just shooting him could be described as, ahem, overkill.

      • sheherazahde says:

        Re: Mythbusters

        Well of course you are right about that.

        Someone on one of the boards I surfed by suggested killing her by a more direct means (a bullet to the head for instance) and then painting her as a sort of signature. That would not be too risky, or sloppy.

        Although, if you really wanted to go with a gold covered victim theme- capturing your victims, gold plating them, and keeping them around as statues would be cool:-D

  3. teamwak says:

    I love Goldfinger.

    Sean is perhaps the coolest he has been so far. The Astin is fantastic, with gadgets ahoy (including the ejector seat!!). Great car chase around the factory too, with Bond being defeated by his own reflection. A jibe at Narsissus, maybe?

    Goldfinger is ruthless with some nicely inventive deaths, including car crusher, and my favourite, poison gas.

    I think the enduring image for me has to be the planes flying over Fort Knox and releasing the gas. The music is fabulous at that point, and the image of thousands of soldiers falling over during the normal routines is an amazing one.

    Goldfinger was just too cool for school!

    “I love killing guys wearing a tux. It makes me feel like James Bond” – Brock Samson

  4. greyaenigma says:

    It was nothing

    I had trouble believe Bond didn’t actually disable the bomb, so I rewatched the scene. I note that it took Glasses guy seven seconds to get downstairs. I did wonder why Oddjob, on seeing Bond try and escape, shuffled down the stairs instead of taking him out with his hat. I guess he had range and accuracy issues.

    At least Bond admits he didn’t really do anything (apart from firing Oddjob), and the CIA guy confirms it.

    Goldfinger should also get at least one point for uttering what’s probably the most famous non-repeated line in the series.

  5. eronanke says:

    I remember from the book that Pussy was the head of a lesbian gang… I forget, is that referenced in the movie?

    • Todd says:

      Pussy has her own team of stunt flyers, and they’re all slender, comely blonds, but they are not explicitly labelled lesbians. I suppose any organized, independent group of women is suspect in the Bond universe, but Pussy only describes herself as “a damn good pilot.”

      • eronanke says:

        Yeah, I’m working my way through all of the Ian Fleming Bond books, and it’s hard sometimes- the girls just change hair/eye color a lot of the time, are always vulnerable sexually, and NONE of them EVER polish their nails for some reason. Fleming’s predilections are OBVIOUS. It’s strange, because Bond *loves* many of these women – and not just in the physical sense. Tiffany Case, for example, he considered marrying before Fleming wrote her out, saying that she left him for some American navyman, which makes NO SENSE if you read “Diamonds are Forever”.

        Pussy, as well as Kleb (? is that it? the Russian Agent Lady from “From Russia With Love”) both show lesbian behaviors, and, in the case of Kleb, it was made rather explicit in the movie, (even more so in the book!)

  6. The Beatles quote. It still kills me every time. Glad you mentioned it.

    • Todd says:

      There was, at the time, it occurs to me, a cultural battle going on in Britain for “coolest thing in the world.” Bond was, at the time, unquestionably winning that war — you can tell because the Beatles were slavishly imitating Bond (he’s explicitly referenced in both Hard Day’s Night and Help!, probably causing Bond some irritation in spite of the Beatles fast-gaining coolness. I would hope that, as the sixties wore on, Bond and the Beatles banded together to fight the common threat of uncoolness.

      • dougo says:

        There was some sort of unholy alliance for the song “Live and Let Die”, deep in the uncool ’70s.

        • Todd says:

          I would say it was less of an alliance and more of a settlement — The Beatles could not be more cool than James Bond, but Paul McCartney could certainly be as cool as Roger Moore. And based on my memory of that movie, McCartney won that round.

  7. dougo says:

    I would imagine Fort Knox would either be under the jurisdiction of Military Intelligence (because it’s a Fort) or the Secret Service (being an arm of the US Treasury). This is why we clearly need a WAR CZAR.

  8. mr_noy says:

    Goldfinger gets points for having the best Bond theme song.

    Sure, “Live and Let Die” and even “For Your Eyes Only” got more airplay, but that’s precisely the point, those were pop songs that happened to be in a James Bond movie. “Goldfinger” is inseperable from the movie that spawned it.

    • Todd says:

      “Goldfinger” certainly is a brilliant song, although I also enjoy Tom Jones’s committed reading of “Thunderball” and Garbage’s inspired “The World is Not Enough.”

  9. koan says:

    The scene that always cracks me up is poolside, where Bond is getting a massage from a girl in a bikini (Dink?) and Felix arrives. He sits up and dismisses her with a slap to the ass and a hearty ‘Run along, baby, this is MAN TALK!’. I guess you can file it alongside ‘raping Pussy Galore into changing sides’ in the vault of hairy-chested manliness that’s just not acceptable anymore.