As the recent opening ceremony for the Olympics attest, James Bond is a legend. The cold war turned Bond into a worldwide sensation, and 23 films later we’re still talking about how cool he is, the Bond girls, and the gadgets. But are James Bond movies anything more than just a billion dollar franchise of disposable entertainment? The answer may lie with 1964′s Goldfinger, one of Roger Ebert’s Greatest films.
- Director: Guy Hamilton
- Writer: Ian Fleming
- Cast: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata
The entertainment value is still there nearly 50 years later, so it’s hard to imagine how cool Goldfinger seemed to audiences in the 60’s. Though Steven Spielberg and George Lucas get credit for inventing the blockbuster model, this film may be just as influential. This was the first to have a pop star singing the theme song, the first to make significant use of technology and gadgets, and the first to have an elaborate opening credits sequence. This is also the first time in film history where a laser is used in the plot of a feature film.
James Bond (Sean Connery) is given instructions to investigate Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), a sophisticated criminal seeking to break into Fort Knox and smuggle all of its gold. Beginning in Miami Beach, Bond’s mission subsequently takes him from Switzerland to Fort Knox, Kentucky. Interestingly, Bond eventually learns that Goldfinger is actually interested in corrupting the American depository of gold with cobalt and iodine, thereby making his gold more valuable and ultimately giving the communists the world over an economic advantage. In theory this might sound pretty cool. But Bond films seem to essentially exist as loosely created plots meant mostly to showcase gags, gadgets, and the latest “it” girl. When these things are packaged with product placement, theme songs sung by pop singers and character roles reserved for high profile actors, the whole franchise becomes assembly line product, and if this is the best of all Bond films, the this is a pretty mediocre franchise.
What do Shakespeare, Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and James Bond have in common? They all make good use of double entendres. In a way, I enjoy these double entendres more than the gadgets and fancy cars used in the film. When Bond remarks, “shocking”, in response to killing someone by electrocution, it’s hard not to be amused by his character’s ability to have fun with the film’s multitude of absurdly unrealistic situations.
Brief Words for Mr. Ebert:
Mr. Ebert, as you’ve noted, “James Bond is the most durable of this century’s movie heroes, and the one most likely to last well into the next… such durability is largely due to the consistency of his character, as you can always count on Bond’s self-assured and cool personality… one reason for Bond’s longevity among series heroes is quality control.” While I admire the fact that Bond has reinvented himself now for 37 years, resonating still despite all the changes in geopolitics and lifestyles, and am eagerly anticipating the new Bond film, it’s because I hope that Sam Mendes can inject the franchise with a more realistic tone. I agree with your instinct to say Goldfinger is not a “Great” movie, but instead, merely great entertainment. Go with your instinct on this one, Mr. Ebert. As you said, “not every man would like to be James Bond, but every boy would.” I didn’t get introduced to Bond films until I was well into my twenties, and I’m more taken by the idea of what the Bond character is able to get away with. You say “when it comes to movie spies, Agent 007 is full-service, one-stop shopping.” If only the plots and the depths of it characters were also full-service.
Good, Bad or Great Movie: GOOD
Do you like Goldfinger ? Do you consider this film to be Good, Bad, or does it stand up as Great?
Next week’s review: The Music Room
Years ago, ScreenCrave contributor Jaime Lopez privately began tackling Roger Ebert’s “Greatest Films” list, an ever-expanding monolith of celluloid currently comprised of 354 films. Lopez has set himself to put these remaining films’ “Greatness” to the test–reviewing both the movies themselves and Ebert’s response. By taking on Guy Hamilton’s Goldfinger this week, he now has 272 under his belt and less than 100 films left to go.