Movie Review: Goldfinger : fifty years later


I was a young boy living for one year in a suburb of Chicago–Arlington Heights. I don’t remember much of that year: a monstrous ice-storm that shut everything down and men ice-skating to work; an enormous and popular race-track that burned down after we left; a candy store and a record shop. I don’t remember much else.

I do remember however that my parents did not give me permission to go see Goldfinger. Secret Agents were all the rage–that Christmas my little brother had even received a toy briefcase that fired missiles–and here was the ultimate secret agent of them all: 007… Bond, James Bond.

My buddies were all going, I argued–but still I was not allowed. (At the time, the Catholic Church still had a large influence on the “rating” of films, and Goldfinger surely must have been on some list singled out by the Legion of Decency. A list my parents believed in.)

And so now, several decades later, I saw Goldfinger for the first time. I watched it this weekend.

Boy, have times changed.

Let’s consider the reasons that one would not let their children see a movie (and in America there is only ONE reason, followed by a simpering second.) First there is SEX and then there is Violence (which Americans find preferable to viewing sex.) The violence in Goldfinger is cartoonish. There is a car chase scene where Bond is able to test the extras on his Aston Martin: smoke screen fogger, oil slick sprayer, ejector seat, bullet proof armor and machine guns. There is a later “fight scene” where the American military (which was “pretending” to be knock out by nerve gas) take back Fort Knox. The violence is much less than what appears in a saturday morning cartoon today.

And of course there is the first of the great Bond villains–OddJob.

Harold Sakata as Oddjob

Harold Sakata as Oddjob

As for the sex. Well, there is none. In the beginning of the film, Bond charms and disarms one of Goldfinger’s sexy “henchmen” who is helping him cheat poolside at a game of gin. (Egads, what criminality!) We assume there has been sex, because there is some post-coital conversation–she lying wrapped in sheets and Bond standing in some sort of sleep wear. When he goes to his fridge for another bottle of Dom Perignon, he is attacked and knocked out. When he regains consciousness, his lady friend is naked, painted in gold, and dead from suffocation.

The next “sex scene” is a jiu-jitsu struggle in a barn with Pussy Galore. Bond is thrown a few times, she is thrown a few times and the two end up in the hay (literally),  kissing–fully clothed. That is it.

And my parents wouldn’t let me see it.

Excepting for the sophomoric double entendre on Pussy Galore’s name, the film is squeaky clean–at least by current standards.

And still today, the coolest part of the film is the car. Certainly not the girls and hardly the “action.”

And yet, in hindsight, the film is intriguing: we are witnessing the birth of a franchise. There are those who argue that no other Bond can match Sean Connery and they may be right. He is suave and stylish, resourceful  and droll. From this vantage point, he seems to understand that he is already a parody of himself. And yet, he is always a gentleman. And like any secret agent worth his salt he is extremely cool under pressure. Truly, he invented the type.

Sean Connery as James Bond

Sean Connery as James Bond

So much so, that the Ian Fleming Publishing Ltd. recently commissioned the British novelist, William Boyd, to write a new Bond novel. Boyd, a critically and commercially successful novelist, took the commission gladly–he loved the Bond novels and figured his plots would be better than Fleming’s.  (And when you examine the plot of Goldfinger, you’re pretty likely to agree.) Boyd’s novel Solo will be released on September 26 in Britain and on October 8th in the States. It is not like Bond ever went away…except now he is newer and fresher.

William Boyd's novel Solo

William Boyd’s novel Solo

I wonder if my parents would let me read it.