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Turner Classic Movies
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Goldfinger
Written by A.J. Hakari   

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Out of all of the James Bond's cinematic escapades, 1964's Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery and Honor Blackman, is arguably the most well-known. From its memorable characters to the gadgetry Bond is allowed to play around with, even people who haven't seen it seem to know it inside and out. The action drama also stars Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet and Harold Sakata.

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Shirley Eaton

As the story begins, Bond (Connery) is enjoying a short-lived vacation. He barely has time to soak up the sun before he's asked to keep a watchful eye on Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), a bullion dealer with, as his name suggests, a love for all things gold. It doesn't take long for 007 to raise Goldfinger's ire by stealing away his beautiful assistant (Shirley Eaton), an act that Goldfinger reacts to with swift vengeance.

 

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Honor Blackman

Sensing some dirty dealings behind his squeaky-clean operations, Bond is tasked with getting close to Goldfinger and seeing what he can find. What our hero digs up is the greatest crime of the century, a plan called "Operation Grand Slam" that involves breaking into Fort Knox. But before he blows the lid on this dastardly scheme, Bond must contend with deadly assassin Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and Pussy Galore (Blackman), an ice-cold pilot supposedly immune to 007's legendary charms.

 

It's not difficult to see why moviegoers went ga-ga for Goldfinger. Director Guy Hamilton, who would go on to helm three more Bond flicks after this, assembled all the right ingredients to make the ideal 007 adventure. But despite the cool spy toys and troupe of stunning beauties, what I think fans responded to the most is the fact that Goldfinger presented audiences with an unusually well-balanced conflict. Just as Bond is stripped away of his extraordinarily good luck, the villains prove to be a formidable and rather devious bunch. Neither Bond nor the viewers know the full extent of Goldfinger's nefarious scheme, and once it's revealed, it nimbly straddles the line separating "clever" from "downright goofy." More importantly, it's relieving to see Bond finally get roughed up a bit, allowed to make mistakes and not be able to conveniently figure everything out. I always appreciated it when Bond felt like a human and not some martini-swilling superhero; Goldfinger is no exception.

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Sean Connery
At the same time, however, Goldfinger sticks close enough to the formula without alienating series fans. Connery delivers another suave yet rugged turn as 007. The story is in full globetrotting swing, counting Miami Beach and Switzerland amongst its locales. And as far as quirky henchmen go, it's hard to top Oddjob and his razor-brimmed bowler. Bond aficionados will also admire the film's Bond Girl factor (though for me, they could've used just Eaton and called it a day).

Goldfinger isn't without a few chinks in its armor, however. Though the picture maintains a seriocomic vibe, it's sometimes hard to tell when it's being serious and when it's having a good jest at its own expense. Shirley Bassey's titular ballad boasts of Goldfinger's mystique, and while he's a wily adversary, it's hard to be in awe of a chubby German guy. Also, Bond's corny one-liners are particularly painful on the ears here, and even for the '60s, Bond's more chauvinistic traits come across as woefully dated.

So after years of being declared the cream of the 007 yield, does Goldfinger live up to its lofty reputation? I'd have to say no, but it's not a big loss. While not as classic a film as it has long since been branded, Goldfinger is solid fun nonetheless, as satisfying an action picture as you're likely to find both in and out of the Bond franchise and easily lands within the top five. With a skillful balance of far-fetched story and lean, crisply-edited action sequences, it does an above average job of keeping Bond fans and action buffs equally entertained.

Director: Guy Hamilton

Writers: Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn

Cast: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata

Rating: PG (violence, sensuality)

Classic Movie Guide Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Run Time: 110 minutes

Studio: United Artists

Format: Color, widescreen

Photo credits: United Artists

 



                       

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