In the mid to late sixties the fabric of our culture was in a state of constant flux. The youth were becoming increasingly vocal protesting the government, particularly regarding the war in Vietnam. The fear of Communism the pervaded the fifties had settled into the now infamous Cold War. This sparked a fascination with spies making stories concerning espionage became the most popular taking hold of literature, movies and even television. In 1964 I was only 11 but like most of my friends completely enthralled by spy flick. We were also fortunate enough to be at the right age to witness the release of a movie that is the definitive spy movie; ‘Goldfinger’. Let’s face it. When it comes to spies no one can hold a candle to the master of covert action; Bond, James Bond. This invention of author Ian Fleming had already been series of bestselling novel although their popularity did explode with the initiation of the film franchise. There have been twenty two films made that center on the most famous spy in history. With over a billion dollars in combined revenues makes this one of these most successful movie franchises in history. Of all those many films ‘Goldfinger ‘is by far the best known and among the most popular. Unlike most movie series the Bond flicks managed to survive numerous changes to the lead character and successfully weathered the changes in our culture. There have been many releases of this film for the home theater market from video tape to DVD. Thankfully United Artist an MGM has been systematically re mastering the older James Bond films for high definition Blu-ray. I have had the pleasure of reviewing a number of the Bond films in this new release series but when I heard I would have an opportunity to review ‘Goldfinger’ I have to admit I was overjoyed. This is not only my personal favorite but considered by most the definitive Bond flick of all time.
The writer of the script for this film was Richard Maibaum. He previously provided the screenplay for the prior two Bond films ‘Doctor No’ and ‘From Russia with Love’. He also would continue to provide screenplay for a number of later films in the series. His co-author for this project was Paul Dehn who would contribute the scripts to a couple of the ‘Planet of the Apes’. This screenplay was pivotal in building the franchise. For the purists among the fans of Ian Fleming this was the first film treatment that began to diverge from the novel. Most current Bond fans would immediately draw attention to the wonderfully innovative gadgets that ‘Q’ (Desmond Llewelyn) provided. Actually these devices were never used in the novels. At the heart of this movie is perhaps the most recognizable Bond accoutrement ever, the definitive spy car his trusty, tricked out Austin Martin DB5.it sported everything the spy on the go could ask for from machine gun turrets, smoke screen, revolving license plates and the ejector seat. In the book all I remember is a hidden compartment containing a bar of Nazi gold to tantalize the titular character. After this movie the writers kept ramping up the invention to what many purists feel have reached ridiculous levels.
As the third film in the long franchise this movie had the unique opportunity to lay the foundation of what would come. The over the top evil overlord villain and the Bond prerequisite Bond girl were present in embryonic form but truly took shape here. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) did not want to control the world, just corner the gold market. In order to accomplish this he came up with a plan to break into the U.S. gold reserve at Fort Knox. Bond, played by the fan favorite Sean Connery, who have to work his magic to stop the; nefarious plan. Everybody knows that all arch villains require a couple of henchmen and Herr Goldfinger had a memorable pair. In charge of the aerial aspect of the plan was the aviatrix and master criminal Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Ms Galore was a lesbian in the book that aspect of the character was greatly minimized in the film to provide a foil for Bond’s highly sexual appeal. The second employee of Goldfinger was the silent but deadly Odd job (Harold Sakata); a mountainous hulk of a man with a razor sharp lined bowler hat that he could toss with incredible accuracy. The film is packed with moments that have become part of film history and our collective consciousness. One of my favorites occurs when Bond is strapped on a table with a laser moving ever closer to Bond. He asks his captor if he expects him to talk to which Goldfinger coolly responds ‘No Mister Bond I expect you to die’.
The re-mastering for high definition is fantastic. Even with an aspect ratio of only 1.66:1 the picture seems broader than ever. The color balance is perfection; bright and vivid. The audio is available in DTS-HD MA but I found it as a lot of fun to pull back to stereo and allow my receiver to reprocess the audio to seem like a neighborhood movie house recreating my original viewing so long ago. There are also plenty of extras to keep any Bond fan very happy. No collection is truly complete if it is lacking this film.
Audio Commentary Featuring Director Guy Hamilton