Friday, 18 March 2011

BlogalongaBond / Goldfinger: Cinema's Greatest Nostrils

Dr. No and From Russia With Love might be Great Films With James Bond In Them, but Goldfinger is the first Great James Bond Film. Director Guy Hamilton established a formula here which proved so successful that the series would employ it repeatedly, with varying degrees of success, over the next forty-odd years. Every frame of Goldfinger oozes impeccable style, 1960s cool and a sense of fun that mark it out as the definitive Bond Film, and ironically it was only when future entries dared to stray from the Goldfinger template that they came close to matching this film's genius.

Although there are several amazing things about Goldfinger that helped turn its constituent parts into cinematic gold, one thing stands taller than the rest. Six feet and two inches tall to be precise, and without it the film would be nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for Mr Thomas Sean Connery.
After stomping round Jamaica in Dr. No and bimbling through Istanbul in From Russia With Love, by 1964 the 33-year-old Connery had completely relaxed into the role of the world's most high-profile secret agent. When people say he's the best Bond, they're thinking of his performance in Goldfinger. No longer in awe of his surroundings but yet to display the irritation and boredom with the role that would taint his subsequent films, it's here that Sean Connery is the centrepiece of a film full of centrepieces.

His confidence and comfort in Bond's immaculately-polished shoes are apparent from the moment he removes a plastic duck from his head to the final smooch beneath a parachute with the world's greatest double entendre, Pussy Galore. But it's the details in Connery's performance that stand out; small reactions here and there that George Lazenby and Roger Moore were incapable of, that Pierce Brosnan seemed to have to force out and that only Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig since - as genuine actors - achieved naturally.
In Goldfinger, the requisite meeting with M is a masterclass in actorly minimalism rarely found in a 007 film. Bond is simultaneously harbouring guilt at inadvertently causing the death of the villain's mistress, a simmering lust for revenge, barely-concealed frustration with his boss for not letting him punch Goldfinger's fat head off immediately and annoyance at only being half-briefed for his next assignment. All of which are perceptible in the clenching of his jaw, the inability to look M in the eye, the impatient stance and the flaring of the magnificent Connery nostrils.

In fact Connery deploys the nostril flare with devastating effect at various points in the film when he's seething with sub-surface rage at Goldfinger and his dastardly deeds. It's there when he calls Felix Leiter to tell him about the gold-painted corpse in his room, and it reappears when Bond and Goldfinger finally meet at the golf club. It's a tiny movement of a few small muscles but it speaks volumes about Bond's state of mind; the only visible crack in his cool exterior that suggests the boiling fury beneath.
It's not all about the snotholes though; Connery's reactions when warned to pipe down by M after pretentiously diagnosing the problem with Colonel Smithers' disappointing brandy, when put in his place by Q's withering "I never joke about my work, 007" remark, and when introduced to a girl whose name may as well be Alotta Fagina, are all priceless.

Of course it takes more than the pulling of a few faces to make a convincing James Bond. A former Mr Universe, Sean Connery is physically peerless in Goldfinger. This is just before he became one of the most recognisable faces on the planet and let fame go straight to his gut, and I don't care how rampantly heterosexual you are, there's an undeniable pleasure in watching a man who can stride about in an alarming baby-blue terry-towelling playsuit as confidently as he does in a beautiful three-piece grey plaid number.
Trust me, I know from bitter experience that neither of those looks are easy to pull off.

It would be another 23 years until audiences saw another convincing James Bond, albeit a totally different one to that seen in Goldfinger, when Timothy Dalton arrived to take the character back to his literary roots. For now, though, one man would own the role, and for many people will continue to do so forever. For once, the posters got it right: Sean Connery IS James Bond.


The pre-title sequence
Goldfinger marks the first time we get a complete Bond mini adventure before the actual story begins, and it's also one of the finest. In less than five electrifying minutes it packs in exotic locations, gadgets, action, futuristic production design, a dinner jacket, a treacherous naked breast-shaking hottie, a close-up of an expensive watch, a massive explosion, a great scrap with a vicious thug and a tremendous kiss-off line. Infinitely better than the whole of Moonraker.

The unsolicited laser surgery scene
Further proof of Connery's skillz comes as we watch him try to think his way out of the impending separation of one side of his body from the other, beginning with his most treasured possessions. However we're also spoiled with an abundance of technical talent in this scene: Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn's endlessly quotable script; Ken Adam's deliciously angular set; Norman Wanstall's (Oscar-winning) sound effects; Peter Hunt's increasingly frantic editing; and John Barry's terrifying musical accompaniment to Bond's mounting fear. Only when the laser is turned off do you realise you haven't breathed out for about two minutes.

Ken Adam's Fort Knox set
Having never seen the inside of Fort Knox, Ken Adam was asked by Cubby Broccoli to create "a cathedral of gold". If there was ever a perfect example of the overused phrase "every penny is on the screen", this is it.

The fight with Oddjob
While not as technically groundbreaking as From Russia With Love's train-bound fisticuffs, Bond's showdown with Oddjob is equally as satisfying. With Harold Sakata's mute henchman apparently made of concrete, Bond clearly isn't going to beat him with his fists and Q has yet to invent the convenient poison dart-firing wristwatch. Pleasingly, 007 resorts to his wits to defeat Oddjob in a scene which also brings out the best in the aforementioned jaw-dropping set. 

John Barry's Score
"Oddjob's Pressing Engagement"


I'm going to attempt to not bring up John Barry's score for every Bond film he did, but when it's as phenomenal as this one it's impossible to ignore. Brassy, jazzy, bombastic and suspenseful, it's probably the best thing he ever did. Imagine how happy the Beatles-hating Bond would have been when the soundtrack album dumped the Fab Four off the top of the charts. Oh yeah, there's quite a good song too.

And finally: We get another of these beauties:

Bond, in bed with a semi-naked blonde, is on the phone to Felix Leiter.
BOND (to FELIX)
What's that? Dinner?

The semi-naked blonde twirls her hair into Bond's ear.

BOND (to FELIX)
No look I'm sorry, I can't. Something big's come up.
BlogalongaBond will return with Thunderball

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10 comments :

  1. Wow, you do have a flare for the art of the film critic. Yes, the nostrils played their part. 'Less is more' is the difference between stage and screen technique.
    Yes again, nobody has ever worn a suit or any other Incredible garment better than Connery.
    Yes yet again, Sean Connery was the definitive Bond; the others also rans. And yes yes yes the music hit the spot. Goldfinger's Oscar was awarded for the sound effects.

    That year 1964, Zulu, A Shot In The Dark, Mary Poppins, A Hard Days Night, Marnie, My Fair Lady, Dr. Strangelove and A Fistful of Dollars all graced the screen. What a year. I was an impressionable 16 then.

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  2. "I'd say it was a 30-year-old fine, indifferently blended, sir... with an overdose of bon-bois."

    Nostril-tastic, BlogalongaBond. You nose what you're talking about. Allow me to snot down a few additional factoids in a golden shower of enthusiasm...

    1 For "Oddjob's Pressing Engagement", the publicity team put it about that they crushed a real Lincoln Continental (they didn't). Outraged Americans went mad. Incidentally, "Mr Solo" who had to be separated from the gold, was an indirect reference for another superspy: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s Napoleon Solo, coined by Fleming for producer Norman Felton.

    "Oh, nozzing, Mr Bont. I own ze klub."

    2 Director Guy Hamilton introduced Big Tam to golf on this film shot at the now-legendary Stoke Pogues Golf Club (also the location of the bedroom where Bond seduces Paris in Tomorrow Never Dies and Stoke Poges churchyard is where Tracy Bond is buried in For Your Eyes Only - it's a skip from Pinewood, where the car chase at Auric Enterprises, the entire Fort Knox sequence was built and filmed).

    3 Robert Brownjohn's titles feature a painted Margaret Nolan (Dink in the movie, whose lovely bottom gets spanked by Bond shooing her off for his "Man talk" with Felix). Look carefully and you'll see a the helicopter attack on Bond in From Russia With Love crop up in these titles.

    4 Upon the late and very great John Barry unveiling the score to lyricists Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, he was perturbed to hear them both sing to the melody "wider than a mile" suggesting the theme sounded like Moon River. Shirley Bassey, one of Barry's numerous lovers, was chosen to belt out the song, which, whilst it was being composed kept Barry's flat mate up all night: that flatmate was Michael Caine. The soundtrack album knocked The Beatles off the top of the US charts.

    5 Gert Fröbe's Goldfinger (named after notorious Hungarian architect, Erno Goldfinger)was dubbed by Michael Collins. Tania Mallet who plays Tilly Masterson drives the first Ford Mustang ever seen (Cubby was mates with Henry Ford II). Mallet, a former model, hated acting and retired soon afterwards. However, she did encourage her younger cousin to enter into the acting profession, supporting her against her parents wishes. The cousin ended up doing quite well. Her name? Helen Mirren.

    "Do you expect me to talk...?"

    6 The laser room was the first time a laser had been realistically represented on film. In the novel, Bond has his golden balls threatened by a circular saw.

    7 Goldfinger was at the time, the fastest grossing film in history. It changed the way films were marketed as it was opened "wide" quickly around the world.

    "I never joke about my work, 007."

    8 In the novels, Bond drove Bentleys. In the novel of Goldfinger, Bond drove an Aston Martin DB III. The film vehicle went on to become the most famous car in the world. Gun-metal genius designer, Ken Adam, was inpired to have revolving number plates because he kept getting parking tickets (note the brand new invention of the parking meter in Q Branch).

    "I musht be dreaming."

    9 Pussy Galore was a controversial name and eased only in the American mind when Honor Blackman (the oldest Bond girl ever) was snapped with the Duke of Edinburgh with the headline "Pussy and the Prince", the more fairytale connotations distracting from the fact she supped from the velvet cup.

    9 The End of "Goldfinger" but James Bond will return in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was how this film ended. He didn't - it was Thunderball.

    "Sourmash, not too sweet."

    10 The "mint julep moment" from this film is a remarkable improvement on the book where the gold was merely to be stolen (see Die Hard With A Vengeance to see how naff this would look).

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  3. The notorious, anonymous Bondfactbomber strikes again. Who is this masked man slash woman? What are his slash her goals? Can anyone stop him slash her? Tune in next month for BlogalongaThundaFactaBombaBond!

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  4. Better wear your Bell Textron Jetpack next month to escape the spectre of the anonymous panavision thunderfacter.

    Q: What do Thunderball and Star Trek have in common?

    A: They both have a Vulcan.

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  5. "The notorious, anonymous Bondfactbomber strikes again. Who is this masked man slash woman? What are his slash her goals?"

    She vants nozzink less zan wereld dominatzion...

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  6. For many years now, James Bond is still the man that women like to be with. And the man that men would like to be. From his collection of gadgets and snazziest of suits, his charisma to people everywhere is totally unmatched!

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  7. This is why blogging exists. Great post.

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  8. If I know one truth, it's that God only made one Sean Connery. The man will always be THE James Bond. Goldfinger is the quintessential film that thrust James Bond into the higher realm of pop culture, where he remains today. When most people close there eyes and think of James Bond, this is the face they see. The film had the perfect mixture of all the ingredients of 007, and seems to be a platform for which we strive to today.

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  9. another great review, as always I must say. Thank God I found this blog. never seen better reviews that these here. cheers!

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  10. After reading so many articles & blogs about 007, I thought I'd heard it all. But the nostrils observation punched me out of my stupor. Well done Sir Suit!

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