What I’ve Been Watching: Goldfinger (1964).
Who’s Responsible: Guy Hamilton (director), Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn (screenwriters), Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, and Gert Frobe (stars).
Why I Watched It: Research.
Seen It Before? Many times.
Likelihood of Seeing It Again (1-10): 10.
Likelihood the Guys Will Rib Me for Watching It (1-10): 1.
Totally Subjective BOF Rating (1-10): 10.
And? Full Disclosure Department: This has long been my favorite James Bond movie, supplanting Thunderball, but the Ian Fleming novel on which it is based does not, in fact, hang together as well as From Russia, with Love or Doctor No. To trade drafts with Energizer Bunny Maibaum, Eon Productions wisely enlisted the services of Dehn, whose credits range from two B100 entries, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Murder on the Orient Express, to all four Planet of the Apes sequels. The italics summarize the events from both page and screen, making them sound identical, but as always, the devil is in the details, so I thought a specific breakdown might be enlightening, and I hope you will forgive me if I find this more fascinating than you do.
Bond infiltrates a heroin-smuggling operation, waits at a café while the drug facility is destroyed by explosives he planted, and dispatches a Latin thug in self-defense. Book: During an enforced stopover at Miami Airport, where he has a chance encounter with a minor character from Casino Royale, Junius Du Pont, Bond recalls killing “the Mexican” with his bare hands on a shadowed street. Film: the quintessential pre-credit teaser gives us Bond’s seagull-decoy wetsuit, under which he wears an immaculate tux, and requisite quip (“Positively shocking”) when he fries the thug (stuntman Alf Joint, replacing a cat burglar inconveniently arrested the day before)—whom he’d seen reflected in the eye of dancer Bonita (Nadja Regin)—with an electric heater in the tub.
In Miami, Bond observes a card game in which wealthy Auric Goldfinger cheats (using a flunky with binoculars who broadcasts the contents of his opponent’s hand to his “hearing aid”), forces Goldfinger to lose, and leaves with the flunky, Jill Masterton, later found dead of skin suffocation, covered in gold paint. Book: Bond takes on the job just as a lark at the request of Goldfinger’s pigeon, Du Pont, and he and Jill part ways after a romantic train trip to New York. Film: shown instead of alluded to, the gilded Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) is the movie’s most iconic image; Goldfinger (Frobe) punishes her immediately, not some time later, as in the novel, where we are informed that, rather implausibly, he hypnotizes and paints a girl (albeit non-fatally) per month!
Colonel Smithers of the Bank of England explains the economic damage done by the smuggling of gold, and M orders Bond to get closer to their chief suspect via a golf game, which ends when a surreptitiously switched ball defeats Goldfinger’s own attempts to cheat. Book: M theorizes that Goldfinger is the treasurer of SMERSH, but Bond’s being assigned to go after him is a rather large coincidence, although Goldfinger himself suggests in Miami that they should have a game when they are back in England. Film: Bond was already assigned to Goldfinger, and engineers their “chance” meeting, where instead of playing for the money he took from Goldfinger in the Du Pont skirmish, 007 tempts him with higher stakes—a Nazi gold bar and the promise of more.
Goldfinger’s hulking Korean servant, Oddjob, displays his prodigious physical strength and his ability with a metal-rimmed bowler hat; after hiding a homing device inside Goldfinger’s vintage Rolls Royce, Bond follows them to Switzerland with his specially equipped Aston Martin. Book: The elaborate demonstration takes place during a bizarre interlude at Goldfinger’s house, which is certain to offend cat-lovers everywhere, while Bond’s receiver has only audio, with no maps. Film: Oddjob (Harold Sakata, aka Tosh Togo) makes his point by crushing a golf ball in his fist and knocking the head off a statue at the country club, and Bond’s car has more gadgets, e.g., the famed ejector seat (“I never joke about my work, 007”), machine guns, and bullet-proof screen.
Bond becomes aware that a woman is also following Goldfinger, so he deliberately disables her car, and then agrees to give the woman, who calls herself Tilly Soames, a ride. Book: During a lunch stop, Goldfinger “posts” a bar of gold (quickly confiscated by Bond in an effort to get him in dutch with SMERSH) underneath a bridge, confirming M’s hypothesis that he has been making deliveries on behalf of SMERSH, and 007 rams Tilly’s car in reverse. Film: Tilly (Tania Mallet) takes a lunchtime pot shot at Goldfinger, which the in-the-line-of-fire Bond—and, at that point, the audience—mistakenly believes was intended for him, and 007 wrecks her car with a special tire-shredding device that was never actually attached to the real Aston Martin used for the film.
Reconnoitering Goldfinger’s factory, Bond sees that the gold is smuggled in the bodywork of the Rolls, and encounters the rifle-toting Tilly, who wants to avenge the death of her sister, Jill; they are picked up by Goldfinger’s security system, and 007 is captured, while Oddjob breaks Tilly’s neck with his bowler. Book: Tilly dies in the same way but much later, during the climax at Fort Knox, and ironically meets her doom because what Goldfinger calls her “inclinations” make her attracted to Pussy Galore, whom she believes will look after her, rather than to Bond. Film: The quick death of the vengeful Tilly, so soon after her introduction, allows the filmmakers to expand the role of Blackman—formerly Cathy Gale on The Avengers—as the initially man-hating Pussy.
The spread-eagled Bond is threatened with bisection during an interrogation by Goldfinger, but he refuses to talk, and at the last minute, Goldfinger has 007 sedated instead, sparing him for his own nefarious purposes. Book: Goldfinger has Oddjob give Bond an excruciating “massage” as he revs up a Perils of Pauline-style circular saw and, in a rather unlikely move, presses Bond and Tilly into service…as his secretaries, who actually spend their time typing up agendas and taking notes while Goldfinger executes his dastardly scheme. Film: In one of the more memorable set-pieces, Goldfinger provides what is reputed to be the first cinematic appearance of a laser beam, inspiring a classic exchange: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”
Goldfinger convenes a meeting at which he pitches his plan (with a gold-bar sweetener) to the representatives of the major criminal organizations, including a Mr. Solo; also on board is the lesbian Pussy Galore, who heads a female group of sometime entertainers. Book: many pages are expended in enumerating and characterizing these gangsters, with Pussy’s Cement Mixers a former team of aerialists called the Abrocats, but she and Tilly sharing the same “inclinations” is another big coincidence wisely omitted by the screenwriters. Film: Pussy serves as Goldfinger’s personal pilot—and nothing else, as she states emphatically (“I’m a damn good pilot, period”)—as well as heading the flying circus that plays an integral part in his plans, as we shall shortly see.
Bond learns the details of Operation Grand Slam, a raid on Fort Knox for which Goldfinger has obtained an atomic bomb and plans to neutralize the populace with nerve poison, and sums them up in a concealed message; the only dissenter from the plan is immediately killed. Book: Bond hides the warning to his ex-CIA pal, Felix Leiter, in an airplane lavatory, while Goldfinger plans to use the a-bomb only to effect ingress, after introducing the toxin into the water supply. Film: 007 slips his note into the pocket of the departing Solo (Martin Benson), who later lent his name to The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and ends up in an auto-crusher; Goldfinger intends to increase the value of his own gold by irradiating Fort Knox, and Pussy’s pilots are to spray the Delta-9 by air.
Goldfinger & Co. arrive at Fort Knox amid the “bodies” of the military and civilian inhabitants, but before the bomb can be detonated, Leiter and the others spring to life, having perpetrated an epic charade, and a battle breaks out. Book: Goldfinger is accompanied by the minions of the surviving hoods, whom he shoots during their getaway, and actually plans to remove the gold by train. Film: Bond—who has pointed out the absurdity of such a venture, requiring twelve days for sixty men to load 200 trucks—is handcuffed to the bomb (later stopped with “007” remaining on the time counter) and, after freeing himself, fights to the death with Oddjob inside production designer Ken Adam’s magnificent Fort Knox interior, electrocuting him with his metal hat-brim.
Goldfinger and others evade the authorities, attempting to avenge their defeat by replacing the crew of Bond’s departing flight, but one of 007’s foes is sucked through the window by explosive decompression, and he and the converted Pussy survive the ensuing crash. Book: It is Oddjob, not Goldfinger, who ends up flying the unfriendly skies after Bond punctures the window with a knife hidden in the heel of his shoe, and 007 throttles Goldfinger moments later. Film: Pussy’s change of heart at least requires the legendary magic of Bond’s lovemaking skills, rather than his sheer animal magnetism, which apparently—if no less implausibly—suffices in the novel, and it is this appeal to her “maternal instincts” that leads her to replace the Delta-9 with a harmless gas.
To be continued.