Not every man would like to be James Bond, but every boy would. In one adventure after another, he saves the world, defeats bizarre villains, gets to play with neat gadgets and seduces, or is seduced by stupendously sexy women (this last attribute appeals less to boys younger than 12). –Roger Ebert
The above quote from film critic Roger Ebert pretty much summarises the appeal and the general formula of the James Bond movies, which has become the longest running, most enduring film series ever committed to film. Of all the Bond flicks, “Goldfinger” (1964) is arguably the best of the lot, and certainly the one that set the template for all the James Bond movies that followed. It wasn’t the first film of the series, nor was it the last, but for many film critics and Bond fans, it’s still the best.
The character of James Bond has become such an icon in popular culture that according to one survey conducted many years ago, at least half the population of the planet has seen at least one Bond flick in their life. Quite a feat for a character that was created by a playboy writer named Ian Fleming, who blessed his famous creation with all the characteristics that he himself was imbibed with, including a love of danger, good food and drink as well as an attraction for women.
“Goldfinger” was the third film of the series, and became such a huge hit when it was released, that Bond joined the ranks of the other big B, the Beatles, to become a phenomenon of the 1960s that had a dramatic effect on popular culture. One reason for this sea change was the fact that Bond films pushed the envelope on what action films could do, and how much material of a sexual nature could be used to pull in the crowds into the movie theatres.
Bond was projected as the ultimate male fantasy, who travelled to exotic locales, always saved the day and managed to court at least three women while doing so, no strings attached on top of that.
Probably no film showed this absurd yet incredibly appealing fantasy world like “Goldfinger”. Right from the start of the film we see Bond on a perilous pre-credits mission to stop an unseen villain from “using heroin flavored bananas to finance revolutions.” After having placed the explosives to do so, Bond calmly takes off his wetsuit to reveal a crisp clean white tuxedo and makes his way to a club where he proceeds to seduce one girl and fights off an assassin sent to kill him. All of this done within a few minutes and done in style. When a movie starts off in such a wild way, you know that you’re in for a treat.
Sure enough when the film starts rolling ahead we are introduced to the main villain, Auric Goldfinger, a megalomaniacal bullion dealer, who like some modern day King Midas has an obsession with gold that becomes the main driving force of his nefarious schemes. This dubious obsession with gold has alerted British Intelligence officials who send Bond to investigate what he is up to. As it turns out, not all of Goldfinger’s dealings are legitimate, especially when it comes to smuggling gold, to increase the value of his own stock.
To first get close to Goldfinger, he must of course first seduce his female assistant Jill Masterson, who among other things helps her employer cheat at gin rummy. Bond, however, soon learns that crossing Goldfinger comes at a price when Jill is killed by skin suffocation after Goldfinger’s henchman OddJob has her painted in gold. The scene in which the lifeless body of Jill Masterson is shown in bed, drenched in gold, is one of the most iconic in all of movie history.
This first tussle makes Bond a bit wiser, and he subsequently meets Goldfinger on the golf course where he beats the main villain by out-cheating him in the game. Irked by the impudence of Bond, Goldfinger warns our hero by showing him a sample of what his henchman Oddjob can do with his unique bowler hat.
But as it turns out, our hero refuses to give in and ultimately with the help of his stylish Aston Martin DB5, his charming mannerism, and the aid of an improbably named Bond girl called “Pussy Galore” finds out that Goldfinger plans to break into Fort Knox and leave behind a dirty bomb inside with the express hope of seeing the gold supply of the United States radioactive for decades. Achieving that goal would see the value of his own gold reserves increased dramatically. It’s now up to Bond to stop this from happening.
Sean Connery made his name as James Bond, at it will be the role he will always be associated with. “Goldfinger” shows him at his charming best, using his dry wit and tremendous sex appeal, to effortlessly play the role of James Bond. The fact that he was practically bald and wore a wig throughout the Bond films in which he acted in, only goes to show that Connery was born to play the role, despite this handicap. Director Guy Hamilton directed four Bond films and must be credited for putting together the perfect formula that made the series so appealing. The structure of all the subsequent films followed the path set out by this movie.
From strange villains, even stranger henchmen, and an innuendo-named Bond girl, along with a stirring film score sung by Shirley Bassey, this movie has it all. The film may not be a masterpiece to rival films like “Lawrence of Arabia” or “The Godfather” series, but it’s still a great piece of entertainment. It may have aged compared with the other modern action films; nevertheless its lasting appeal has not aged a bit.
Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at Dawn.com