Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Double Oh...3: Goldfinger

[Over the next few weeks I'll be jotting down some thoughts on Bond, James Bond as I run through the series in order, barring the campy 60's version of Casino Royale. I haven't decided yet whether the Thunderball reprise, Never Say Never Again, will make it in. ]

Goldfinger Preamble:  Before I started this Bond run-down, I read at least a dozen "ranking bond" articles, mostly from reputable on-line and journalistic sources (though I should say Peter Travers' list in Rolling Stone is absolute fucknuts), and almost uniformly Goldfinger ranked at or near the top of the list as the touchstone of Bond films.

Villain: Goldfinger is effectively introduced as a paunchy, doughy rich man used to getting his way.  He's unassuming and not at all nefarious seeming, but he's a complete cheat and the sorest loser.  Things get deadly when he doesn't win.  He's not quite the criminal mastermind that the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agents from films' previous seemt to be, but then his only real objective is his own gain.  He's less threatening as a result, but fun to watch (especially as he loses).
Oddjob, his burly Korean henchman with a razor-sharp throwing Bowler is the first of the ridiculous henchmen Bond goes up against.  His hat-gimmick is laughable but also tremendously fun, while Oddjob himself proves equally the unstoppable force and immovable object in combat with Bond.

Bond Girl(s): Honor Blackman, the ex-Avenger, gets the first truly starring "Bond girl" role as Pussy Galore, and she freaking owns that name.  Pussy is exceptionally tough, observant, and intelligent.  She's Goldfinger's personal pilot and runs her own flying circus of bombshell pilots.  With her tailored pantsuits and her complete disinterest in Bond ("you can turn off the charm, I'm immune" she tells him) as well as her apparent preference for the company of women I got the most assured sense that Pussy was a lesbian.  So imagine my shock and repulsion to, first, Bond's beyond-forceful advances upon her and then her apparent concession as a romantic interest.  It seems so outside her character as they introduced here.  I don't think the "Bond girl" should always equate to "Bond's girl"... she doesn't always have to be a love interest.  But apparently James Bond, borderline sex offender, will make damn well sure they are. 

Jill Masterson is the legendary "gold plated" Bond-girl, an accomplice of Goldfinger whom Bond quickly seduces and gets her to turn her back on her boss.  She quite quickly winds up dead, suffocated in the gold plating process (though I don't truly understand how they did that to her). 
Tilly Masterson, Jill's sister turns up later, out for revenge, seemingly on Bond first, but actually on Goldfinger.  She get's capped by Oddjob's Bowler, which pisses Bond off and sets him on a revenge tangent (until he meets Pussy after which he kind of forgets all about it).

Theme/Credits: The first use of the theme song over the opening credits.  It's bold and baroque, with Shirley Bassey's snappy and sharp vocals... it's a memorable and influential style of theme song, but the song itself is quite on the nose lyrically,  It's kind of corny.
The images of sequences projected on the gold covered body seems like the logical step from the previous credit sequences, but, by today's standards, it's almost like a TV show's opening credits.

Bond: Oh, Bond.  Here uses and abuses people without thought to the consequences of his actions,  but he's always keen to make vengeance a motivating factor.  It's almost as if he wants people to die so that he can justify his murdering the bad guy.  
It really hits home after three films that Bond is a consummate gambling man, perhaps aware, but never quite concerned with the odds he faces.
"Discipline, 007, discipline", Bond recites as Tilly Masterson races past him in his Aston Martin on the mountainside.  He's an utter slave to his libido.  But it's remarkable how Connery's Bond jockeys between demanding that women get treated right and abusing them for his own pleasure.  That his thwarted advances on Pussy not only don't deter him but only force him to come on stronger highlights that he's a callous predator, and completely oblivious to his own nature.

Movie: It's a hell of an opening,  Bond comes out funny, badass and suave.  The rest of the picture is a madcap delight, right up until the point where he forces his "charms" onto Pussy Galore, turning her into a subservient toy, abandoning her get-rich-quick scheme with Goldfinger (which, had he just explained to her the actual nature of the villain's plot, I'm sure she would have turned on him, without all the quasi-raping to get her to see things his way).  I'm not sure what else to say, but the film, its characters and its champions seem to completely give James Bond's sexual predation a pass, rather than the jeers it deserves for the horrid insinuation is that all a lesbian needs is a good dicking to fix her.  Yes it's a product of its time, but it doesn't excuse it.  It comes so close to being an amazing film and then takes a great many leaps back.

Q gadgets: - Aston Martin db5 tricked out with smokescreens, oil slickers, tire spikes, passenger ejector seats, tracking systems, bulletproofing and more.  More than coincidence, I think Bond intentionally gets himself into situations that provide him the opportunity to use them all.  It's a beautiful car.

Classification (out of 01.0):  00.5 (it came so close to a 01.0 but a big 00.5 off for the rapey turn of events)