Sunday, 16 July 2017

Goldfinger or, The CIA's Trip To KFC

Goldfinger, widely considered the best James Bond film and the one that established the James Bond formula- theme song, first girl gets killed (and the second in this case), over the top villain, unrelated opening scene, gadgets, exotic locations (Kentucky is exotic to some of us) etc.

I've recently re-watched it and blogged about it previously. I know everyone else has blogged about it too so I'm going to give only a brief summary and focus instead on random trivia and rating Felix Leiter and other characters.

Note- Felix Leiter is my favourite character in the James Bond novels. He's Bond's CIA counterpart in the novels and films and easily one of the most hard done by of the characters (sacrifical lamb Bond women excluded). He is maimed in the second novel Live and Let Die and in fact Ian Fleming actually intended to kill him off he valued his character that much, instead he loses an arm, a leg and his CIA job becoming a private detective with CIA connections instead. On screen he doesn't fare better, he's been portrayed by 7 different actors (8 unoffocially) and only two have ever played him more than once. David Hedison in Live and Let Die and then again sixteen years later in Licence to Kill. Ironically in Licence to Kill Felix gets maimed by sharks exactly like he did in the Live and Let Die novel, David Hedison just wasn't escaping that fate. In Licence to Kill he randomly joined the DEA. Jeffrey Wright then took up the role in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, it ended with his promotion and we haven't seen him since.

Enough about that I'll discuss Felix in depth another time, back to Goldfinger!

Directed by Guy Hamilton who turned down Dr. No and went on to direct Dimaonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man With the Golden Gun. Amongst other movies he also directed The Mirror Crack'd in 1980, which was the film debut of Pierce Brosnan. Terence Young did come back to direct Thunderball. Incidentally he directed Bond villain Christopher Lee in his film debut Corridor of Mirrors in 1948. (Seriously it's six degrees of separation or six degrees of Kevin Bacon, whichever you prefer).

Goldfinger gave us several blonde Bond girls in keeping with the theme that Goldfinger loves GOOOOLLLLDDDD, first was Dink who had nothing to do with Goldfinger but had to be there for the opening scene but it isn't James Bond if he isn't with a girl. Dink got the privilege of saying hi and bye to Felix Leiter's second incarnation before being dismissed for 'man talk' with a spank. Given this is the Bond film where no means yes to win over an ambiguous lesbian Dink got off lightly. Dink was portrayed by Margaret Nolan who was also the golden girl in the opening credits.

Felix Leiter is played by Canadian actor Cec Linder who, according to trivia, switched roles at the last minute with Austin Willis who took the lesser role of Mr. Simmons, the man Goldfinger is cheating out of money via card games at Miami.

Here is the Felix we could have had

Cec Linder gets a bad rap for this film for looking too old and more like "uncle Felix" compared to Jack Lord's suave, stylish Felix Leiter in Dr. No. Linder was actually a year younger than Lord, he was 43 when he took on the role, Jack Lord was 42 when he played Felix. Lord was offered the role in Goldfinger but he turned it down wanting a bigger role and more money (Lord was apparently offered the role of James T Kirk as well but he asked for 50% ownership of the show so William Shatner got the role but it's okay because Lord went on to successfully arrest people many times in Hawaii.)

I'll admit it, it looks like there's more than a year.

Cec Linder did have a more distinguished wardrobe too which didn't help, he swapped the ridiculous sunglasses for the trilby hat (is it a trilby? I just don't know my hats) and he let his hair go natural. Honestly, it doesn't bother me I'd run off with Cec Linder's Felix Leiter just as fast as Jack Lord's, maybe faster because Cec Linder's likes KFC. Trivia- Cec Linder is the only one who was actually on site in Miami (seriously, extra bonus points for Cec Linder).

Actually that seagull might be dead...

Anyway, Goldfinger opens with the now iconic, non-plot related scene that involves Bond destroying a drug lab in South America (something to do with bananas and heroin, this ship(ment) is bananas B-AN-AN-AS!). Bond enters via the clever disguise of a snoozing seagull, he gets out of the ocean in a wet suit, plants a bomb in the drugs lab and then strips off to a white dinner jacket suit and heads into the local. This actually happened in real life.

Bond then lights up a cigarette as the bomb goes off and does a wonderful surprised face before receiving intel that he shouldn't return to his room. Being Bond he goes after a woman instead, the bar dancer Bonita. It turns out to be a trap foiled by Bond spotting an assailant in Bonita's eyes (no really, the magic of eye reflection), puts Bonita in his path and then shocks him in a bath. Not gonna lie I laughed when he concluded it with 'shocking. Positively shocking.' He says it so deadpan and with such sincere disgust it's wonderful. Trivia- Bonita was played by Nadja Regin who played Kerim Bey's mistress in From Russia With Love.
There's then some mention of Bond going to Miami and it's Shirley Bassey's first James Bond number. Honestly, this song is so good.

This is deceitful, no one was in Miami save for Felix Leiter
It opens up with Miami and green screening because only Cec Linder phoned in for the Miami sequence, everyone else was busy or maybe only Cec Linder had the sense to get a free trip to Miami. In fact most of the film was actually filmed on set in England. That's the magic/deceit of Hollywood for you.

Felix arrives and we meet Bond with Dink and an inappropriate, forever to be ridiculed scene is born. Poor Dink. I'm including it because seriously, watch Felix's face, he tries so damn hard to look disapproving and fails miserably, that smile just slips out and he makes sure he sees Dink go. I'm going to give 10 bonus points to Felix for the facial expressions but minus 5 for being a blantant ass gawker.

Watch him pulling his lip down, he knows he shouldn't be laughing
Felix then gives Bond then intel on our villain Auric Goldfinger and explains how he keeps beating a Mr. Simmons at cards and has currently won $10,000 off him.I'm not even really sure why James is receiving instructions from M via Felix, when did Felix become M's messenger? He goes from this to effectively heading the army near the end of the film.
Being a spy and all Felix doesn't do anything so obviously as literally point out Goldfinger to James. Oh no wait he does exactly that. God damn it Felix you're the only one at a pool party wearing a suit this is not good undercover work!

Subtle espionage going on here

You'd think I'd minus points for this but I won't, he's so damn adorable looking doing it. Plus 5 points.

Felix is so remarkable this woman sat up to pay attention

Goldfinger is unsurprisingly wearing gold/mustard coloured clothing. Goldfinger is even more subtle than Felix about his interests. His parents called him Auric Goldfinger mind so I suppose he didn't have a choice. Apparently he's British but doesn't sound like it. Why? No explanation is given. Since actor Gert Forbe was dubbed they could have made him sound British but nope.

Bond figures out in two seconds what Simmons couldn't, that Goldfinger's earpierce isn't a hearing aid, he's getting help. Bond breaks into Goldfinger's room with difficulty, a lockpick and some great spy technique. Nope just kidding, he nabs a random maid in the corridor, pulls her up it by the keys at her waist, opens the door and dismisses her as 'very sweet'. She then departs without a care. This film does wonders for women.

Next we meet Jill Masterson who gives up her name and a whole lot more to James with no difficulty. He catches her helping Goldfinger cheat by watching Simmons' cards from a spyglass and reporting them via a radio to the earpiece. Bond intervenes and blackmails Goldfinger into losing otherwise he'll report him to the Miami police. Jill isn't the least bit angry about this or even slightly worried of repercussions. In fact she laughs about it. She admits she helps Goldfinger cheat and poses as his girlfriend but that's it. James invites her for the best meal in town and guess what it's in his hotel suite.

Jill was portrayed by English actress Shirley Eaton but voiced by German actress Nikki van der Zyl who could apparently do a better English actress. Nikki voiced many other women of the Bond franchise but apparently Shirley Eaton kept this downplayed.

Convenient cushion is convenient
James is knocked out fetching champagne leaving unseen henchman to kill Jill. Bond awakens to find Jill dead and covered in gold paint and confirms she was asphyxiated via the paint. At the time there were even rumours that Shirley Eaton died this way, turns out it's not true. Here's the kicker, how the hell did this happen? Did Oddjob just point his hat at her and order her to stay still as he slowly painted her to death? Did he presumably knock her out and do it? Look at how neat that is, those bedsheets are crisp? How long did this take? How is it that Oddjob is not just good at boomerang hat and taking a gold bar to the chest but he's an expert bodypainter too? Well I suppose henchmen are real people, they have hobbies too.

This iconic image made Jill and Shirley Eaton more infamous the badly pun named Bond girl Pussy Galore who was the main Bond girl despite shopping up over halfway into the flick. Time has proven Pussy to be the lasting Bond girl.

After this we get to M and Q branch. M chides Bond for taking off with Goldfinger's girlfriend before sending him to battle Goldfinger at golf because this is how MI6 works. I love Bond, he goes to golf with Goldfinger to not only piss him off more but to pretend like Goldfinger can't know who he is despite his henchman knocking him out and getting a good look at him.

Oh look what colours Goldfinger is wearing...

Goldfinger cheats at the golf, Bond plays with his balls and wins the round. Oddjob then beheads a statue to demostrate how serious he is. In case Bond doesn't get it he also crushes a golfball but it's all okay because Goldfinger owns the club. James then puts a tracking device in Goldfinger's boot and gets to spying.

While following Goldfinger round the mountains of Switzerland James is almost wiped out by a bad shot from a woman later revealed to be Jill's sister Tilly Masterson. Tilly tries to shoot at Goldfinger who stops for strawberries at a stall (hey villains are people too and they can have cravings). She then tries to run Bond off the road to follow Goldfinger because she's as subtle as Goldfinger and Felix. Bond is having none of her shit and he pretends to allow her to pass so he can use spikes on the side of his car to tear up both her tyres and then paintwork.

Is the sloppy wearing of this cardigan why her shooting and driving is so bad?

After nearly killing Tilly with his road rage he offers her a lift claiming she suffered a blowout. A blowout that causes a great big chunk of metal on the car to be torn out...right. She accepts the lift and brings her gun case with her. It's initialled T. M but she claims her name is Tilly Soames because she is a terrible liar and that she is carrying ice-skates to skate somewhere where there is no snow or ice.

Tilly gets dropped off at a garage only to be seen later tripping an alarm when trying to get to Goldfinger. This just after Bond overheard some information about an "Operation Grandslam", evesdropping that saves Bond's balls later (literally). She explains who she is to Bond and they flee together. Their escape is thwarted by a granny with a gun. Trivia- Alfred Hitchcock was meant to have called this his favourite scene.

Just glorious
After they attempt to flee on foot through dark woods the blonde currently leading lady Tilly is killed reminising every horror movie ever. She is boomeranged down by Oddjob's deadly bowler hat. Trivia- Tilly was played by Helen Mirren's cousin, model Tania Mallet. It was her only on screen role as modelling paid better.

Bond is captured and wakes up tied down and ready to be castrated by a lazer created from gold. Goldfinger really loves gold you know. In a drawn out, well known scene where Goldfinger expects Mr. Bond to die he agrees that he can't take a chance that Bond's organisation knows all about Operation Grandslam and will only send someone else to replace Bond if they think something is amiss. Bond gets to keep his balls and life in the first of many mistakes by Goldfinger to simply shoot Bond and get on with his life.

Bond is knocked out and wakes up in a plane. Cue the Bond girl 'I'm Pussy Galore'. Apparently the reply was going to be 'I know but what's your name?' Wasted opportunity that the censors weren't allowing. It's well known they weren't even allowing Pussy at one point and had suggested Kitty Galore instead because that name is the most offensive thing to women in this film, right? Pussy tells Bond to turn off the charm because she's immune at least until she gets tossed in hay a few times.

I'll be honest, I love Pussy Galore as a character in the film, she takes no shit, she's deadpan, tough, holds her own, knows judo and is it in for the money and she has enough of a conscience that whilst she'll rob people she won't needlessly kill them with nerve gas. Frankly, it's Pussy's change of conscience that saves everyone, without her Bond was toast.

In the novel she was a lesbian who was abused by her uncle but decided that when Bond came along she'd only been a lesbian because she thought all men were bad. (No really, it's that sexist. Fleming was also fairly racist too, Live and Let Die toned it down believe it or not.) Pussy is one of the few Bond girls not to have a bikini moment (though one poster gives her one anyway) and she was one of the few to be older than the actor playing Bond. Played by Honor Blackman she started the tradition of Avengers playing Bond girls, this was followed by Diana Rigg as the leading Bond girl Countess Theresa 'Tracy' di Vicenzo/Bond and Joanna Lumley as one of Blofeld's Angels of Death in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Pussy leads a group of all female pilots for Goldfinger known as the Champagne Squadron, their plan is to use knockout gas at Fort Knox so Goldfinger and his minions can plant a dirty Chinese bomb in their to turn the gold bullion bars radioactive for years thus plunging the West into crisis and putting up the value of his gold. Pussy is doing this to get enough money to go get a quiet island in the Bahamas.

Bond is locked up underground in Goldfinger's estate with only guard watching him. He escapes to spy on Goldfinger talking to several groups of gangsters who have all given him 1 million dollars. Goldfinger has them all gathered together in his fancy horse themed rumpus room which converts into a villain's lair with secret maps, a model of Fort Knox and shutters to seal naughty gangsters in to gas them as we later see. Goldfinger waffles on about plans to steal gold from Fort Knox from the gangsters and Bond listens in.
This is a grown ass man having the time of his life getting pushed by a friend on what is essentially a rocking horse
Only one of the gangsters is named, Mr. Solo who goes off solo because he doesn't like Goldfinger's plan (get it?). Bond meets him briefly after being caught spying by Pussy and he passes his tracking device on to him. Sadly Mr. Solo is going on a one way trip with Oddjob. He gets shot, crushed into a cube in his car and then brought back to Goldfinger so the gold he had on can be extracted. Why didn't Oddjob just lift the gold off his corpse? Why did he bring the car back? Why the hell wasn't Solo just gassed with the other gangsters? Because that's what happens to them, they get sealed up in the rumpus/secret villain's lair and gassed to death. Why the hell Goldfinger even wasted his time coming in and talking to them with lies about stealing gold instead of just gassing them then and there is unclear. Maybe just so we could see gangsters in all their stereotyped glory and this wonderful, wonderful extra enjoying a horse ride.

Horseplay...too obvious

Actually I'm going to forgive the inexpliable pointless of this drawn out scene and Mr. Solo's death for two reasons- one it turns out the some of the other gangster leaders are Mr. Midnight and Mr. Strap, these names are awesome, in the novel it's Jack Strap and there's no way you're convincing that's not a jock strap pun and Jed Midnight *best name ever* and two, the gangster minion's joyous peals on that horse complete me, he is my favourite extra of all time.

Gangsters looking like...gangsters. Seriously, they didn't even try.

Felix, who was getting his priorities in order at KFC is told by his nameless co-worker that James is on the move so they attempt to tail him. 30 points for KFC Felix! The signal, like Mr Solo, goes dead and they are forced to go back to the racetrack to look for Bond. Felix and his co-worker demonstrate some more of that infamous subtly by spying peeping Tom style over the bushes. Goldfinger spots them and debates whether they are people trying to spy on the race horses for a tip or people looking for Bond. Fearing the latter he had Pussy change and Bond brought up so it looks like Bond has things in hand with a woman. The ruse works as Felix concludes that, 'that's my James'. Extra 10 points for knowing James so well Felix.

Blending in again
This follows with a yes means no rough tumble in the hay with Pussy and Bond. It's amazing that everything actually rests on Bond winning over Pussy. It's easy to say it's Bond's irresistible sex appeal that wins Pussy over but most likely it's the fact that Goldfinger is clearly a madman who sees people, even allies as disposable and is pretty damn likely to kill Pussy as soon as she's no longer useful to him.

Speaking of Goldfinger I like him a lot as villain. He's marvellously OTT his rumpus room has so many gimicks and gadgets, the pool table flips over to a mini model of Fort Knox, there's a hidden map, the floor moves, metal shutters for the windows and death gas, he's has a jail underground, he's very clear about his passion for gold. You know he sticks with what he likes, he wears gold, he makes his female minions wear it, all his women are blonde, he kills people by painting them in it, he uses lazers out of it, his entire goal is based around it, his plane is decorated with it, his gun is made of it (using a gold gun before Scaramanga made it cool), this man is dedicated to his interests. He also has loyalty to no one, he has Jill killed with paint, he gases the gangsters and he shoots his Chinese bomb helper Mr. Ling fairly quickly in Fort Knox. He also comes prepared as if expecting failure with an army costume underneath so he can escape. Also he totally guns some soldiers in the back with a machine gun. He also has a pretty memorable henchman in Oddjob who likes to kill little girls like Pussy in James' word by painting them or breaking their necks with his metal plated bowler hat.

Bond kills Oddjob by throwing his hat into a fence knowing Oddjob will retrieve it enabling Bond to use a live wire Oddjob earlier created with said hat to shock Oddjob to death. Trivia- the actor who played Oddjob, Harold Sakata, was shocked for real but like a badass he stayed in character. Bond goes to disable the bomb and is about to pull out the wires when some nameless CIA agent flips the switch (I have no idea why this crucial and hilarious role went to a random, surely Felix could have done this) and it stops at exactly 007, oh the irony.

James is advised that the president is now waiting for him (no really) so he has to go fly to the White House even though Goldfinger is still out there and Pussy's whereabouts are unclear but to hell with it president is waiting. James says it was nothing really and Felix answers with 'I know that, but he doesn't', God I'm actually a little in love with this Felix. He also adds that he told the stewardess liquor for three (foreshadowing) and James queries who the other two are and Felix answers 'Oh, there are no other two.' He has such a sense of humour. Plus 10 points.

Look at that smile and wave goodbye, he's so adorably happy

So guess who's onboard the plane? Goldfinger! Felix and the others catch on too late that the real pilots are tied up elsewhere. Pussy is piloting the plane naturally. James and Goldfinger wrestle over the gun and shoot out the window (foreshadowed earlier between Pussy and James) and Goldfinger follows out the window but then Pussy rights the plane and James is able to reach her in the cockpit because screw logic. They parachute out and the film ends with Felix searching for them and James refusing to let Pussy get help because 'this is no time to be rescued'.

I am officially in love with this man

Conclusion- 60 points for Felix but I've just realised how much I love him so an extra 20 for entertaining me more than anyone else (except for random horse riding gangster). Grand total- 80 points.
May Goldfinger always be remembered as the Bond film with character development- we learned Felix liked KFC, Goldfinger loves gold no but really he loves it and he enjoys stall bought strawberries, Oddjob has a skill for bodypainting and hat throwing, a granny is gun happy, a gangster loves being pushed on a rocking horse, James had a knowledge for whiskey, M did not, and Pussy Galore wanted a private island in the Bahamas.

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