Goldfinger (1964)

May 13, 2009

Goldfinger

I genuinely think that this is one of the best films I’ve seen.  I go back to something that I often harp on about- a film must be judged against its aims and Goldfinger has lofty aims which it  exceeds.  The third Bond picture followed the excellent From Russia With Love and deliberately raised the stakes from that early high-spot.  The intention is to retain the levels of intrigue and to increase the wow factor with a bigger budget used wisely.

Connery returns again as Bond in a serious, steely mood- there is a spite behind his wisecracks throughout- and, for me, his third performance in the role is his best.  By his fifth he would have relaxed into sleepwalking through the films for cash.  And his iconic status here is assisted by the direction of Guy Hamilton (pipping Martin Campbell as the best of Bond’s directors) who achieves the double intention of making Bond credible as a thriller hero and yet incredible as an unflappable superman.

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The film- like The Great Escape which I watched a few weeks ago- is more than a mere film these days, it is a huge part of our cultural fabric.  And, with that in mind, it’s hard to ignore the significance of Oddjob, Pussy Galore, the Aston Martin DB5 and “no Mr Bond I expect you to die”.  But doing that and judging this solely on its own merits it still stands up.  It is fantastic entertainment; tightly scripted, well acted in the main with compelling memorable characters, hilarious dialogue- “shocking, positively shocking”, “no mister Bond, I expect you to die”, “I must have appealed to her maternal instincts”, “I have a slight inferiority complex” and a great interaction between Bond and his allies M, Q, Moneypenny and Felix Leiter.

I honestly love it. Everyone does don’t they? 10/10

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The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

January 27, 2009

Aside from my multiple, varied and significant faults I do have a couple of decent characteristics not least of which is my loyalty.  If something brings me pleasure or pride or entertainment of knowledge, then I will support and defend and remain steadfast to it.  And so it is with James Bond- I loved James Bond as a child and the child is the father of the man.  On the downside, I do tend to take Bond seriously and as a result can become hostile and antagonistic to those who don’t.  That includes Roger Moore.

James Bond was forty-five when he began playing Bond- and not an especially youthful looking or acting forty-five at that.  Having neither Connery’s physique, virility nor gravitas, Moore took the films in the direction of comedy- a direction so disastrous that it took three relaunches to recover from.  Being Moore’s second Bond, this isn’t the worst example of that by any means- worse excesses were to follow- but the slapstick comedy, the comical characters of Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) and the dizzy Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) and the unfunny quips clearly signpost the direction.

That said, ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ is a relatively interesting Bond movie, for a Moore Bond, as it shows the progression to full-on campy slapstick as a work in progress.  But it isn’t all bad.  First and foremost amongst the positives, Bond is opposed (via a ludicrously contrived plot) with an formidable villain in Christopher Lee’s Francisco Scaramanga.  Being a ruthless and skilled assassin who can be debonair and attractive, he is set up as Bond’s equal and this works well thanks- in the main- to Lee’s performance.  It was an inspired piece of casting and Lee carries the film admirably from his supporting role.  What is most interesting about his character, however, is that it is he who possesses the gadgets- a golden gun constructed from a pen, cigarette box and lighter and a car which quickly transforms into an aeroplane (Bond wouldn’t have a car to better that until he got the invisible one in ‘Die Another Day’ in 2002).  The nearest thing Bond has to a gadget in the entire film is a stick-on third nipple.  A minor digression, I genuinely have a third nipple and can confirm that neither Bond’s fake nipple nor Scaramanga’s is placed correctly on the ‘milk line’ from armpit to groin.

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So, Bond versus his equal minus gadgets but with comedy.  The storyline is roughly split into two halves, the opening piece is a roughly effective detective story which ends with Bond being captured by Hai Fat and the second is a less effective protracted cat and mouse duel with Scaramanga ending in an actual duel on Scaramanga’s island.  In between the two is a brief interval which features some Kung Fu (Bond films have always exploited what’s current) and then a chase which includes one of the all-time great movie stunts being ruined by the addition of a slide whistle sound effect.  How the movie shifts from Kung Fu to car chase is one of the great gaping plot holes in the series- Bond’s police ally Lieutenant Hip and his two nieces appear from nowhere to fight off twenty? thirty? Kung Fu assailants and rescue Bond and then unaccountably drive away leaving him to run from the recovering assailants.  Hip then disappears from the film.

Another point about this film is the sub-plot regarding Scaramanga’s attempt to monopolise the supply of the world’s solar power from his secret island hideaway (an almost carbon copy of the earlier James Bond spoof ‘Our Man Flint‘) which was introduced because there was a crisis in British energy supply at the time and the three-day-week made the storyline current for the viewing audience.  Personally, I don’t think a multi-million pound solar machine which suddenly grinds to a halt when the sun disappears behind a cloud as this one does is worth the money but these were desperate times!

Bond, in this film, looks increasingly like a ridiculously effete caricature with his Safari suits and a hideously garish plaid sports jacket and slacks combination- another step away from Fleming’s Bond- and acts like one of those men you avoid at parties because they’re nowhere near as funny as they think.  It’s a dull and confused movie saved from total mediocrity by Christopher Lee and warrants 4/10.