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.

goldfinger2

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

Goldfinger 4


Never Say Never Again (1983)

February 5, 2009

I can only think that the title is one of the smug selling points the producers made when pitching this bloody awful idea to Connery- “just think how funny it would be Sean!  Imagine Roger Moore’s face when he sees you’re back- that’ll raise a few eyebrows.  well, one…”.  That said, nothing should have persuaded him to get back in the toupee for this.  Nothing.  To coin a phrase- the world is not enough.

I’ve decided, in my wisdom, to watch all of the Bond’s that I’m pretty unfamiliar with and after this and The Man With The Golden Gun I’m beginning to think I should abandon the plan- clearly there’s a reason that I’m unfamiliar with them.

Presently I’m just short of an hour and a half in and I’ve paused it to write a few notes on here as an excuse not to watch any more.  When Connery jacked it in because he was too old it was already an overdue decision- he had sleepwalked through the last couple he made- and this was made twelve years after that.  There are concessions to that time-gap with Sean having a grey wig and a new stiff upper-lipped bureaucrat boss who has semi-retired him into teaching new recruits but it isn’t very convincingly done.  Anyway, M (Edward Fox- just how many of these Foxes are there?) sends Bond to convalesce in a Health Farm where he stumbles upon SPECTRE’s latest domination plot!  And so I’m thinking “this is fucking Thunderball isn’t it?” and sitting and gradually growing in fury that they’ve got Connery in to remake a film he made nearly twenty years earlier, but I resolve to stay calm and give it a chance.

Never Say Never Again / Octopussy - Battle of the Bonds

From memory this was brought out in direct competition with the ‘official’ release Octopussy.  Now the Roger Moore film was embarrassing because of the slapstick humour, the fact that Moore is too old and fat and the all-round low standards of everyone involved.  I think this is worse.  One of the great things about Bond is it’s fantasy- in Octopussy Moore got to fight a seven foot Sikh on the wings of a plane, Never Say Never Again‘s comparable moment was Connery fighting a bloke from Wolverhampton on the set of Dinnerladies.  This is a very watered-down attempt.  It isn’t low-budget and, as I said recently, I often prefer low-budget movies- the problem is that the vast majority of the budget seems to have been spent on getting Connery in and flying the crew to Barbados, the South of France and wherever else they fancied going.  Everything else is done shoddily and with disregard- the interiors are appalling for example.  The purpose of the movie appears to be to get people in, irrespective of what they’ll tell their friends when they leave.  This is not a film that could ever be a word-of-mouth success.  Even the dialogue- which is appalling- seems to have been designed with the trailer in mind- like this exchange between Bond and Q (not dear old Desmond Llewellyn, obviously):  Q- “Now you’re on this, I hope we’re going to have some gratuitous sex and violence“.  Bond- “I shertainly hope sho too“.  Speaking of Q- who Bond mysteriously keeps calling Algernon- there is a slapstick appearance by rubber-faced so-called comedian Rowan Atkinson as a bumbling bureaucrat called Small-Fawcett- for fuck’s sake!- who foresees John Cleese’s cringeworthy Q.  If this wasn’t warning enough, I don’t know what would have been.

But this could have worked.  The premise, as I said, has real potential and Connery was certainly capable of delivering in the role a wearied, ageing, vulnerable Bond- which he really doesn’t do here.  I’m thinking of something like McQueen in The Hunter which I watched recently.  It isn’t a great movie by any means, but McQueen’s “I’m getting too old for this shit” performance would have been a great example to follow.  Aside from that, you have a magnificent Blofeld in Max von Sydow- bizarrely asked to use a Dutch/Flemish accent and Kim Basinger as a lead Bond girl.  Both here, though, are wasted.  The attention instead is paid to Klaus Maria Brandauer’s appalling Maximilian Largo (a villain as sinister and threatening as a ball of wool) and Barbara Carrera’s hilariously bad SPECTRE number 12 Fatima Blush.  From water-ski-ing in a thong to throwing a hissy fit when Bond suggests he may have once had better sex with a girl in Philadelphia, she is hardly Rosa Kleb.  SPECTRE were clearly hard up for villains after years of good work by Bond.  The film also feature’s Hit Man‘s American Football-player turned slab of wood blaxploitation star Bernie Casey as Felix.  He is crap obviously.

So the film wastes the opportunities it has and instead focuses upon trying to out-Roger Moore Roger Moore.  Bond is variously shot in soft-focus during a saxophone-scored bedroom scene (they didn’t even bother covering Sean’s tattoo for that one), chased by radio-controlled sharks, plays a video game against the villain Largo and fails to catch a woman in stilettos driving a Renault 5 despite being on a gadget-laden motorbike designed by Q.

I said above that I’ve paused about three quarters of the way through.  I’ve decided that I’m not watching the rest- 1/10.  One mark for simply being a Bond film.