Goldfinger (1964)

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn Lois Maxwell, Nadja Regin, Margaret Nolan
Music by John Barry
Theme song performed by Shirley Bassey
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Many people consider this the best Bond film of them all. Maybe it is. It certainly is the film that set the style for all Bond films to follow. The first two movies, Dr. No and From Russia With Love were a bit harder than Goldfinger and they took on the flavour of the locations Bond was visiting – in Dr. No when Bond lands on Crab Key the film takes on an old fashioned (boys own) adventure tone. In From Russia With Love, the scenes in Turkey, and in particular the Gypsy Camp, have a certain feel which has never been replicated. But by the time Goldfinger came around, the Bond style was finely honed. It didn’t matter where Bond travelled to, wherever the location, the style of the films did not change.

Another element that changed with Goldfinger was the increased amount of humour. Although there was humour in the previous two Bond movies, Goldfinger really is ground zero for the double entendres, and the occasional sight gag. For example the opening scene features James Bond in SCUBA gear approaching a dock. Attached to his headpiece as camouflage is a artificial duck. With that, I’ll move on to the plot overview – it starts with a rip-roaring pre-title sequence in Latin America.

‘Shocking! Positively Shocking!’ After James Bond (Sean Connery) has blown up an Oil Refinery, which was actually a heroin processing plant, he stops off at nightclub to pay his respects to Bonita (Nadja Regin), a dancer he has been seeing. Backstage, as he holds her, reflected in her eyes, Bond sees an assassin sneaking up from behind. At the last second, as the assailant brings down his blackjack, Bond spins and the girl receives the blow meant for him. Ouch! Bond and his adversary duke it out in the small backstage room, until Bond gets the better off his attacker and sends him flying backwards into the bathtub. Unfortunately for Bond, next to the bathtub, is Bond’s Walther PPK (for the un-initiated – his gun). The assassin grabs Bond’s gun and takes aim. Simultaneously, Bond flings an electric fan heater into the bathtub and electrocutes his attacker.

Then we launch into the title sequence. The song Goldfinger is sung with gusto by Shirley Bassey. If you haven’t heard it, you must have been living on another planet. Accompanying Miss Bassey’s vocal are Robert Brownjohn’s visuals, images from the film projected onto the golden body of Margaret Nolan (who will turn up later in the movie as ‘Dink’). Trevor Bond is quoted in Emily King’s book “Robert Brownjohn: Sex And Typography”:

“I think Goldfinger were the only titles that ever went to the censor. We were going to project objects on her body, but that was too difficult, it was hard to make them stand out. It was Bj’s idea to project scenes from the film. The golf ball down the cleavage is pure Bj. It was brilliant.”

After the titles we land at the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami. Beside the pool, Bond is receiving a massage from Dink (the aforementioned Margaret Nolan), when he is interrupted by old friend and C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter (this time played by Cec Linder. Leiter was previously played by Jack Lord in Doctor No).

Leiter passes on a message from ‘M’. Bond is to observe Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Each day Goldfinger plays gin with Du Pont, and each day Goldfinger has won. Bond observes this from a far, but is suspicious. His suspicions take him up to Goldfinger’s hotel suite. Inside he finds Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), clad in black underwear, peering through a pair of binoculars. From her vantage point she can see the cards, Du Pont is holding and via a small two way radio, she passes this information to Goldfinger. His receiving device is disguised as a hearing aid. Bond isn’t impressed with the scam. He takes the microphone and threaten to tell the Miami Police unless Goldfinger starts to lose. And lose he does.

Meanwhile Bond takes Jill back to his room for a bit of ‘slap and tickle’. But while searching the fridge for another bottle of champagne, Bond is knocked unconscious. Now the Bond series has a few iconic moments, and the next scene is one of them. When Bond comes to, he sees Jill dead, spread eagled on his bed. But what makes this different, is she is covered from head to toe with gold paint. She has died from skin suffocation. The scene is dazzling and original and now indelibly etched into the minds of anyone who saw this film when they were young.

Back in London in ‘M’s office, Bond is reprimanded. He was supposed to watch Goldfinger, not borrow his girlfriend. Later, he is briefed on what his mission is about. Goldfinger is a gold smuggler. He buys gold in undeveloped countries for a small price and sells it in developed countries for a high price. But nobody knows how he does it. Bond’s mission is to find out. Naturally there’s more to Goldfinger, than just gold smuggling. That’s just the tip of the ice-berg. But these are things that Bond and the viewer finds out along the way.

Onto the Bond girls (I am sure there’s a Bondian quip there, but I’m not game to use it). Bond has quite a few conquests throughout this film. Above I have already mentioned Nadja Regin as Bonita, and Margaret Nolan as Dink. The three main Bond girls, are Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson, Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson, and most famously Honour Blackman (Cathy Gale from The Avengers) plays Pussy Galore.

Goldfinger doesn’t feature too many gadgets. Bond only has one. And it’s a doozy. It’s the very famous Aston Martin DB5. It comes equipped with every assault and defence device imaginable. Amongst the devices are revolving number plates, a rear bullet proof shield, front and rear machine guns, smoke screen, oil slick, and a passenger side ejector seat. It’s riot, when Bond finally gets to put the car through its paces. But Bond isn’t the only person allowed to have gadgets. Goldfinger possesses an industrial laser. Goldfinger demonstrates its capabilities in a very uncomfortable scene (for male viewers), where Bond is strapped to a table, and Goldfinger has his laser moving between Bonds legs, slowly up towards his genitals. At this point Bond asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” And to this Goldfinger glibly replies, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” It’s classic cinema.

As with most Bond movies, a few notes about music are in order. The musical score is by John Barry, and the classic Bond sound starts here. Sure, Barry worked on Dr. No, and composed the score for From Russia With Love. But here is starting line for the true Bond sound. Barry has composed a terrific score, with an equally memorable title song performed by Shirley Bassey. This is the soundtrack to which all other Bond soundtracks are compared. It’s bold, it’s brassy. It’s Bond.

So that’s Goldfinger, the third film in the Bond series. It has to be the most fun of all the Bond films. It’s story isn’t the strongest, and Bond falls into more traps than he sets. Actually he doesn’t do that much at all in the end, but he is the centrepiece; and because of this film, an iconic one at that. When this film was released, people queued around the block to see it at cinemas. Its success launched Bondmania around the world. Bond became a brand. There were everything from jigsaw puzzles and toy cars to talcum powder and vodka labelled with the 007 logo. If it was Bond, it was sixties cool. Countless imitators and rip-offs began springing up. Particularly in Europe where a whole industry popped up making Eurospy films. Even in Asia, Bond was popular; and they had their own attempt at making spy films. It seems like there wasn’t a place on the planet where Bond’s influence wasn’t felt. Even behind the Iron Curtain. The average Soviet citizen may never have had the opportunity to see a Bond film, or read a Bond book, but they knew who Bond was.

Before I sign off on this review, I thought I’d share a little bit of trivia: Before Goldfinger Harold Sakata was a Hawaiian pro-wrestler called Tosh Togo. He also won a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics in the light – heavyweight weightlifting division.

Goldfinger (1964)

Mission Bloody Mary (1965)

AKA Agent 077 Mission Bloody Mary
Operation Blue Lotus
Directed by Terrence Hathaway (Sergio Grieco)
Ken Clark, Mitsouko, Philippe Hersent, Helga Liné
Music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino

Mission Bloody Mary is one of the best entries in the Eurospy genre. Ken Clark is Dick Malloy, Agent 077, on the trail of The Black Lotus, an evil organisation who have stolen a nuclear warhead. Sure, the film borrows heavily from Thunderball and even From Russia With Love but is done fairly slickly and paced so rapidly, you don’t have time to notice the holes in the plot.

Let’s look at the holey plot. It’s an absolutely miserable night. As the rain teems down a military jeep makes it’s way toward the Strategic Air Command base in Coatbridge (near Glasgow) A loan airforce officer is driving. As he approaches the base, a young lady, Kuan (Mitsouko), all dressed in red and soaked to the skin, flags him down. Her car has broken down. He offers assistance (who wouldn’t?) For his trouble he ends up with a knife in his belly. Two other men emerge from the shadows. One on them dons an airforce uniform and takes the officers place behind the wheel. He proceeds to the base and past the sentries.

The movie cuts to a montage of newspapers from around the world. Each proclaims that a U.S. aircraft carrying nuclear warheads has crashed in France. In Washington intelligence chiefs have gathered and are discussing the incident. The plane was carrying a new nuclear weapon, the B-32, also known as ‘The Bloody Mary’. When the crash site was examined, the weapon was gone. It is agreed the weapon has be recovered discreetly. The head of the C.I.A., Mr. Heston (Philippe Hersent)assigns his best agent, Dick Malloy. Agent 077 (Ken Clark). Clark is a big hairy mountain of a man, which is a bit of a plus. When he gets into a fist-fight (which happens quite a bit), you can actually believe if he hit you, it would hurt. On the negative side (and this might just be the dubbing), he doesn’t seem too bright. He walks into a lot of traps set by the enemy.

When we first meet Malloy, he is entertaining a young lady. Barely dressed, they are rolling around on the bed, drinking champagne, and listening Nat King Cole records (well that’s the record sleeve beside the player – although it sounds remarkably like an instrumental of the title tune). His nocturnal activities are disrupted when he is called into the office. In the best sense of sixties style and fashion, Malloy slips on a snazzy red turtleneck (and trousers) and heads into the office.

His briefing takes place on the target range, where he is being fitted with a new range of weapons. Heston explains that The Black Lily, an evil organisation, is behind the theft of The Bloody Mary. Their headquarters are in France at the Betz Clinique. Malloy’s contact there will be Dr. Freeman. And in the best tradition of spy movies, there is a code phrase that Malloy will use to identify himself: ‘I am an old friend from San Francisco’.

Sooner rather than later, Malloy turns up at the Betz Clinique and makes his pre-arranged rendezvous with Dr. Freeman. Malloy is delighted to find out that Dr. Freeman is in a fact Elsa Freeman (Helga Liné), a woman.

Mission Bloody Mary has some good scenes. There’s a roof top gun battle, a sequence on a train (what good spy film doesn’t have a train scene?), a barroom brawl, and a stoush in the cargo hold of a ship. And there’s the usual double crossing, and false identities that you’d expect in a spy film. The movie also features a good musical score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. It’s a brassy trumpet sound, which at times seems like it would be better suited to a Spaghetti Western than a spy film. But all in all, this is a pretty good Eurospy package.

It is not my policy to endorse any particular company or product, but if you are searching for a copy of this film, rather than scouring the grey market, Dorado Films Inc, in the United States have released a nice clean copy on DVD.

For other Dick Malloy, Agent 077 films, see also:
From The Orient With Fury
Special Mission Lady Chaplin

Mission Bloody Mary (1965)

Moonraker (1979)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Roger Moore, Richard Kiel, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Corrine Clery, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Bernard Lee as M, Desmond Llewellyn as Q, and Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny
Music by John Barry
Title song performed by Shirley Bassey
Very loosely based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Moonraker gets a lot of crap heaped upon it for being the worst Bond film. But in all honesty, for much of it’s running time it is quite good. It only drifts off course towards the end with a rather silly, Star Wars inspired space story. Another weakness is the plot itself – actually it’s not weak, simply it is the same story as the previous (and rather successful) film, The Spy Who Loved Me. The difference being that the Ocean and Ships, have been changed to Outer Space and Space Shuttles. It must also be noted, that The Spy Who Loved Me was in fact, very similar to You Only Live Twice. So the plot wasn’t weak; it was simply a matter of the film-makers going to the well one too many times.

The movie opens with a space shuttle being piggy-backed on a 747 jet liner. The shuttle engines fire up unexpectedly and the shuttle takes off. The blast from the shuttles rockets incinerate the jet which plummets to the ground. The shuttle disappears.

On another, smaller plane James Bond (Roger Moore) is being held at gunpoint. The two pilots are going to shoot Bond, bail out, leaving Bond’s remains to crash with the plane. After a struggle, Bond forces the two pilots out of the planes hatch, without being pierced with a bullet. He thinks he is in the clear and may be able to land the plane. But as he stands at the hatch, he is pushed out sans parachute by a set of large hands. These hands belong to Jaws (Richard Kiel), the seven foot tall evil minion who survived at the end of the last movie.
Bond is freefalling without a parachute, when he spies one of the pilots he forced out of the plane earlier. Using the air currents, he glides from above towards his quarry, then wrestles the parachute off the pilots back.

Back safely on the ground, and back at M.I.6 headquarters, ‘M’ (Bernard Lee in his last appearance in the series) and the Minister Of Defence, Frederick Grey (Geoffrey Keen), brief Bond on his new mission. He is to investigate the disappearance of the Moonraker space shuttle. He is sent to California and to the estate of Sir Hugo Drax, the multimillionaire who’s company manufactures the space shuttles for NASA.

Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) is a Frenchman, who now lives a very opulent life in America. And he is also obsessed with space. So much so, that he wants to kill practically everybody on the planet, and repopulate it with his own hand-picked, perfect human specimens which will live on an orbiting space station that revolves around the earth. Yeah, I told you the story was kinda silly!

The main Bond girl in this film is Doctor Holly Goodhead, played by Lois Chiles. Goodhead is a strange character, because she isn’t really sure who she is. On on hand, she is Bond’s equal, working for the C.I.A. and is a qualified Shuttle pilot. She can handle herself in a fist fight too. So we have one of the first truly equal Bond girls. She doesn’t scream all the time, and barely has to be rescued by Bond. But this equality and independence create a void where ‘romance’ should have been. The relationship between Bond and Goodhead is one of the coldest in the Bond series (for a leading lady, that is). That’s not to put down Lois Chiles’ acting performance – I think the written character wasn’t fully developed.

As always, Bond has a few gadgets to rescue him from dangerous situations. The first is a dart gun, that gets strapped to 007’s wrist. In comes in handy when Bond is trapped inside a G-Force simulator that is spinning wildly out of control. The second, and silliest of the Bond gadgets is a Gondola (or ‘Bondola’ if you will), which Bond uses on the canals of Venice. The Gondola can turn into a hovercraft. Err, yeah! The best is the speedboat, which Bond cruises down the Amazon river in. It features torpedoes, mines and a hang-glider which separates from the roof of the boat.

The music is by the maestro, John Barry, which by his high standards is rather ineffectual. The musical highlights are revisions of The Space March Theme from You Only Live Twice, and the 007 Theme from From Russia With Love. Even the title song, Moonraker, performed by Shirley Bassey is rather subdued. That’s not to say the music is bad. Generally it works, but doesn’t have the drive or isn’t as ‘brassy’ as previous musical scores for the Bond series.

As I said at the outset, Moonraker cops a caning for being the worst Bond film. I personally believe that Die Another Day is an inferior film. There’s a lot to like in Moonraker. There’s a classic scene at a pheasant shoot, which involves some poor marksmanship from 007; and plenty of boats chases, as mentioned above in the paragraph about gadgets; and even a cable car chase. All this adds up to a fairly entertaining Bond adventure, if somewhat marred by the film-makers desire to compete with the Star Wars franchise. And as a final word, it must be pointed out, whether you believe Moonraker is a good or bad film, that until the arrival of Pierce Brosnan (the Billion Dollar Bond), in unadjusted dollars this film was the most successful (profitable) Bond film, so someone must have liked it?

Moonraker (1979)

Assassination In Rome (1965)

Directed by Silvio Amadio
Cyd Charisse, Hugh O’Brian, Mario Feliciani, Alberto Closas, Juliette Mayniel, Philippe Lemaire, Gina Rovere
Music by Armando Trovajoli

Assassination In Rome is a solid enough thriller, but it is far from outstanding. What it does have going for it, is that European travelogue feel that so many sixties films possessed. As you’ve probably guessed from the title, the story in this little adventure takes place in Italy; mostly in Rome, but there is a brief excursion to Venice.

Above you would have heard me describe this film as a little adventure, and that is exactly what everybody believes has happened to Shelley North’s husband, William. They believe he has run off with a beautiful young Italian girl. Apparently that happens a lot to American men on holiday in Rome! The film opens with Shelley North (Cyd Charisse – who you may remember from The Silencers, and a few musicals) phoning the American Embassy to report her missing husband. She is fobbed off.

Meanwhile a dead body is found beside the Trevi fountain. In the man’s pockets, is a packet of heroin. The body isn’t Shelley’s missing husband, but there may be a connection between the dead man and William North.

Adding to the story is a couple of bumbling crooks, who break into the dead man’s apartment. One of the thieves steals a pair of shoes. The shoes have a false heel, and inside is a mysterious package. The thieves don’t care what it is. If it was hidden, it must be valuable, and they hatch a plan to sell the package back to its owner. Little do they know that the owner is dead, and before the movie is over, several other people will die, all because of this mysterious package.

Also working in Rome, as a newspaper reporter is American, Dick Sherman (Hugh O’Brian). Sherman is your standard, square-jawed American hero type, a role that suits O’Brian to the ground. Sherman once had a relationship with Shelley, and when he hears her name in the reports from the Embassy, he volunteers to help his old flame track down her delinquent husband. And as a reporter, who knows, there just may be a story in it?

Along for the ride, as Shelley and Dick piece together the details surrounding William’s disappearance, are the chief detective on the case, and Erica a fellow reporter, who has a crush on Dick.

The first sixty minutes of this production are in a methodical detective style as our gang of heroes follow the clues. The film could almost be described as Chandleresque. But after the hour, the film picks up pace and the story jags sharply towards over-ripe psychodrama, in the Hitchcock tradition. The music gets louder; the red herrings become more prominent; and the story becomes, well to be honest, rather silly!

There is a hint of a spy story, the MacGuffin being a top-secret microfilm containing military secrets. The villains are a virtually unseen secret organization who deals in secrets, torture, and death! Despite these familiar trappings, I wouldn’t really call this a spy film and recommend it to aficionados of espionage cinema.

The music by Armando Trovajoli is worth mentioning. The score is very good, but subdued in the first half. As the music soars in the second half it adds to the mystery of the film. In fact, it is a little bit deceptive – deliberately so. Possible spoiler: If the music is loud and pounding, you’re probably witnessing a red herring. If the music is subtle, then the story is progressing normally and its heroes are heading in the right direction.

Assassination In Rome is not a lost classic. It is a decent ‘B’ picture with interesting location shooting. And for most of its running time, it is a fairly good thriller. It’s only at the denouement that the film falls from favour.

I do not like endorsing any particular company or product, but Dark Sky films have this movie paired with Espionage In Tangiers as a double feature DVD. The DVD is presented as a ‘Drive-In’ double feature, with old adverts for fast food (that doesn’t look appealing at all), and previews for coming attractions. It’s a good, fun package.

Assassination In Rome (1965)