Bardot – Poster of the Day – Shalako (French)
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Donald Pleasance, Karin Dor, Mie Hama, Charles Gray, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell.
Music: John Barry
Title song: performed by Nancy Sinatra
Loosely based on the novel by Ian Fleming
After the passing of Ken Wallis last week (on September 1st), I thought it was fitting, and high time, I had a look at You Only Live Twice. Wallis was a leading exponent of Autogyros, and flew Little Nellie in the film.
You Only Live Twice is the fifth film in the James Bond series, and while not the best of the early films, it is one of the most popular. When you mention the James Bond movie series most people think of this film and the final climatic battle inside a volcano. Sean Connery returns as secret agent 007 and is gunned down in bed during the pre-credit sequence. After his resurrection (hence the title) he is sent to Japan to find out who has been stealing spaceships. Throw stunning location photgraphy, ninjas, and a deadly pool of piranha fish, and they all add up to an exotic cocktail.
One of the highlights of the film is that we finally get to see Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of über evil organisation S.P.E.C.T.R.E. After several films of just seeing his hands stroking a white cat, Blofeld’s face is finally revealed. And he looks like Donald Pleasance, albeit with a giant facially scar down the right hand side of his face. For the younger generation who have grown up on Austin Powers, Dr. Evil’s appearance is clearly based on Pleasance and his depiction of Blofeld.
You Only Live Twice is also the Bond series first excursion into outer space science fiction. Ian Fleming’s original novel, there are no hollowed out volcanoes or space ships. Blofeld’s villainous lair was a Castle Of Death. The fanciful screenplay for the movie was written by Roald Dahl, the prominent children’s author – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches and many others. After a suitable castle couldn’t be found, the script was changed to feature a hollowed out volcano.
Two other differences between the book and the film are caused by chronology of the films. The films were not filmed in the order of the books and some of the cliff-hangers from the novels have had to be jettisoned for continuity sake. For example, in the book of You Only Live Twice, Bond is a complete nervous wreck at the start, because his wife was killed at the end on the previous book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But the films were made in reverse order. You Only Live Twice came first, then On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Also the ending has had to be changed, because at the end of the book of You Only Live Twice, Bond has lost his memory and heads to Russia to fit together the pieces of the past. This is only resolved in the opening of the next book,The Man With The Golden Gun. This whole subplot has been jettisoned.
One of the most divisive features of You Only Live Twice is the pull out all stops approach adopted by the film makers. If you like your Bond stories grounded in reality, this is not the film for you. But if you like everything BIGGER and BETTER than what had proceeded it, then you’ll find this to be thoroughly entertaining. One reason for the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach, was possibly a response to the competing rogue production of Casino Royale, starring David Niven and Peter Sellers. EON Productions had to go all out to protect their franchise. Another reason is Thunderball was such a huge, huge success, expectations were high for the next film, and they clearly didn’t want let the audience down.
Now, let’s look at the Bond girls. You Only Live Twice is a festival of flesh for Sean Connery. The first Bond girl he encounters is Tsai Chin, who plays the scheming woman who tries to do away with 007 in the pre-title sequence. During the late sixties, Tsai Chin was a busy actress. Her most prominent role was that in Fu Manchu’s cruel daughter Lin Tang in Harry Alan Towers five film, Fu Manchu series. Then she disappeared from the screen for twenty years only to resurface again in the early nineties. She was worked solidly ever since including a cameo as Madame Wu in 2006 version of Casino Royale. But back to You Only Live Twice – Bond’s next contact and conquest is sprightly Japanese agent, Aki, played by Akiko Wakabayashi. Another Japanese Secret Service agent that Bond gets along well with is Kissy Suzuki played by Mie Hama. As the story progresses, as a cover story, Bond has to take a wife and Kissy is the lucky girl chosen to perform this duty. That brings us to the bad girl. The best Bond films all have a good bad girl (if that makes sense) – and You Only Live Twice has one of the better ones in Helga Brandt, who is played by popular German actress Karin Dor.
While, as I stated earlier, You Only Live Twice may not be one of the strongest Bond films, it is pure eye candy from first frame till last, and many of the gimmicks used in the film would appear in countless imitators. Little Nellie, piloted by Ken Wallis is a great example. You can find another Wallis autogyro in the Eurospy flick, Dick Smart 2.007. Anyway, here’s to Mr. Wallis – who’s work in this film ignited the imagination of many a young boy and girl.
If you haven’t seen You Only Live Twice for a while – or dare I suggest, never seen it at all – maybe now’s the perfect time to revisit it.
Not literally. But here are a few illustrations of Sean Connery as James Bond (?) hitting people.
Which is the odd one out?
A part of the appeal of spy films is watching agents live the high life. They live the life we’d all like to live. With the exception of ‘saving the world’ their lives have very few consequences. They are always in the most glamorous places, with the most glamorous people and, of course, doing the most glamorous things with little regard for the price they may have to pay – both emotionally and financially. Unlike real life, an agent is never short on cash, or seen sweating over the outcome of a roll of a dice or a spin of the wheel in a casino (an enemy agent may, but not the hero). An secret agent’s rent is always up to date and the phone company is never chasing him over a delinquent payment. I assume these everyday expenses are picked by the agency.
A secret agent always has an excellent wardrobe. No ‘off the rack’ shopping for them, male or female. The clothes are always tailored impeccably, even if they will date badly in years to come (the baby blue towelling jumpsuit the Sean Connery wore in Goldfinger springs to mind).
So they look good and aren’t encumbered with the burdens that everyday people encounter. Sure they may have to disarm a nuclear weapon in ten seconds but how often do those situations arise? Not very often. This leaves our operatives with plenty of leisure time. How do they chose to use that time? By indulging in all manner of vices.
Now back in the sixties and seventies these vices were seen as the height of sophistication. They were notches on your gun belt. A good spy would smoke at least two packs a day, down a good bottle of scotch, and then go to bed with a beautiful, willing sexual partner.
While drinking and sex are still socially acceptable (well maybe not in the main street – but you know what I mean), smoking is now particularly scorned upon. Now it is not the purpose of this blog to condone smoking in any way, but obviously it is a motif than runs heavily throughout espionage movies, particularly in the sixties, and one that bears further investigation. First some examples.
Smoking scenes in espionage movies:
• In You Only Live Twice James Bond (Sean Connery) has finally been captured by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Locked down in Blofeld’s impregnable control room, Bond asks for a cigarette. Blofeld insists that “… it won’t be the nicotine that kills you!” Bond takes a drag and counts to three. The cigarette houses a tiny rocket which kills one of the guards, giving Bond the opportunity to attempt to escape. He fails.
• Murderers’ Row, starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, features a cigarette that fires a poisonous dart into an enemy (similar to above, hmmmm?) Helm then throws the empty pack onto the dead man revealing the Surgeon Generals warning in an attempt to get laughs.
• Deano is at it again in The Ambushers. This time, Matt Helm is facing a firing squad. He requests a final cigarette. His request is granted, but his cigarette emits laughing gas rather than the usual smoke, allowing him to affect his escape.
• In The Quiller Memorandum, one of the code phrases is, ‘do you smoke this brand?’ as George Segal as Quiller holds out a cigarette to a fellow agent.
• In From Russia With Love, Connery as James Bond uses the code, ‘do you have a match?’ again with cigarette in hand.
All the five films above are from the sixties. So, back then, smoking was presented as a perfectly acceptable behavior. Or on the flip side, In Dr. No and enemy agent swallows a cyanide pill hidden in a cigarette, and in Deadlier Than The Male, an oil executive has the back of his head blown off after drawing back on a Corona Corona cigar. So maybe smoking was presented as dangerous, but not quite in the fashion that the anti-cancer council would appreciate.
That’s the sixties, but popular culture’s view on smoking hadn’t changed much in the seventies. Smoking was still okay. Yul Brynner, famous for his anti-smoking campaign after his death, is clearly seen lighting up in Night Flight From Moscow. In fact, he complains that the cigarette he is offered may be too mild for him. Roger Moore as James Bond in Live And Let Die lights himself a large stogie while shaving.
By the eighties and nineties things started to change. On screen heroes became more physical, mainly due to the success of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. With their physicality came a healthier body attitude.
So in the new millennium, smoking isn’t presented as being glamorous any more and is not looked on so favorably. In fact, during Timothy Dalton’s tenure as James Bond (mid to late 80’s), he had to fight to smoke in the films, believing it to be true of the Character he was playing – a man living on the edge and indulging in all life’s pleasures and vices. But Dalton’s successor, Pierce Brosnan chose not to smoke. In the opening sequence on Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan as Bond is seen clobbering a smoking soldier after offering him a light. To cap it all off Brosnan’s Bondian quip as the man falls to the ground is, ‘Filthy Habit’. Now we have to travel back in time to the sixties or seventies to view secret agents with a cigarette in hand. Times have changed.
It was fascinating to see the reversal in the recent French comedy, OSS 117 – Cairo Nest of Spies, directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Secret agent, OSS 117 Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, as portrayed by Jean Dujardin is almost embarrassed that he doesn’t smoke. Shamefully he confesses that he has been trying to taking up smoking but with little success – he just doesn’t have the taste for it.
Once again a little history from the Bond universe. Unfortunately I do not have a credit for this snippet from the past. I was sorting through my papers on the weekend and I came across a piece of paper with the following (below) written on it. I can only guess that it came from the old KISS KISS BANG BANG website, and I believe it was posted between Goldeneye and pre-production on Tomorrow Never Dies (I guess around 1996).
Bosses of the latest JAMES BOND caper AQUATICA are refusing to be shaken by news of a rival on the horizon. Last week producer KEVIN McCLORY announced he will be signing up past 007s SEAN CONNERY, TIMOTHY DALTON and GEORGE LAZENBY for a Bond adventure called WARHEAD 2000AD. But that has not even caused a raised eyebrow in the headquarters of EON PRODUCTIONS – mastermind behind Aquatica, which stars Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. Spokeswoman, AMANDA SCHOFIELD says, “Of course it’s not a threat. McClory says he’s signed up all those stars but it’s not certain yet. We won’t be speeding up production because of another movie – Bond carries on and nothing like that worries us.”
The ‘Flashback’ articles on Permission To Kill are re-printed from original newspaper, magazine and web articles, and are presented as a piece of history. The article has been posted in good faith, and the original author, publication and date have been listed (where known). If you are the original author or publisher, and would like the this article removed from the blog please feel free to contact me.
Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Daniella Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Vladek Sheybal, Pedro Amendariz, Walter Gottell
Music: John Barry
End title song performed by Matt Monroe
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming
You may have noticed that I haven’t posted reviews for some of my favourite James Bond films. This is not because I don’t want to do them, but I want to do them justice. I want every word to be perfect (but as you know, this will be the usual scattershot scribble – but give me points for trying!) In conversation I could talk about From Russia With Love for half a day and still not be out of breath – admittedly, all I’d be saying is ‘Daniella Bianchi is gorgeous’ over and over. When it comes to the written word I could write ‘Daniella Bianchi is gorgeous’ over and over, and in my mind, that would still make it a good review – although slightly repetitive. But I want to give you more, especially as this is one of the best spy films of all time. It is a tight cold war thriller which has a good plot, some great fight scenes, particularly in a gypsy camp and on board the Orient Express, and intriguing characters. The story concerns Bonds attempt to retrieve a Russian decoding machine from Istanbul. But along the way Bond encounters Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya, who are a pair of particularly nasty villains working for S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.
The previous Bond film, Dr. No did not have a pre-title sequence. The series’ first pre-title sequence happens in From Russia With Love, and it is now an integral part of the Bond formula. But the legacy starts here, and this film has a magnificent cow-catcher. The film opens in a hedge maze at night, on S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Island. In the maze are James Bond (Sean Connery) and Red grant (Robert Shaw). It slowly becomes apparent that a cat and mouse game is going on between the two men. It seems that they want to kill each other. As the ‘game’ continues, Grant gets the drop on Bond. As Bond moves from his cover, Grant grabs him from behind and then produces a garrotte wire from his wristwatch. He then proceeds to choke Bond to death. Bond dies and collapses dead on the grass. Suddenly giant flood lights flick to life. The whole exercise was a training exercise for psychotic S.P.E.C.T.R.E. killer, Grant.
What about Bond though? Grant’s trainer, Morenzy (Walter Gotell) walks over to Bond’s corpse and reaches down. He removes a mask revealing the face of an unfortunate S.P.E.C.T.R.E. thug. The real Bond is still alive. This man was just a training tool.
Next comes the title sequence. Most Bond fans are aware that Maurice Binder was responsible for the famous gunsight logo at the beginning of each Bond film. They are equally aware he provided many of the title sequences throughout the series. However he did not do the titles for From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. These were created by sixties Graphic Design guru Robert Brownjohn. From the book ‘Robert Browjohn: Sex And Typography’ by Emily King…
“Brownjohn often told the tale of how he sold the idea for From Russia with Love: gathering producers and executives into a darkened room, he turned on a slide projector, lifted his shirt and danced in front of the beam of light, allowing projected images to glance off his already alcohol extended belly.”
After the titles, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. introduces it’s fantastic scheme which is the product of an evil mastermind named Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal). We meet Kronsteen at the Venice International Grandmasters Championship, which is a chess tournament. It is the match final, and he is facing off against the Canadian champion McAdams. Against the wall is positioned a giant chess board so a gallery of spectators can follow the game as it progresses.
As the game is played out, a glass of water is brought out to Kronsteen. He raises the glass and napkin to his lips only to see a secret message visible at the bottom of the glass – written on the napkin. It says: ‘You are required at once’, and underneath is the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. logo – which appears (in this instance) to be a four legged octopus. Kronsteen is forced to finish the game quickly, which he does – showcasing his superior intellect.
Next we join Kronsteen on a boat where he outlines his scheme to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and Rosa Klebb. His scheme is quite complicated. At the heart of it all is a Lektor decoding machine, which the Russians use to send and decode secret messages. Practically every intelligence agency in the world wants to get their hands on one. The Americans want one – so do the British. And S.P.E.C.T.R.E. want one to sell to the highest bidder. But S.P.E.C.T.R.E. don’t want to do their own dirty work. Kronsteen’s plan involves the theft of the Lektor by M.I.6. To achieve this end, Rosa Klebb, who was a high level Russian Security official, but now works for S.P.E.C.T.R.E., orders a young girl, Tatiana Romanova (Daniella Bianchi), who works at the Russian Embassy in Istanbul to seduce British agent, James Bond. Romanova still believes that Klebb works for Russian Intelligence and agrees to the mission (she has little choice).
A photo of Romanova is sent to M.I.6 headquarters, along with a letter saying that she wishes to defect to the West. It also indicates she has access to a Lektor and is willing to bring one across with her. M.I.6 jump at the chance to obtain a Lektor. But the defection has one condition – the agent sent to bring her in must be James Bond. She has seen a file photo of him and has fallen in love. ‘M’, the head of M.I.6 doesn’t buy into the lovey-dovey stuff for a second and realises it is a trap – but he decides to send 007 to Turkey anyway. S.P.E.C.T.R.E., of course expect Bond to acquire the Lektor, and then they step in, kill Bond, and take the decoder.
On paper, and scrawled in longhand, the plot for From Russia With Love seems terribly contrived and complicated, but as the movie unfolds the story plays out beautifully. Every piece of the puzzle fits expertly into it’s slot.
Another plot point worth mentioning is that the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. don’t just want to steal a Lektor. They also want revenge for the death of their operative Dr. No. That is to say, they want to kill James Bond – you may have gathered that from the pre-title sequence. The S.P.E.C.T.R.E. operative chosen to eliminate Bond is Red Grant, who, once again was featured in the pre-title sequence. Grant is a nutter who enjoys killing. His confrontation with Bond on board the Orient Express is one of the best fight scenes in the series.
From Russia With Love being an earlier Bond film, isn’t as gadget reliant as some of the other films in the series. But none-the-less it still features one or two little devices. I don’t know if you’d call a briefcase a gadget, but the case presented to 007 by ‘Q’ (Desmond Llewellyn) has quite a few handy features including a flat throwing knife, a gas canister that explodes when the case is opened, and a supply of gold sovereigns with which an agent could buy his way out of trouble.
It seems strange to say this, after all it is a Bond film, which these days is synonymous with big action scenes and adventure, but From Russia With Love is almost a character piece. The film has a varied and interesting ensemble of characters. Lotte Lenya, who plays Rosa Klebb, the ex-SMERSH director of operations, who now works for S.P.E.C.T.R.E, is a hard piece of work. It’s even intimated that she may be a lesbian. There’s definitely some ‘man-hating’ tendencies in her character. She bullies and abuses her henchman, Morenzy (Walter Gotell), and introduces herself to Red Grant by hitting him in the stomach with a set of brass knuckles.
Another interesting character is Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Amendariz. Amendariz was riddled with cancer when the film was being made, and committed suicide after the filming of his scenes was complete. The character though, is warm and cultured, the complete antithesis of Rosa Klebb.
The music for the previous Bond film, Dr. No had been composed by Monty Norman, and it has been acknowledged that he wrote The James Bond Theme. But John Barry is credited with arranging and performing The James Bond Theme. It was his work on that track that landed him the gig as composer on From Russia With Love. Although it would be the next film down the track, Goldfinger, which locked in the Bond sound, the score for this film is of a very high standard. The musical interludes in Turkey are particularly good. The soundtrack also introduces the ‘007 Theme’ which would reappear in later films in the series. Although there are no lyrics to the title track, Matt Monro croons the end title song, which is pretty smooth.
From Russia With Love is universally acknowledged as one of the best Bond films, but I would take that further – From Russia With Love is one of the greatest films of all time, regardless of genre. It has a great story with intriguing characters – each of them portrayed by the perfect actor for the role. The film is a timeless classic and superior cinema.
..and, of course, ‘Daniella Bianchi is gorgeous’!
You know I loved the original Avengers TV series – c’mon, we all do!. It is with a heavy heart that I report that The Avengers movie is a major disappointment. All the ingredients are there for the film to work. The film has a great cast. Ralph Fiennes fills the bowler hat rather well, and few actresses could fill the black leather catsuit as curvaceously as Uma Thurman. Sean Connery is Sir August DeWinter, the villain of the piece. And thankfully the film-makers haven’t tried to Americanise The Avengers. Everything is very British: – ‘Bowler Hats’, ‘Afternoon Tea’, ‘Red London Double Decker Buses’, sporty ‘E-type Jaguars’. All but Union Jack underwear. So where did this film go wrong?
In practically every department. Ralph Fiennes fills the bowler hat well, but seems to lack the joie de vivre that Patrick Macnee displayed. But Fiennes, out of all the actors in this film, comes off the least unscathed. Uma Thurman looks great, but she is terrible in the role. I realise Dame Diana is a tough act to follow, but Uma is ice cold in this performance. I never thought I say that Sean Connery is simply awful in a movie. Sure he’s been in bad movies, but he is usually the best thing in them – for example Meteor, Zardoz and Highlander 2! But in The Avengers Connery reaches a new low. I guess a large proportion of the blame should go to the script writers who had him mouth lines like, ‘I enjoy a good lashing before teatime’. So despite the great cast in this film, nearly all of them give the worst performances of their lives.
The next big mistake the film-makers made is that they couldn’t decide if they were making a few set in the sixties, with all the mod fashion that goes with it, or making a new updated version of The Avengers for a new younger generation. Instead we got a film that hard back to the sixties, but has all these dreadful high tech gizmos and display screens.
The overall look of the film is rather gloomy, despite it’s mod sensibilities. In it’s defence, the story is about the ‘weather’ and ‘storms’ but even then, all the interiors are grey and dark.
The story is a bit of a muddle too, but it does feature some ‘Avengers’ moments, that could have almost been lifted from the sixties series, but in the futuristic setting they look wrong, or simply don’t work.
The plot concerns the theft of the Ministry Of Defence’s Prospero weather shield. The main suspect is Dr. Emma Peel, due to the fact the have video footage of her committing the crime. She claims to be innocent, and is teamed up with secret agent John Steed to find out who the true culprit is. Their investigations lead them to eccentric recluse, Sir August De Winter.
Their are rumours that a better ‘director’s cut’ of this film exists, but as the film did so poorly, there are no current plans to release it. Who knows – over a passage of time, it may one day see the light. But I don’t hold much hope of it even being significantly better. There are simply too many things wrong with this film, and most criminally of all is it lacks that humour, and I’ll use the term again, the ‘joie de vivre’ that the original television series had. I hate to say this, but I wouldn’t bother tracking this down. If you need an Avengers fix, go back to the originals.
Directed by Richard Brooks
Sean Connery, Katherine Ross, George Grizzard, Robert Conrad, Hardy Kruger, John Saxon, Henry Silva, Leslie Nielson, Robert Webber, Dean Stockweel, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Music by Artie Kane
Based on the novel, The Better Angels by Charles McCarry
When Wrong Is Right was first released in the cinemas in Australia it was released as The Man With The Deadly Lens, obviously to make it sound more Bond-like. And it worked, I couldn’t wait to see it. When I finally did, I was I disappointed. As an action film, it was pretty disjointed and light on for action. And the plot was so tortuous, it made the regular Bond films look straight forward and linear. But there was more to Wrong Is Right than I probably picked up. I was in my mid teens and must admit, a lot of the comedy elements went right over my head.
Sean Connery plays Patrick Hale a globe trotting television reporter. He is a man who is welcome everywhere as long as he brings his camera along. One of the maxims of the movie is ‘it doesn’t happen unless it happens on TV’. He has access to everyone, from the President of the USA, to crazed fanatical terrorists. All of them want their story told by Hale. Hale’s latest breaking story is about a Sheik who claims to have heard voices in the desert. These voices are telling him to give nuclear bombs to a terrorist group who will use them on the USA. Providing these weapons is unscrupulous weapons dealer, Helmut Unger (Hardy Kruger).
The film touches upon how television can manipulate reality for personal gain, not only for the people being interviewed or presenting their argument, but also by the presenters who can exploit these ‘stories’ for ratings.
Time has has had a strange effect on this movie. It now seems almost prophetic. When it was released it was a a black comedy about a world gone mad, with terrorists committing violent atrocities on television. Here we are in the twenty first century, and the world has in fact, gone mad. The extremes shown in this movie, now happen every day in the Middle East and other parts of the world. The difference today is that the internet, as a form of mass communication, has taken over from television. Terrorists no longer need television or a reporter to announce their views or perform an act of rebellion. Today you can do it yourself and put it on YouTube.
So where does that leave Wrong Is Right? With the visual impact muted, we’ve seen it all before (and worse) on the six o’clock news, what we are left with is a political thriller with some rather silly dialogue – for example, courtesy of General Wombat (Robert Conrad): ‘America may not always be right, but it is never wrong!’ That’s not to say the film is not entertaining. It is, and carried very easily by Connery’s charisma, but the themes it explores; terrorism and the world’s dependence on television is outdated. ‘It doesn’t happen unless it happens on TV’ doesn’t apply to a world where a person carrying a mobile phone can film the next ‘breaking’ news story. I am not saying that he film is soft either. It’s just that over the last twenty-five years, we the viewing public, have been ‘hardened’ by the real world. We do not shock as easily.
I am sure as technology advances, and means of communication change, my comments too will become outdated. Equally with each passing year, Wrong Is Right will appear more and more anachronistic. Maybe the film will become a time capsule.
In the end, Wrong Is Right is a film worth viewing. If you’re a fan of Connery (like I am), you’ll probably find this to be one of his more interesting but less successful films. And the film certainly makes you think, or at least re-evaluate all the things you see on the news now. Comparisons between the current goings-on in the Middle East and Bush Administration are inevitable. But the film is uneven, and at times, too convoluted for it’s own good. Viewers with short attention spans, could easily get confused, and ultimately bored with the story.
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.