Today! Because all my life I’ve been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness –
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Starring Sean Connery (x6), Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee (x4), Tania Mallet, Lois Maxwell (x4), Cec Linder (x2), Martin Benson, Desmond Llewelyn (x2), Burt Kwouk (x2), Bill Nagy
The greatest of the early Bond pictures (get out of here, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service fans!) featuring the most iconic death (poor Jill Masterson!), the most iconic henchman (film MVP Harold Sakata’s Oddjob!), and most sexist character name in the history of literature, cinema, and all yet to be created mediums. Like, if there was a porn version of Goldfinger (and there probably is, right?), they couldn’t come up with something worse than Pussy Galore (crack work, Ian Fleming). As terrific as From Russia With Love was, this would quickly become the 007 adventure against which all others would be judged, and all others would be deemed lacking for a very long time, if this has ever indeed stopped.
And besides the aggressive sexism and a weird swipe at the Fab Four (“That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.” Way to get with the times, guys), this movie largely holds up, due to terrific action set pieces and the assured direction of Guy Hamilton, in his first of four Bond forays. This also, sort of, completes a trilogy – even if it’s a pretty arbitrary one. But okay – if you treat the first few films in the series as being the pre-Blofeld/Spectre bunch, that kind of works. Yes, Spectre is still all over the background of these movies, but Blofield only appears briefly, face unseen, in From Russia – after Goldfinger he becomes a much bigger deal, and is the central villain for three straight films from ’67 to ’71, albeit with Blofeld and Bond actors changing multiple times along the way. So…trilogy? Kinda?
Sure, Thunderball is the highest grossing Bond movie when adjusted for inflation, and for what it is Thunderball is very entertaining, but you’d have to think that at least part of the reason for that movie’s success is that it came on the heels of Goldfinger. Figure, eight months earlier – in the only calendar year to feature two main-series Bond films – From Russia made $240ish million (adjusted), which is great, but that gets jumped up to $598 for Goldfinger, spring-boarding the series to greater and greater heights. It’s another year and a half until You Only Live Twice, which only manages about half of Thunderball‘s whopping $675 million. Sequels, in many many instances, have their box office success decided by the prior film, coupled obviously with the actual quality of the movie.
And not to go too far down this road, but Thunderball was the reason we didn’t have Blofeld movies for decades, and the reason that Never Say Never Again exists (which is itself an okay movie). There were issues over authorship – as Fleming had half-stolen someone’s setting idea and lost a lawsuit, splintering royalties and rights for years – which didn’t get settled until like 2013, after the other party died, but not before threatening incessant Thunderball remakes ad infinitum. Look it up, it’s a crazy story. But at least it worked out in the end, and we got Christoph Waltz’s Spectre Blofeld! Did Bond 25 come out yet? Must have, right?
My second favorite Bond flick and second favorite movie from ’64, Goldfinger had its massive pile of cash, but also picked up an Oscar for Sound Effects. Lots of flying and electrocutions and whatnot in this film, so well done! As mentioned above, this post would be remiss if not spotlighting the obvious MVP –
Sir Sean leads the way to the Six-Timers today, following Bonds #153 Dr. No and #138 From Russia With Love, #374 Murder on the Orient Express, #354 The Untouchables, and #293 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Did everyone know that Connery turned down the role of Gandalf? Saw this today – he hadn’t quite retired yet by 2000, and was offered 15% of the worldwide gross, which would’ve amounted to like $400 million. That is a Dunkleman-esque boner right there, Sean!