Goldfinger: Knocking Out Fort Knox


In 1964, audiences began to get used to the idea of agent 007 showing up once a year. This third film, the best of ‘em all, also has one of most effective pre-title sequences. It shows James Bond (Sean Connery) in a diving suit, secretly planting a bomb. He subsequently removes the diving suit, revealing a white tuxedo underneath, puts a red rose in his pocket and joins a crowd at a bar, waiting for the blast. It’s Bond in a nutshell – dangerous and debonair.

That scene has little to do with the rest of the movie. 007 goes to Miami where he hooks up with CIA agent Felix Leiter who tells him about Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), a wealthy Brit with a funny accent who is up to no good. Turns out he’s a sucker for gold (he even kills people with gold paint) and he has a secret plan that’s as bold as they come: his “Operation Grand Slam” is a scheme to raid Fort Knox and use gas to knock out the military detail that’s protecting the world’s most famous gold reserve. This megalomaniac thinks he can destroy the world economy and then blackmail nations. Of course, 007 must stop him and it is quite possible that Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger’s pilot and an essential player in the scheme, will fall for Bond’s romantic overtures and help him.

But he would also be wise to watch out for Oddjob (Harold Sakata), Goldfinger’s driver and bodyguard, a strong man who can lop the head off a statue with his tailor-made hat. The story is utterly absurd as always, but there are no communists involved this time round, and that’s a good thing. Having the bad guy rob Fort Knox is a novel idea and Bond doesn’t need to fight the Soviet Union or SPECTRE in every movie.

Aston Martin doing very cool things
So much in this film is memorable. The very idea of having a character suffocated by gold paint is outrageous and the sight of Shirley Eaton covered in the stuff is part of cinema history. And what about that name, Pussy Galore? How was it possible to get away with that in 1964? Few real-life porn actresses come close to having pseudonyms as dirty as that; the male equivalent would have to be something like “Cocks Aplenty”. Ah, well.

Then there’s the Aston Martin, doing very cool things whenever Bond is behind the wheel, Goldfinger’s laser that almost emasculates the captive 007, Bond and Pussy tussling in the hay, the bomb’s counter stopping on 007 seconds, the golden title sequence where Shirley Bassey sings that classic tune as if there’s no tomorrow (“he’s the man, the man with the Midas touch!”), John Barry’s formidable score, and the first look into Q’s laboratory. The action sequences are exciting… except for the climactic raid on Fort Knox, which goes on for quite some time it would seem… but compensation comes in the shape of a great fight between 007 and Oddjob inside the Fort.

This was Guy Hamilton’s first Bond film as director, but he does an excellent job replacing the venerable Terence Young; he coaxes great performances out of primarily Connery and Blackman as the classy agent and the resourceful pilot.

Modern audiences may object to the amount of sexism here. In GoldenEye (1995), M were to call Bond a “sexist dinosaur” and she has a point. The women are all stupid and shallow objects; Pussy is different, but all it takes for her to betray Goldfinger is one kiss from James Bond. Still, it’s all in good fun and generations have discovered that the Bond concept didn’t get any more entertaining than this.

Goldfinger 1964-Britain. 111 min. Color. Produced by Harry Saltzman, Albert R. Broccoli. Directed by Guy Hamilton. Screenplay: Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn. Novel: Ian Fleming. Music: John Barry. Song: “Goldfinger” (performed by Shirley Bassey). Cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Gert Fröbe (Auric Goldfinger), Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Shirley Eaton, Bernard Lee, Harold Sakata… Desmond Llewelyn.

Trivia: Fröbe spoke very little English, which is why his voice is dubbed. Followed by Thunderball (1965).

Oscar: Best Sound Effects.

Quote: “You’re a woman of many parts, Pussy.” (Connery to Blackman)

Last word: “John Barry wrote the music. We were touring in England at the time and he was conducting for me. One day he said, ‘There is this new song for the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’ and we’d like you to do it. I know your rule that you will never listen to a song unless there are words. There are no words, I must warn you – there’s only the music, which I have done. And we’re waiting on the lyric.’ And because we had such a wonderful relationship on our tour I said to John, ‘Well, I’ll listen to it. I’ll break my rule.’ And thank God I did, because the moment he played the music to me, I got goose pimples, and I told him, ‘I don’t care what the words are. I’ll do it.’ And fortunately the words were great.” (Bassey, MI6-HQ)


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