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Goldfinger on the Big Screen

It's a rare opportunity to see a Sean Connery James Bond film on the big screen, but every now and then there's a chance to revisit the past.
A few years ago I was working on the manuscript for the book Planet of the Apes Revisited, and while I was writing I thought I’d pop on the James Bond film Goldfinger, considered by many (myself included) to be quintessential Bond.

James Bond Triple Feature About 15 minutes into the film – probably at a point in which M was briefing 007 on his assignment – my oldest son walked in and watched for a couple of minutes.  While my Bond growing up was Sean Connery, my three boys’ was Pierce Brosnan, which was fine with me. I thought Brosnan was great , my feeling being that if Connery’s Bond had a baby with Roger Moore’s Bond, it would have been Brosnan’s Bond. All  of them, as well as George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig, were fine with me. Hell, I’ve often joked that Pee Wee Herman could play the character, and I’d be there.
   Anyway, back to my son. His Bond was the one surrounded by explosions , fast-cutting action and a refusal on the filmmakers’ part to slow things down for more than a few minutes at a clip.  As a result, his Bond was different from the Bond of my youth, which at the time was considered just as fast-cutting.  Because of that, it wasn’t long before he rolled his eyes and muttered, “Oh my God, there’s so much talking.” And with that he pretty much left the room.
   I was dumb-founded. Maybe even a little offended. Nonetheless, I had a planet of talking simians to deal with, so I turned my attention back to work.
   Flash forward to 2009 and I discovered that a movie theatre in Teaneck, New Jersey, located about six miles from my office, was showing (for one night only!) Goldfinger on the big screen.  I immediately contacted a Bond buddy and we made plans to see it.
   I was pretty excited. The last time I had seen Goldfinger on the big screen was back in 1971. It was at the Marine Theatre (long since torn down, unfortunately) on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, and part of a triple feature with Dr. No and From Russia With Love. It was the days before VHS killed the movie reissue, and I was in my glory.  Kind of how I felt that night recently as I sat down to watch the film, popcorn in hand.
James Bond Gun Barrel    This is probably a good time to point out that James Bond, whether it’s the latest film or one of the classics, is my personal time machine. Marty McFly and Doc Brown may have a DeLorean, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock can turn to the Guardian of Forever, but all I need is to be sitting in a theatre as the lights dim, the opening chords of the James Bond theme begin and that series of circles moves across the screen before morphing into a gun barrel. At that moment, with an uncontrollable grin on my face, I’m back to being a little kid, the rest of the world fading away while I become immersed in the world of Bond. James Bond.
Goldfinger Poster 02    So there I sat, feeling like a kid, as Goldfinger began. And once again I thrilled to Connery identifying himself to the oh-so-beautiful Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson; that same beautiful woman sadly discovered dead, and painted in paint. Gold paint. The escalating conflict between Bond and Auric Goldfinger, and by default Odd Job; Bond nearly split in two by a laser (accompanied by the classic dialogue from 007, “Do you expect me to talk?” to which Goldfinger replies, “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.”), the introduction of Pussy Galore (still can’t believe they got away with that one), the unfolding of Operation Grand Slam, the exciting final act in Fort Knox; and the classic quips (“Where’s your butler friend?”  “Oh, he blew a fuse”; “What’s happened? Where’s Goldfinger?” “Playing his golden harp”).
   So, how did it play to the modern me as opposed to that 11-year-old who saw it back in ’71? Pretty damn close! As much as I’ve come to admire Daniel Craig as 007, Connery instantly reminded me why he was, is and ever shall be James Bond. The villain of the piece and his larger-than-life plans may be more acceptable by today’s standards as part of the machinations of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers films rather than the re-bourne action genre of recent years, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. There are, however, a couple of sticking points that were far more bothersome to me this time than in years past. For instance, why on earth does Goldfinger bother detailing Operation Grand Slam for the gathered gangsters only to kill them? Well, of course it’s so that Bond and the audience can know what he’s planning, but it’s really kind of dopey. But not, I insist, as dopey as what follows.
Goldfinger - Crushed Car    Mr. Solo (one of the aforementioned gangsters) decides that he doesn’t want to be a part of this outlandish scheme. Goldfinger seems to acquiesce and prepares to bid him well, having $1 million in gold bullion placed in the trunk of the car that Odd Job is going to drive to the airport. Instead, on the way, Odd Job veers off the main road, stops the car, shoots Solo dead, brings the car to a junkyard, has it crushed into a cube, an industrial magnet deposits the cube into the back of a pick-up truck that was waiting there apparently for just such an occasion, Odd Job drives the truck back to Goldfinger’s horse farm, where Goldfingers gives orders for the gold to be extracted from the cube as Bond wryly notes, “You did say he had a crushing appointment.”
   Okay, what the hell was the point of that? If you were going to kill Solo anyway, just do it! Why go through all that trouble just to bring Solo’s remains back to the farm and then have to extract the now crushed gold from all of that blood, bones and organs? And speaking of gold – how in God’s name was Solo going to check it in at the airport?  Was that all done so that Bond could crack wise?
   That bit of illogic aside, it was great seeing Sean Connery where he should be, playing James Bond on the big screen. And as the credits began to roll, accompanied by the reprise of Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” theme, eleven words appeared on the screen that, again, filled me with excitement: “The end of Goldfinger, but James Bond will return in Thunderball.”  
   The perfect bookend to the gun-barrel sequence that opened the film, and, together,  the most important continuing elements of my moviegoing life, with the former promising to sweep me away in adventure and the latter providing reassurance that it would only be a matter of time before I had the chance to do it all over again. -- Edward Gross

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