Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Goldfinger’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Very seldom does one character define a subgenre. But that is precisely what James Bond 007 has done with spy/espionage fiction. Since making his film debut in 1962, Bond has appeared in over 20 movies. Moreover, the character has only been portrayed by a mere six actors (not counting his various incarnations in 1967’s Casino Royale comedy spoof, of course). Now that the 25th (official) Bond installment, No Time to Die, is finally slated for release on April 10th, I think now is a better time than any to look back at 007’s dossier. I’ll be examining the James Bond franchise to see how these pictures evolved over the decades with each new leading actor. Today’s mission: Goldfinger (1964)!
By the time the third James Bond film was ready to shoot, the franchise was becoming a well-oiled machine — one which drilled into a gold mine at that. Thus, it’s no wonder that United Artists (UA) and EON Productions were putting out new 007 adventures annually. The novel, Thunderball (1961) was intended to be the novelistic basis for the third Bond film. However, due to the then-ongoing plagiarism lawsuit between Ian Fleming and fellow writer Kevin McClory, EON Productions pivoted to Goldfinger instead. (We’ll get into the Thunderball of it all next time around.)
Goldfinger, published in March 1959, was the seventh James Bond book and serves as the basis for the film in review. Sean Connery was easy enough to get back as he was under contract. However, the same can not be said for Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963) director Terrance Young. He was going to get back behind the lens for his third Bond outing, but a salary dispute saw him departing to instead helm The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965). Thus, producers turned back to director Guy Hamilton (Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins), who had turned down the original Bond picture a few years prior. Thankfully though, Hamilton accepted the offer for this film.
At this point in pre-production, many of the critical returning cast and crew members were in place. Still, the producers and director needed to find their Bond girls. Goldfinger features three vital female characters this time around. Of course, one of them is Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), who is one of the most famous figures in the series for obvious reasons. But the trifecta of characters — which includes Pussy, Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), and her sister Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) — are all important to plot as opposed to merely being eye candy.
Even still, Goldfinger needed its titular villain. Producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman wanted to cast the legendary Orson Wells (Citizen Kane) in the titular role; alas, he proved too costly. Following that, they cast German actor Gert Fröbe after seeing him in It Happened in Broad Daylight (1958). While I find this casting brilliant, his performance did need to be supplemented. See, Fröbe’s spoken English proved challenging to understand. As a result, Hamilton ultimately had British actor Michael Collins dub in the character’s dialogue.
With all the key players in place, Bond’s third mission could finally unfold: Verbose gold magnate Auric Goldfinger (Fröbe) has become bold enough in his business schemes to attract the attention of all of the major authorities — including MI6, who puts their most talented 00 agent, James Bond 007 (Connery) on the case. Specifically, Bond is to go undercover as a potential business partner in Goldfinger’s grandest, but most mysterious scheme yet. Once he embarks on this mission, Bond finds that his newest squeeze, Jill Masterson, her sister, Tilly, and Goldfinger’s abused right-hand woman, Pussy Galore, are also out the get the gold plated crook as well.
Back when I kicked this series off with Dr. No, you may recall me stating EON Productions ethos for bringing Bond to the big screen. That being, “Give it style; give it size; give it class.” Well, Goldfinger is the epitome of such an approach. This picture proves that the third time’s the charm because it’s the film that finally cements the formula with which the franchise has been working with ever since. And in that particular formula, Goldfinger finds perfection.
But why is that exactly? Well, in the case of Bond as a genre to itself, I find it to be all about the proper measure. Unlike its predecessors, Goldfinger strikes the perfect balance between serious stakes and flat-out spy-thriller fun. Furthermore, this film is perfectly paced. No longer is Bond on a travelogue that can occasionally be a slog. On the contrary, Goldfinger moves the mission along while still taking its time to admire the sights.
As a director, Hamilton took what Young had established and adjusts it to perfection. This is evident first and foremost in regards to the film’s cast. Connery is at his best, clearly having a good time being Bond once again. Perhaps more importantly, though, Goldfinger‘s other characters are well-rounded, which is a little more than I can say for the villains and love interests of the previous pictures.
Goldfinger boasts a titular antagonist who possesses charisma and bravado. Watching this movie in the parlance of our modern times, Auric Goldfinger strikes me a less repulsive Trumpian figure. Although, both of them seem to dig on spray tans. Better still, the female characters in this film all bring something new to the table and, as I’ve said before, are essential to the plot.
Not to mention, this movie gives us Pussy Galore, who may be the best Bong Girl ever. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Blackman enjoyed playing the role. She also admits that she took pleasure in embarrassing interviewers while promoting the movie by repeatedly mentioning her character’s name. I guess it’s a good thing UA didn’t force the character’s named to be changed to “Kitty Galore” as they had briefly considered doing.
As I’ve mentioned in previous installments, I find that there are three crewmen/artists who are essential to not only the atmosphere of a Bond picture, but its success. This trifecta consists of cinematographer Ted Moore (A Prize of Gold); production designer Ken Adam (2001: A Space Odyssey), and composer John Barry (Out of Africa). These three craftsman expanded upon the palette they helped originate. In doing so, they respectively bring a lush grandeur to Goldfinger I feel the previous entries lack. By extension, it’s clear from what’s on-screen that every cast and crew member involved in this production are at the top of their game, thus making Goldfinger, perhaps, the most visually beautiful and immersive in the series.
Goldfinger is not only one of the best Bond films, it’s also the most substantial Franchise Expansion yet! In perfecting the cinematic formula of 007, Goldfinger is not only more action-packed and evenly-paced, it also introduces many new aspects which would become cornerstones of the franchise from this point forward; not the least of which is the introduction the Q-Branch workshop. It is here where Bond gets all his wonderful gadgets and banters with the Quartermaster, Major Boothroyd (Desmond Llewelyn) — better know as “Q.” The tech and their interactions would become staples of the Bond films. Goldfinger also premieres 007’s signature vehicle, the Aston Martin DB5. Funnily enough, Ashton Martin was initially hesitant to supply cars for the film. However, following the its success and the debut of the Aston Martin DB5, the automaker has provided on-screen vehicles for the series ever since … even if Bond flirted with Lotuses and BMWs here and there.
Goldfinger is an example of the gold standard for this franchise. To me, the film is perfect in every way for what it is. Frankly, I struggle to find even a minor flaw in this picture. But, I’ll admit that Goldfinger may not offer quite enough to keep the short attention spans of some modern audience members. From kicking off with one of the greatest theme songs in the series, performed by Shirley Bassey, to its end scene, Goldfinger may just be Bond at its best!
Goldfinger is Available on Home Video
James Bond Will Return For Another Installment of Franchise Expansion or Implosion with Thunderball (1965)!
007’s Newest Mission, No Time to Die, Will Be in Theaters on April 10th!
Read About Bond’s Past Franchise Endeavors-
From Russia with Love: