Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Part II)

2017 marks 55 years of James Bond on the movie screen.  To celebrate this momentous year, I am undertaking to review the entire oeuvre of Bond films, all 24 of them (at this juncture in history), two at a time.  These will appear on the 7th day of each month  (Bond's agent number being "007").  At the beginning of each entry I will give my personal ranking of each movie and of each movie's theme song.  (These are subjective rankings and do not necessarily agree with the view of the average Bond fan, so take it as you will).  I hope you enjoy them, nay, even look forward to the next installment.  As an added note, I am deeply indebted to Tom DeMichael, and his book James Bond FAQ,  for tidbits of information I with which I am peppering these entries.                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Quiggy

Sean Connery continued his portrayal of the iconic spy after his two initial performances in Dr. No and From Russia with Love  (see The Bond Age (Part I).   James Bond was definitely on his way to becoming the box office draw that would continue for the next 50 years.

Among the candidates for the role of Bond's next villain, Auric Gold finger, was Theodore Bikel, whom fans of The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! will recognize as the captain of the Russian submarine, and whom also was a prolific stage actor, having originated the role of the von Trapp household head in the first stage production of The Sound of Music, and did a stint in the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.  My DVD of Goldfinger has his screen test.

The role of Goldfinger actually went to Gert Frobe, s German actor who had been a former member of the Nazi party in Germany during that party's regime.  But as noted in my reference book, he was not entirely on Hitler's side.  He apparently hid two Jewish friends in his home throughout the war.   Frobe had to learn his lines phonetically, which caused some problems during the filming.  Honor Blackman stated that she couldn't really understand him and only spoke her lines when he stopped speaking.  Michael Collins dubbed his voice in the film.

Dubbing an actor's or actress' voice was becoming not so uncommon in the Bond films.  Both Ursula Andress and Daniela Bianchi in Dr. No and From Russia with Love had been dubbed as well, Adolpho Celi, in the following Bond entry,  Thunderball. was dubbed by another man, Robert Rietty.  It should be noted that dubbing was not done any of these times because they were terrible actors, just that their individual accents were thought, at least by the producers, to be a bit hard to understand.  Frobe was a consummate actor in his own native Germany and Celi made movies in Italy for years.  Let's face it, unless you were used to Herve Villechaize from Fantasy Island, you probably would have been hard pressed to understand him in The Man with the Golden Gun.  (Yes, Golden Gun was made before Fantasy Island came on TV, but you must remember I was brought up in a rather repressive household, and didn't actually get to see that one until I was much older.)

Goldfinger (1964)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #3

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #10

Best Bond Quote:  (A prefatory note:  I actually LIKE the Beatles, but this one was just too good to not include...) "My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done.  Such as drinking Dom Perignon   '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit.  That's just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs."

Best Bond Villain Quote: (After being asked by Bond if he expects Bond to talk) "No, Mr. Bond!  I expect you to die!"

Best Weapon:  Despite all of Bond's accoutrements for this film, the absolute best weapon HAS to be Oddjob's deadly hat...

In what was to become a tradition, the opening segments of Goldfinger included the final moments of his previous case, the destruction of a drug laboratory, and the execution of a drug lord via electrocution in a bathtub.  This was the first Bond film to actually have James Bond defeat an enemy and wrap up a case before the credits.  (In From Russia with Love, it was just an introduction to Bond's coming nemesis, and the "real" Bond himself was not actually in the scene.)

After the credits, featuring Shirley Bassey singing the theme song (actually the first to have the Bond theme song with lyrics during the credits.  Again, in From Russia with Love only the music played, and you did not actually hear the lyrics version until the end credits).  Bassey's song was the also first one to chart as a single on Billboard's Top 100. It made it to #8 on March 27, 1965 where it stayed for two weeks.

Bond thinks he's on vacation in Miami Beach, but in reality it turns out he has been sent there by M to work with the CIA, and Felix Leiter (Cec Linder), to investigate Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), an industrialist who is thought to have been illegally smuggling gold.  He finds Goldfinger cheating at cards, using an accomplice, Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), who spies on his opponent's cards from a hotel room, using a telescope.  Bond uncovers the ruse and forces Goldfinger to lose money to the oppponent, which of course doesn't make Goldfinger happy.

Goldfinger gets his revenge by having Oddjob (Harold Sakata), his valet, knock out Bond and paint Jill with gold paint, which suffocates her.  Bond then challenges Goldfinger to a game of golf, and through subterfuge, nicks him again for more money.  Meanwhile he puts a homing device on Goldfinger's car and chases him through Switzerland.  Goldfinger has another shadow, in the person of Tilly Soames (Tania Mallet), who is later revealed to be the sister of Jill.  She is trying to kill him for revenge of the death of Jill.

In the course of the film, Oddjob and his henchmen eventually capture Bond and make him a prisoner, also killing Tilly in the process.  Goldfinger it turns out has a plan to rob Fort Knox of it's gold.  At least that's he plan as stated to a plethora of underworld mob figures he has meet him with various implements he plans to use in his heist, called "Operation Grand Slam".  Evil villains being what they are in the Bond films, he kills off the underworld characters in one fell swoop so he won't have to share.

Bond meets up with Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).  (Fleming's actual name for Goldfinger's right hand woman, I'm not trying to be prurient...)  Ms. Galore is immune to Bond's charms, although they do not come right out and state her sexuality, it's obvious she is supposed to be a lesbian.  But since two of the Bond women are already dead, I think you can guess how successful he will eventually be.

As it turns out, Goldfinger's actual plan is to break into Fort Knox and set off a nuclear bomb, which would contaminate the supply stored there and make his own supply that much more valuable.  (Although this sounds pretty ingenious in theory, I can't actually vouch for how it would work in reality, but it would definitely make the gold untouchable for years, if the bomb didn't actually demolish the supply in the first place).  Bond's goal then is to prevent the event from happening, and this makes for a pretty exciting final reel of he movie.

Thunderball (1965)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #22

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #3

Best Bond Quote: (taunting Emilio Largo who is #2 in the SPECTRE organization, after he defeats him in a card game) "I thought I saw a specter at your shoulder".

Best Bond Villain Quote: Fiona Volpe (Largo's right hand woman):  "But, of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond.   James Bond.  The one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing.   She repents and turns to the side of right and virtue...but not this one."

Best Weapon:  Bond uses a jet pack early in the movie (before the credits).  This thing was actually a prototype that had been invented just a few years before.

In the pre-credits sequence, Bond watches the funeral of Col. Jacques Bouvar (Bob Simmons).  But as he watches Bouvar's widow leave the funeral he realizes that the "Widow" is actually Bouvar himself and follows him home and kills him.

The credits roll wit Tom Jones singing the theme song to "Thunderball". Johnny Cash also recorded a Thunderball song for the movie, entirely different, but it was not used.  The Tom Jones' version made it to #25 on the Billboard Top 100 on Jan. 22, 1966.

Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), and the rest of the heads of SPECTRE attend a meeting in which Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the number one guy in the organization executes a member who has been secretly giving false numbers of the actual monies being taken by his sector.  Largo then outlines his plans to extort money from the various nations by hijacking two nuclear bombs and threatening to explode them  if the nations don't pony up the extortion.

Meanwhile, Bond, who is supposed to be recuperating at a spa, uncovers part of the plan.  He doesn't uncover it all, but his neighbor, a man whose face is completely bandaged seems to not be on the up and up.  In reality the man is being groomed and facially altered to take the place of an airline pilot, François Derval (Paul Stassino), so that he can hijack the plane carrying the bombs.  By coincidence, François' sister, Dominique (Claudine Auger), also called "Domino", is Largo's mistress.  When Largo kills her brother, he eventually creates an enemy with Domino, although she does not initially know he has done so.

The game continues with a lot of underwater sequences which involves Bond trying to avoid a couple of deadly sharks, and several of Largo's henchmen, as Bond tries to locate where the bombs have been hidden.  He also has to deal with Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), who as Largo's right hand woman, alternately plays with Bond and his seductions and even tries to kill him at one point.

One of the reasons this movie ranks on my list as one of the worst in the series is the underwater sequences, which often causes confusion as to whom is on whom's side, and the final reel in which a battle between Bond and Largo looks as if it was edited by a lunatic on acid.  The movie is standard Bond fare otherwise, but a lot of the action sequences, I thought, could have been done better.

Well, folks, time to fire up the old Plymouth and head home.  Still waiting on James Bond to offer me one of his cast off Aston-Martin's....



  1. Hi Quiggy, Goldfinger is definitely among my favorites, the movie, the villain and the theme song (big Shirley Bassey fan here). The image of lovely Shirley Eaton covered head to toe in suffocating gold paint is an iconic and indelible image of (elegant and glitzy) evil...
    I agree with your assessment of Thunderball. it is one of the least effective in the series. Not ALL of Sean's movie Bonds were stellar, as evidenced by both this one and Never Say Never Again...
    Looking forward to your next installment!

    1. Never Say Never Again was essentially a remake of Thunderball. Even many of the characters had the same, or similar names. Have to admit though I liked the remake better than thje original. Thanks for reading


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