As 2020 draws to a close, it’s a severe understatement to say the year has had its milestones — and one of them was the passing of one of the screen’s true icons.
Sean Connery had a complicated relationship with the role that made him an international superstar, as anyone even mildly familiar with the actor’s history knows. Of his seven turns as James Bond, arguably none defines his time in the part better than “Goldfinger” (streaming on Amazon), the 1964 adventure that set the standard for the entire movie series built around Agent 007.
Connery’s third turn as the licensed-to-kill British spy found him completely comfortable as the character starting with his pre-credits mission to blow up a distribution site for “heroin-flavored bananas,” followed by his “positively shocking” encounter with a would-be killer. After Shirley Bassey belts out the classic Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley title song, it’s on to the main assignment, putting Bond on the trail of gold-obsessed tycoon Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe).
It takes a while, a couple of countries and a very famous threat from a laser beam for “Goldfinger” to get to its main plot, the villain’s plan to contaminate all the gold stored in Fort Knox. Director Guy Hamilton (who would go on to make several other Bonds) keeps things moving briskly along the way, also presenting a couple of other legendary characters: Honor Blackman as Goldfinger’s personal pilot, who just happens to run Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus; and Harold Sakata as Oddjob, the silent henchman you’d better duck for if he takes his hat off to you.
And, of course, there’s also Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson … who becomes the tale’s “golden girl” when she shifts her loyalties from Goldfinger to Bond.
Thanks to “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love,” the James Bond phenomenon already was in high gear by the time of “Goldfinger,” which generated such a frenzy that some theaters stayed open around the clock with showings to accommodate the crowds. And it wasn’t just hype: Apart from being in one of the most successful franchises ever, ”Goldfinger” stands on its own as a hugely fun, massively entertaining movie.
Some of that fun is supplied by little asides, such as what Bond does with a golf ball to catch the cheating Goldfinger at his own game, and a car checkpoint’s seemingly docile senior-citizen operator who suddenly pulls out a machine gun and starts firing wildly as Bond tries to escape.
They say that deceased performers leave work that will last forever. That’s certainly true of Sean Connery and “Goldfinger,” which viewers will continue to enjoy immensely for as long as movies exist.