Finally, I got through The World is Not Enough and Moonraker with the full knowledge that the third in new Bond Blu-ray releases would make those tribulations a distant memory. By comparison, watching Goldfinger is like being stroked with a sable mitten, and not assaulted with a cheese grater or slapped with a senile kipper, respectively.
I make no apologies for fawning uncontrollably about this production; it was the first Bond movie I saw, and for me it’s the quintessential 007 experience. Dr. No and From Russia With Love set some of the mood and style of the franchise, but in Goldfinger it all crystallises into its final precise form. All the elements are here: the megalomaniac villain, secret industrial complexes, beautiful and deadly women, Ken Adams production design, ‘Q’, ‘M’, Moneypenny, a stunning title sequence, brilliant music by John Barry and a powerful theme by the irrepressible Shirley Bassey.
Okay, if we’re going to be pedantic the title graphics aren’t by Maurice Binder, but then Robert Brownjohn did a very classy golden girl with footage projected onto her.
If you could show a person just one Bond, and wanted them to understand the whole experience and franchise, then this would be the one to give them. Given how far other Bond films diversified from Fleming’s concept, this one is remarkably faithful to the original 1959 book. The only major difference is that in the novel, Fleming hadn’t considered how long it would take to wheel away the contents of the Fort Knox gold depository, a mere 12 days. So instead in the film Goldfinger intends to make all the US reserve gold radioactive, dramatically increasing the value of the precious metal that he owns.
His third film in the 007 series, Connery now appears to wear the Bond personality like well-heeled shoes, effortlessly switching between full-on charm and resourceful lethality in the blink of an eye.
To help him in this mission he’s given some of the coolest gadgets he’s ever been the recipient of, namely the Aston Martin DB5. The idea of spies keeping a low profile goes entirely out of the window with those wheels, but the fantastic range of extras more than makes up for that. The closest I ever got was a Corgi version, but even as a toy I still marvelled at its hidden machine guns, bullet-proof shield and ejector seat!
As Doc Brown explained why he’d put a time machine in Delorean in Back To The Future, the logic was to ‘do it with style’, and if you’re going to put a small arsenal in a car then you might as well make it a stunningly beautiful one.
There is hardly a second of this movie I don’t adore, from the blurred first appearance of Pussy Galore to the ‘Talk Mr. Bond, I expect you to die’ line. It’s just cinema magic, distilled from a million feet of spoil stock and sold like the crown jewels.
So what does Blu-ray do for the Bond aficionado? Plenty. This is one of the Lowry restoration projects that really demonstrates that they’re worth whatever MGM are paying them for the service.
The picture is amazingly crisp, the colour saturation is sumptuous and it looks better than the hacked-about 35 mm print I first witnessed it on. My only complaint, and it’s a tiny one, is that they didn’t manage to find the missing frames that create a jump cut as Oddjob turns off the road to shoot the gangster. The audio has been remixed into DTS HD, which must have been no minor exercise as the film was original distributed in mono!
For those that like extras, the Goldfinger Blu-ray follows the same familiar pattern that we’ve seen before. It’s essentially all the same material that we’ve seen on the DVD special editions, with dual director Guy Hamilton and cast and crew commentaries. The quality of some of the period interviews isn’t even up to DVD standard, but they are an interesting insight into the public and media interest at the time. But they did at least entirely rebuild two 30 minute documentaries in HD. One is called The Making Of Goldfinger, and the other The Goldfinger Phenomenon. They’re both narrated by the excellent Patrick Macnee, who worked with Honor Blackman on The Avengers. None of this would be classed as a necessity, especially if you have the DVD special edition, but there are at least another couple of hours of enjoyment to be had out of this disc.
But the discussion is moot, because if you love Bond and have a Blu-ray player then you’d buy this if it cost ten times as much. Goldfinger never looked so good, and Bond probably never got any better than this.