Where From Russia With Love, in hindsight, departed from the Bond formula, GOLDFINGER (1964) is, of course, the film that crystallized it, including the bad parts.
Unlike the first two films, this opens with the now-standard teaser (as in many later films, it’s unrelated to the main plot) Bond snorkels into a harbor somewhere in Latin America, his breathing apparatus disguised by fake seagull on his head. He blows up a heroin-processing plant some would-be revolutionary is counting on for finance, sheds his diving suit to reveal a white tuxedo underneath, then dodges a couple of killers before the credits (which include Shirley Bassey singing the classic theme song).
M sends Bond on vacation to Miami, which Bond correctly guesses is setting him up for something: CIA agent Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) tells Bond M is interested in Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), a British gold dealer (unusually for the Connery films, not a SPECTRE agent). Bond discovers Goldfinger’s escort, Jill (Shirley Eaton) is helping him cheat at gin rummy. Bond sees to it Goldfinger loses; Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata) knocks Bond out and kills Jill.When Bond subsequently plays Goldfinger at golf, the businessman cheats again (showing how far he falls below Bond, the Gentleman Spy) but Bond tricks him and wins. 007 pursues Goldfinger to Europe, gets captured, then taken to Kentucky, where Goldfinger plans to detonate a dirty bomb inside Ft. Knox. His backer, mainland China, will see the US economy crippled; Goldfinger’s own gold reserves will go up in value. Fortunately Bond seduces Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger’s pilot (a lesbian in the novel), who tips off Felix in time for the U.S. army to move in.
The film is great fun, and Oddjob, Pussy and Goldfinger make for great villains. The plot is a cool one, changed from the book in which Goldfinger just wanted to rob Ft. Knox (criticism of the book becomes Bond’s explanation of how impossible a robbery would be). Rewatching, however, makes me appreciate it’s far from perfect. Bond’s seduction of Pussy is sexual assault—unlike the Bond girls in the previous films, Pussy tries to fight Bond off before she melts. Goldfinger has really no reason not to kill Bond when he’s captured, and none at all to shackle him to the nuke rather than just shooting him — it’s the cliche Austin Powers and Kingsmen both mock, of the villain who loses because he insists on killing Bond in some clever way (Dr. No and Grant in the previous films had at least a slight rationale). And the only reason Bond knows Goldfinger’s plan is because he spies on Goldfinger revealing it to the mob bosses assisting him. But as Goldfinger then kills the mobsters he had no reason to reveal his agenda, other than plot requirements.
Bond is also surprisingly ineffective here. He can’t save Jill from Goldfinger, nor does he save her sister, Tilly (Tania Mallett) who tries to kill Goldfinger. The gimmicked Austin Martin he drives doesn’t help him escape Goldfinger’s henchmen. Oddjob kicks Bond’s butt repeatedly and Bond can’t disarm the nuke alone. He spends a large part of the movie locked up and can’t escape. If not for his sexual prowess, he’d have failed.
The new formula elements include Q kvetching about how hard Bond is to work with; background gadget testing in Q’s lab; the Bond Girl with the suggestive name; the gadget-laden car; Bond snarking some at M. An old formula element is Bond once again outranking Felix, even though much of the operation takes place on American soil and targets the American gold economy.
The movie was the blockbuster that established the Bond series and kicked off “Bondmania” or “Bondage,” the Bond fervor of the 1960s. Spies had never been so cool before, and never would be again (not even in the Bond series, I think).