Goldfinger

  • Title:  Goldfinger
  • Director:  Guy Hamilton
  • Date:  1964
  • Studio:  United Artists
  • Genre:  Action, Drama
  • Cast:  Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe,  Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Richard Vernon, Desmond Llewelyn
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This is gold, Mr. Bond, all my life I have been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness.  I welcome any enterprise that will increase my stock.”  – Goldfinger

“Do you expect me to talk?” – James Bond
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” – Goldfinger

“You can turn off the charm.  I’m immune.” – Pussy Galore

Goldfinger really is the quintessential James Bond film.  Even those who aren’t big fans of James Bond have likely seen it, or parts of it.  The image of a girl painted in gold, dead on a bed, and the immortal line – “Do you expect me to talk? / No, I expect you to die.” have slipped into popular culture.  And it really is a good James Bond film and a good film, over all.

Goldfinger, unlike other early Bond flicks, does not feel overly long (hello, Dr. No), overly complicated, or overly boring (yeah, Thunderball, I’m looking at you).  It moves at a good clip, and the plot is easily followed.  The opening gambit takes place in Jamaica, where Bond uses some nearly laughable Really Big plastique and nitro to blow up a building.  Later he’s with a girl and is attacked.  He fights the guy, hand to hand, ending with tossing his assailant into a bathtub filled with water.  The guy gets the jump on Bond, pointing his gun at him.  Bond tosses a lamp into the water, electrocuting him. “Shocking,” says Bond.

Felix Lighter, Bond’s contact in the CIA then shows up and gives him his assignment from MI6.  He’s to keep track of a British national in Miami, by the name of Goldfinger.  Bond catches Goldfinger making money by cheating at cards, gets him to lose on purpose, and steals his girl, Jill.  However, Goldfinger kills Jill by having her painted gold.  She dies from skin suffocation.  Bond reports to MI6, where he’s informed that Goldfinger is suspected of smuggling gold.  He’s kitted-up with equipment by Q – in a scene that will become expected in every Bond film thereafter.

Bond is then sent to Scotland, where he discovers Goldfinger also cheats at golf – though Bond gets him back.  Bond then uses a tracking device to follow Goldfinger to Switzerland.  Bond meets a girl who is trying to kill Goldfinger.  It’s Jill’s sister.  The two try to get into Goldfinger’s estate.  The girl is killed by Odd Job, Goldfinger’s mute Korean manservant.  Bond is caught, and ends up spread-eagled on a gold table, with an industrial laser pointed at his privates.  Bond gambles, claiming to know more than he does, and is not killed.

However, he is knocked out and wakes up on a plane, meeting Goldfinger’s pilot, Pussy Galore.  She goes to great pains to explain to James Bond that she is only Goldfinger’s pilot, and she’s not at all taken in by Bond’s flirting.  The plane lands in Kentucky, at Galore’s Flying Circus – where all the pilots are women.

In Kentucky, Bond discovers Goldfinger’s plot.  He’s gotten a group of mobsters to smuggle all the various things he needs to break into Ft. Knox.  Only one of the mobsters named Solo wants his gold million dollars rather than the promised ten million payday.  Goldfinger gives him his gold bullion, but has Odd Job kill Solo, then crush his car at a junkyard.  The crushed car is returned to Goldfinger.  Goldfinger gasses to death the rest of the mobsters.

Goldfinger’s plan, however, isn’t to break into Ft. Knox to steal the gold, but to irradiate it with a nuclear bomb, thus making the gold useless and making all the gold he’s stored overseas even more valuable.

Galore’s pilots drop nerve gas in the area around Ft. Knox – knocking everyone out.  It’s eerie to see all the slumped over people, as Goldfinger heads into the building.  But Bond had convinced Galore to help – she had switched the canisters to something less deadly, and called Washington.  Bond ends-up in a hand-to-hand with Odd Job, and defeats him by electrocuting him on a fence in Ft Knox.  He barely defuses the bomb in time and it stops at:  007.  Bond sets off for Washington, DC, in a plane piloted by Galore, but Goldfinger confronts him on the plane.  During the fight, a bullet is fired, air is sucked out, Goldfinger is pushed out of the plane, and the plane starts to crash.  Bond and Galore escape by parachute and the film ends with the two in each other’s arms under the parachute.

Made in 1964, Goldfinger has some huge and impressive sets, especially the Ft. Knox set, with it’s vaults of gold.  This also is the quintessential James Bond film.  It has pretty girls, including the improbably-named “Pussy Galore”.  It has car chases.  It has gadgets.  It has Bond’s Astin Martin car.  It has the M and Q we know and love.  It stars Connery as Bond.  Goldfinger, with his German accent, and his mysterious servant Odd Job are perfect villains.  And the plot holds together and is big – really big.  I mean, break into Ft. Knox?  That’s big.  But everything about Goldfinger is big – the sets, and the props in them are all huge.  It’s impressive, in that sense, and even now, I wondered how they did some of the stuff they did – and marveled at the huge sets – no CGI extensions here!  However, some things in the film did seem out of date, from the huge Nitro barrels and regular (non-digital) clock detonator, and toothpaste-like plastique, to the truly really big bomb Goldfinger brings into Ft. Knox – it felt out-of date.

But one surprising thing about the film to me was Pussy Galore.  This is a woman who doesn’t immediately fall for Bond.  She’s feisty, and tells him she’s immune to his charms.  Over and over she pushes Bond away.  And she’s not with Goldfinger either – not in that way.  Galore is a pilot, a difficult profession for women today, in 2013, and virtually an impossible one for women in the early 1960s.  All the pilots in her flying circus are women as well.  Galore wears pants, trousers, and jodphurs throughout the film – we never see her in a skirt or dress.  She’s a very different Bond woman.  She also knows judo, and defeats Bond once in hand-to-hand combat.  Later, they fight in a barn, and throw each other into hay.  Bond eventually gets on top of her – she resists, – he persists, and eventually she gives in.  It’s after their literal “roll in the hay” that she decides to help Bond, and is crucial in defeating Goldfinger.

Looking at it now, Galore, who surrounds herself with women, and is contemptuous of men, might be a lesbian.  Yet, Bond forces himself on her, despite her cries of protest.  The scene in the barn made me squirm, because to me Bond raped Galore.  And in sexist 60s fashion, this “converted” her to be on his side.  In a sense, it nearly ruins the film for me.  At the very least, it adds an uncomfortable subtext, that Bond is not the hero he pretends to be.

Bond himself doesn’t seem to be the perfect spy in Goldfinger either.  He’s constantly getting beat up, caught, tied-up, and locked in cells.  He gives the impression he has no idea what Goldfinger is up to.  He doesn’t care about the women he uses and sleeps with.  He’s only interested in Pussy Galore because she resists him.

Still, it’s a good film overall, especially if  you ignore the subtext.

Recommendation:  See it!  It is the James Bond film after all.
Rating:  4 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Inception

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

  • Title: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Director:  Stephen Norrington
  • Date:  2003
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  Action, Adventure
  • Cast:  Sean Connery, Shane West, Stuart Townsend, Richard Roxburgh, Peta Wilson
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color 
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I’m a representative of Her Majesty’s government, the Empire needs you.”  Sorenson
“But the question is, Do I need the Empire?”  — Allan Quartermain

“You’re missing a picture, Mr. Grey.”  Allan Quartermain to Dorian Grey

“I’ve lived long enough to see the future become history, Professor.  Empires crumble, there are no exceptions.”  —  Dorian Grey

The League of  Extraordinary Gentlemen starts with a steampunk bang as a tank bursts out of a building, crushes a bobby, and then bursts through the walls of the Bank of England to commit a robbery. However, the object of the robbery isn’t just money, gold, or even jewels — it’s documents.  The robbery seems to have been conducted by the Germans, but next on the hit list is a German Zeppelin factory — which is blown sky-high.  Thus Britain blames Germany and Germany blames Britain, while in the background the mysterious Fantom seems to be orchestrating everything.  The film is set in 1899.

And thus, M, the mysterious leader of the League of  Extraordinary Gentlemen assembles the extraordinary men and women of the League to prevent a war — he says.  And the League is assembled: hunter and adventurer Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery), Mina – the vampire lover of Jonathan Harker, a thief named Skinner who has stolen the formula for invisibility, American Secret Agent Tom Sawyer, Dorian Grey, Captain Nemo (and his Nautilus) and Hyde (and his alternate identity Dr. Jekyll).  Now assembled M tells them they must prevent the mysterious Fantom from sinking Venice and killing the world leaders assembled there for a peace conference.

Reaching Venice, the League discovers they are too late, Venice is already starting to fall.  They manage to stop the destruction, and discover that they were set up.  Dorian betrays the crew, he’s working for M who’s stolen something from him.  Skinner (aka the Invisible Man) whom the League thought was guilty is innocent, but steals aboard the small Nautilus excursion pod with Grey.  Skinner is able to send a message to the League and they are off to stop M where he’s using the unique talents of the League members (Vampirism, invisibility, Jekyll’s potion, etc) to create new superweapons, as well as his tanks, mechanical men, etc.

The League reaches M’s new hideout and manage to win the day.  Allan Quartermain dies but passes the torch to Tom Sawyer whom he calls a “hero for a new century” (Quartermain being the hero of the old century).  M is revealed to be behind the Fantom, and also to be Professor Moriarty.

The League of  Extraordinary Gentlemen is a good film, but I think it could have been better.  I loved the Victorian literary references (other than Tom Sawyer who seems too young and out of place in the film). Besides the main characters, Quartermain makes a reference to Phileas Fogg going around the world in 80 Days.  Sorenson is a Sherlock Holmes reference, it’s Holmes alias during part of his “missing three years” after Reichenbach Falls. That M is really Professor Moriarty is also another Sherlock Holmes reference.  There are some marvelous quips as well.  Sean Connery is brilliant, and the rest of the cast does a competent job.  However, I can’t help but wonder how much better the film could have been with a more experienced and better known cast.  Also, far too much time is spent assembling the League — time that could have been spent firming up the plot.  I didn’t like the obvious CGI Hyde (and the “super-Hyde that fights Hyde at M’s fortress is just silly-looking).  The initial CGI effect for the Invisible Man as he smears on cold cream to show his face is extremely well done, but the very next scene in the car has the actor with white greasepaint on his face that’s applied so badly you can see his beard stubble.  One or the other effect would actually have worked, but switching between both is distracting and screams “we didn’t have the money to do this right”.  The Nautilus is gorgeous, but is apparently solar powered, which makes no sense for a sub.  In Jules Verne’s novel it’s a nuclear sub — maybe the filmmakers were afraid to say so?  Nemo’s car is also beautiful.  Overall, this film felt like a nice intro, but its a real shame no further sequels were made.  I almost think it would have been better as a television pilot than a film, especially as a television series could have brought in even more fictional and real Victorian characters.

There is plenty of action, however, and the look of the film is actually really, really gorgeous.  And I did like the cast, they all do a competent job (I just think they could have done better in casting).  In a sense the film suffers from unfulfilled promise.

Recommendation:  a fun movie for teens and adults, see it
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Lost Weekend

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

  • Title:  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Director:  Steven Spielburg
  • Date:  1989
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  Adventure, Action
  • Cast:  Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, River Phoenix, Denholm Elliott, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • Format:  R1, NTSC
“That cross is a important artifact, it belongs in a museum!”  — Young Indy
 
“Nazis, I hate these guys.” — Indiana Jones
 
“I wrote it down in my diary so I wouldn’t have to remember!” — Henry Jones, Senior
 
“You call this archaeology?”  — Henry Jones, Senior

It’s always hard for me to say which is my favorite Indiana Jones movie — “Raiders” or “Last Crusade“.  “Raiders” introduces the great character, and Marion is a great, feisty, independent woman, and it has a good plot — but the snakes still gross me out.  On the other hand, “Last Crusade“, is, again, like “Raiders” a great adventure, set in relatively short “episodes” that span the world, from Indy’s childhood in Utah to his working as a college professor, to Venice, to Berlin, to Austria, to the hiding place of the Holy Grail. But “Last Crusade” also brings back the great secondary characters of Marcus Brody and Sallah who were missing from “Temple of Doom“.  And there’s the great relationship between Indiana Jones and Henry Jones, Sr.

Which is why, though it wouldn’t exist without “Raiders“, Last Crusade slightly edges out “Raiders” as my favorite.  “Last Crusade”, at its core is about a father and son journeying to discover each other as much as it is a great adventure tale about a search for the Holy Grail.  And the film, as I briefly mentioned before, brings back Marcus Brody and Sallah, both from “Raiders” and both sorely missed in “Temple of  Doom“. And neither character just appears just so they can be listed in the credits — both have important parts to play in the plot, especially Marcus. Sean Connery, is perfectly cast as Indiana Jones’ father.  I love the relationship between the two — prickly, yet fun. “Last Crusade” is a fun adventure-filled movie, with lots of great and quotable lines. But it also has heart — when Henry Jones Sr. thinks Indy has died he is truly crushed, and we feel his pain. When the Nazis shoot Indy’s father in front of him to force Indy to get the Grail, it’s a shocking moment, and we feel Indy’s shock and pain — not to mention he’s about to lose his father. Indiana ends up obtaining the Grail to save his father, not for his own aggrandizement, like Harry Potter with the Philosopher’s Stone in that film and book. In other words, he didn’t want it to keep it.  And like the Stone, the Grail heals Henry Sr.

And isn’t Julian Glover just a perfect villain?

River Phoenix really is well cast as young Indiana Jones.  The opening sequence is also great — not only is it full of adventure itself, but we see Indiana become our Indiana, the hero we love.  The transition from the treasure hunter putting the hat on Indiana to the shot of Harrison Ford in the rain, attempting to recover the same artifact, is perfect. And speaking of great shots – the first shot of Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr, as he steps into the light is also perfect.  And what can be a more satisfying a ending to a movie than our heroes, Indiana, Henry, Sallah, and Marcus, as riding off into the sunset?

The structure of the film, like Raiders, is again of short episodes, linked into a longer story, which keeps the film moving and the adventure level high. In some ways, the film is a chase film, as much as it is a Quest. And it’s also a Quest of characters of the Joneses coming to know each other as well as the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Recommendation:  See it!  And, again, a great film for kids and teenagers.
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Indiscreet

Highlander

  • Title:  Highlander
  • Director:  Russell Mulcahy
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  Republic Pictures
  • Genre:  Action, Romance
  • Cast:  Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen 
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC (DVD is 10th Anniversary Ed. – Director’s Cut)
  • Soundtrack:  Queen

This is a review of the first Highlander film, not the subsequent ones (which were pretty awful) or the TV series (which wasn’t bad, but I personally didn’t like the lead).  It’s a real pity the sequels were such a mess – because the original film is seriously an excellent film.  The cast is excellent, though Lambert’s accent is a tad distracting at times.  The filming is beautiful – especially in the scenes in Scotland.  The film is built on layers of contrast — even the romances contrast with each other.  And, the intercutting between Connor MacLeod’s past and his present is extremely well done and keeps the audience interested, by using short vignettes to build up the characters.  And the sword fighting is excellent as well.

Highlander drops you in to the middle of the action,  trusting the audience enough to stay with the film long enough to understand what’s going on.  Russell Nash attends a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden, then ends up in the parking garage having a sword fight with a guy who I swear looks like the Equalizer — dark suit, glasses, even semi-grey hair.  Nash wins his sword fight, cutting off the guy’s head and uttering the catch phrase of the film, “There can be only one!”  He then hides his sword and leaves, but gets caught by the police.  He’s released because the cops don’t have enough to hold him on.

However, during the wrestling match, Nash has dreams, or as we learn, memories… of his life in the Scottish Highlands as Connor MacLeod of the Clan McLeod.  Over the course of  the film, we see flashbacks to his life in Scotland that explain what’s going on.  His clan are to fight the Frasers, but on the field of battle no one will fight Connor and they even run away.  Unbeknownest to Conner — a mysterious Black Knight has paid the Fraser’s to fight anyone but Conner.  The Knight intends to kill Conner. However, he is mortally wounded and his cousin fends off the Black Knight.  Conner’s taken back to his village to die, but he recovers.  His girlfriend becomes convinced he has “the devil in him”, and stirs up trouble in the village against Conner.  He’s banished.  He ends up at a small sheep farm, where he meets Heather, falls in love with her, and marries her.

While living on the sheep farm, he meets Ramirez (Connery), another Immortal, like Conner and the Black Knight.  Ramirez takes Conner under his wing, teaches him how to fight, and about their ways.  He knows that some are Immortal, but doesn’t know why.  He knows that wounds that would kill a normal man, drowning, etc, will not kill an Immortal — the only method of killing one is by decapitation. He knows they cannot have children.  And he advises not falling in love — because he was devastated when his own third wife, a Japanese princess, died.  He also tells Conner that the Black Knight is the Kurgan (Clancy Brown), the oldest and strongest of the Immortals from the steppes of  Russia (think Ghangis Khan).  He also tells Conner that when only a few are left, The Gathering will take place, the last Immortals will be forced to fight and There Can Be Only One.  The last remaining Immortal will win The Prize.

Back in the “present” (the 1980s) the New York police are confused and befuddled by the sudden rash of beheadings.  An old friend of Conner’s shows up – but is killed by the Kurgan.  An woman who’s an expert in ancient swords, and works in forensics for the New York police, starts investigating both Russell Nash and one of the beheadings because the forensics of the sword used show it to be extraordinary — folded 200 times, yet made in 600 B.C.

We learn more about Nash/MacLeod’s life past and present — he does fall in love with Heather, marry her, and live with her until she dies.  The Kurgan also kills Ramirez — and Connor inherits his Katana. When Heather dies, he buries her under his MacLeod Claymore, and leaves, taking the Katana.  In the present, we meet Nash’s secretary, Rachel, who he had rescued when she was a child, during World War II — she knows all his secrets.

Nash and Brenda have a brief hot and steamy romance, and the Kurgan kidnaps her.  The climatic final sword fight between MacLeod and the Kurgan is on a rooftop by a bright red neon sign reading, “Silvercup”.  MacLeod wins – and discovers the prize is mortality, the ability to have children — and total knowledge of what everyone in the world is thinking.  The total knowledge thing is a bit scary, though a closing remembrance of Ramirez reminds MacLeod to use his gift wisely.

But the film is filmed beautifully — and filled with contrasts.  There’s the natural wide-open beauty of Scotland, verses the dirty and claustrophobic feel of modern day New York.  Most of the scenes in Scotland take place in the day as well; whereas the scenes in New York are mostly at night.  There’s the two romances — Conner’s original love, Heather, is sweet and kind and they have a life-long love.  His relationship with Brenda is more an animal attraction that quickly progresses to the hot and steamy side. However, they do seem to still be together at the end of the film.  And then there’s Rachel, who almost seems to mother Nash, though she knows exactly who and what he is.  Conner and Kurgan contrast as well — Kurgan is cruel, mean, and disgusting and only wants The Prize for whatever power it may bring him.  Conner seems to be honest and forthright, who will only use The Prize to help humanity.

And the sword fighting, both the fights and the various characters practicing their moves at various points, or Ramirez teaching Conner, are well realized.  Even watching Kurgan put together his multi-pieced broadsword and practice his moves is enjoyable to watch.

Overall, an excellent, enjoyable film, highly recommended.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  His Girl Friday

Dr. No

  • Title:  Dr. No
  • Director:  Terence Young
  • Date:  1962
  • Studio:  United Artists (MGM)
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Jack Lord
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

The James Bond film that started it all. Dr. No actually flows at a much more sedate pace than more recent Bond films, but it is still classic and still Bond. The first half of the movie actually feels more like a mystery as Bond is sent to Jamaica to discover why an agent has disappeared and the regular radio transmission from the island was interrupted.

Soon Bond suspects something is going on on Crab Key, the local island the natives avoid, and one of the last places the agent is said to have gone. He investigates, running into Ursula Andress on the island (walking out of the ocean in a bikini with a knife strapped to her hip). The two are eventually captured and taken to the underground hideout of Dr. No. Dr. No informs Bond he works for SPECTRE — and organization of criminal masterminds, and that his (nefarious) plot is to knock out US space program launches from Florida. His underground lair also uses nuclear power and is contaminating the island with radioactivity.

Despite being captured, knocked out, locked up a second time, and being beaten by No’s goons – Bond prevails, preventing No from causing a Saturn rocket to crash and blowing up No’s headquarters. There’s also a couple of car chases (in huge 1960s sedans no less), and Bond kills more than once.

Besides Andress walking out of the ocean and the setting in Jamaica, which were referenced in Die Another Day; this film is also referenced in the Bond parody Austin Powers International Man of Mystery with the tan and plastic uniforms with the clear plastic flat-topped helmets.

Connery is also plays Bond with a chilling attitude, that’s almost off-putting in this film. And the pacing is a bit slow. But it’s where a very long series of films started, and it’s a fairly good film in it’s own right.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating 3 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Dr. Who and the Daleks (Movie Version with Peter Cushing)