Gold, only Gold: Goldfinger at 50

Sean Connery and Gert Frobe

Sean Connery and Gert Frobe

By Nicolás Suszczyk, guest writer

It doesn’t have to be your favorite film. You might be in the minority of those who don’t like it, and, of course, you might not find it as serious as From Russia with Love, Skyfall, Casino Royale or The Living Daylights.

But you can’t deny Goldfinger is the James Bond film which set the standards to “what a James Bond film is” to the eyes of the worldwide public.

The third Bond film has all the ingredients that made us Bond fans: three (main) beautiful girls, an imposing villain with world domination dreams, a dangerous henchman and larger-than-life sets, the thrilling John Barry score and the still-memorable Shirley Bassey song, an icon of the Bond culture.

Over the years Auric Goldfinger evolved into Max Zorin and Elliott Carver; Jill Masterson’s golden body was re-adapted in the 21st century as Strawberry Field’s unwanted oil bath for Quantum of Solace; and Oddjob was the “father” of all the powerful and unbeatable henchmen.

The Aston Martin DB5 was the Bondmobile that the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig eras resurrected and all its accessories inspired Maxwell Smart’s red Sunbeam Alpine. Goldfinger wasn’t just important as a template for the following James Bond films, but for all the 1960s spy series and spoofs like Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., with agents and their gadgets, girls and extravagant villains.

Let me share a personal story between the facts many of us know –- I found Goldfinger terribly boring the first time I saw it, when my grandmother rented it and I was 9 or 10. I was carried away by the spectacle of the Pierce Brosnan films and the funny treats of the Roger Moore era after watching -–in that order– The Man with the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die and Moonraker.

By the late 1990s I was mad for GoldenEye and its 1997 videogame version that, as we all knew, featured villains like Jaws, Baron Samedi and Oddjob in the multiplayer modes. I’ve seen Jaws and Baron Samedi and then I wanted to watch Oddjob, hence, I asked my grandmother to rent me Goldfinger. I heard a very good review of it from the father of a schoolmate then who told me “it was great,” but as I started watching it… it was strange. I found Sean Connery’s performance extremely dull, and I barely watched some scenes of it. It’s a hard thing to confess, don’t you think?

But, well, luckily I grew up and by the second time I watched it (it was the last Bond film I bought to complete my VHS collection) I enjoyed it very much.

Even when It hadn’t had the thrilling action scenes of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough or the emotionally deep plots of Casino Royale and Licence to Kill, and the idea of James Bond questioning himself for killing somebody –- present in the 1959 Ian Fleming novel and resurfaced in the latest Bond films — was completely wiped out as in the first scene Connery’s Bond electrocutes a thug and leaves an unconscious girl dropped in the floor by claiming the situation was “positively shocking.”

Goldfinger broke new ground. Ted Moore’s cinematography became more colorful, John Barry’s soundtrack had a funnier approach in contrast with the previous film’s percussion sound bites, the action scenes were more spectacular and the humor in the dialogue grew up. The women, that in the first two films followed the hero, became more self-reliant: Pussy Galore was “immune” to Bond’s charms for a long time.

This film also set the starting point for the classic love-hate relationship between Bond and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, even when this was the second film where Llewelyn appeared as the character. It was director Guy Hamilton who convinced Llewelyn to show disdain toward Bond for the way he mistreats his gadgets, a formula that worked for many years.

Every day closer to the 50th anniversary, Goldfinger is the first 007 film that will come to the mind of every moviegoer. Since Sept. 17, 1964, Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Guy Hamilton and John Barry literally told us how a spy film should be made.

Dr. No’s script Part V: Meeting the villain, Bond woman

Not what Dr. No's screenwriters had in mind.

Not what Dr. No’s screenwriters had in mind.

Concluding our look at an early 1962 version of Dr. No’s script provided by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The first James Bond movie required a top-notch James Bond villain. The screenwriters of Dr. No envisioned an entrance for the title character that was different than what audiences would eventually see.

The January script by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood species the scene is “POV” (point of view) of Dr. No.

According to the stage directions, “All we see of DR. NO is the edge of his desk, and a slight shadow cast from a reading lamp as he makes a slight movement. In short, we see this scene entirely from his eyeline.”

This, of course, is the scene in the finished film where Dr. No’s lackey, Professor Dent, rushes out to the villain’s headquarters in broad daylight to tell his superior how Agent 007 refuses to be killed. After Dr. No says, “Good afternoon….Professor,” the stage directions add this detail.

“He makes ‘Professor’ sound like an insult.”

From here on out, the dialogue is similar to the finished movie, until this stage direction:

“DR. NO learns forward, extending one hand, still in silouhette, toward a nearby table, from which he picks up small glass cage. As he holds it out towards DENT we see something black and furry moving inside it. DENT recoils involuntarily.”

At this point, Dr. No says, “Since your attempts at assassination have been so ineffectual….let’s try ‘natural causes’ this time.”

In real life, production manger Ken Adam came up with a set, that maximized his minimal resources. The striking set created a strong visual. Dr. No’s voice is heard, but the audience doesn’t even see a shadow. The tarantula Dr. No provides Dent seems to materialize out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, the writing team also was faced with adapting one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable passages, where Bond meets Honey(chile) Ryder.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.


The sun beats down on BOND as he sleeps. In the distance, as if in his dreams, he can hear a WOMAN SINGING.

(snip)
146. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

What he sees: HONEY, standing at the water’s edge, her back to him. She is naked except for a wisp os (sic) home-made bikini and a broad leather belt with an undersea knife in a sheath….Her skin is deep honey cooured (sic)….She stretches contentedly like a cat in the warm sun.

147. EXT. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

BOND – appreciates what he see (sic), in a moment he takes up the calypso refrain.

At the end of the script, as in the finished film, Bond is in a boat with Honey that’s out of fuel. But before the pair can make out very much “we hear the throbbing of an approaching motor launch.” It’s Felix Leiter, of course, spoiling their fun.

LEITER
I’ve brought the Marines….

BOND
(with a sly grin, as he helps HONEY up to her feet)
You picked a helluva time to come to the rescue.

THE END
James Bond will return….

Moonraker’s 35th: when outer space belonged to 007

moonrakerposter

June marks the 35th anniversary of Moonraker, a James Bond movie fans either like or despise.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli sought to make the most extravagant Bond film ever. The film’s first-draft script was too big even for the ambitions of the veteran producer. Twin mini jets, a jet pack and a keel hauling sequence were removed in subsequent drafts. Some of the ideas would be used in the next two films in the series, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.

But there was plenty left, including taking Agent 007 into outer space (or Outer Space! as it was spelled in the list of locations in the end titles). Writer Tom Mankiewicz did uncredited work to develop the story. Screenwriter Christopher Wood received the only screen credit for the film.

Broccoli and United Artists initially wanted to spend about $20 million, a substantial hike from the previous 007 adventure, The Spy Who Love Me. It soon became evident the budget would have to even higher, costing more than $30 million.

Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert had teased the audience in 1967’s You Only Live Twice with the idea of Bond going into space. In that film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld catches Sean Connery’s Bond in a mistake before Bond can be launched into orbit. This time out, Broccoli and Gilbert would not use such restraint. Roger Moore’s Bond would go into space, in a spacecraft modeled after the space shuttles that NASA had in development.

As with other Bond films of the era, there was a lot of humor, including pigeons doing double takes and henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) suffering various indignities. The movie got good reviews from some critics, including Frank Rich, then of Time magazine. A sample of Rich’s take: ” When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.”

Also singing Moonraker’s praises was reviewer Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Moonraker, Canby wrote, was “one of the most buoyant Bond films of all. It looks as if it cost an unconscionable amount of money to make, though it has nothing on its mind except dizzying entertainment, which is not something to dismiss quickly in such a dreary, disappointing movie season.”

Bond fans have a more mixed reaction. Some feel it’s too far from the spirit of the original Ian Fleming novels. For examples, CLICK HERE. Others, while acknowledging there isn’t much from Fleming’s namesake novel, are more than content to go along for the ride.

Despite the higher budget, Broccoli & Co. weren’t willing to pay what major U.S. special effects houses wanted. Instead, Derek Meddings used decidedly lower tech ways to simulate a fleet of Moonraker rockets launching into space and meeting up with a space station. Meddings and his crew an Academy Award nomination. Meddings & Co. lost to Alien.

For Moonraker, it was a major accomplishment to get the nomination. Meddings and his special effects colleagues were the only crew members working at England’s Pinewood Studios. The home base for Moonraker was Paris because of tax reasons.

Two stalwarts of the Bond series, composer John Barry and production designer Ken Adam were also aboard. Moonraker monopolized stages at three Paris studios with Adam’s sets. It would be designer’s farewell to the series. Shirley Bassey performed the title song, her third and final 007 film effort.

In the end, Moonraker was a success at the box office. The movie’s $210.3 million worldwide box office was the most for the series to date.

Broccoli changed course soon after, with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only being much more down to earth, with a greater emphasis on Ian Fleming original source material. Never again would Broccoli or United Artists (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which acquired UA in 1981) attempt a spectacle on this scale.

REVISITED: the ‘banned’ Goldfinger commentary

Poster for a triple feature of the first three 007 movies

Poster for a triple feature of the first three 007 movies

We conclude our look at the “banned” Criterion James Bond laserdisc commentaries with Goldfinger.

The commentaries on the first three 007 films were “banned” because Criterion didn’t obtain the permission of Eon Production to include them. As a result, unsold laserdiscs were recalled but interest has remained high among 007 fans over the past two decades.

Evidently, the producers of the commentary track didn’t have as much access to Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton as they did with Terence Young, director of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. There are long stretch where host Bruce Eder comments about Goldfinger and the Bond movies generally without any input with the creators of the film.

Again, this is only a sampling. To listen to the entire thing, CLICK HERE.

During the pre-credits sequence, Hamilton describes his approach. “If this amuses you, if this surprises you, good. Sit back, relax, don’t ask too many questions.”

Hamilton also says producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman “were old acquaintances of mine” before they joined forces to produce the early bond films. Hamilton notes he was offered the chance to direct Dr. No but he ‘had to settle some personal affairs” instead.

The director also comments about Cec Linder taking over the Felix Leiter role. “Jack Lord who had played Felix Leiter (in Dr. No) had gone on to better things in Hawaii.”

Hamilton’s memory is faulty on this point. In 1964, Lord was acting in guest star parts on U.S. television. He wouldn’t be cast in Hawaii Five-O until 1968, four years after Goldfinger.

Meanwhile, Hamilton muses how most actors in Bond films, don’t get paid much. “All the money goes to special effects and sets.”

Editor Peter Hunt wasn’t a big fan of an early sequence where Goldfinger is cheating at cards.

“It was a very unfocused beginning, this movie,” Hunt says. “I suspect Guy Hamilton didn’t even believe it. I don’t think he thought it could work. In order to make it work, I had to do a lot of insert shots.”

Hunt also wasn’t fond of a later scene where Bond and M attend a dinner with Colonel Smithers, who explains why gold smuggling is important.

“It was wrong way around. It was very pretentious.” By that, Hunt refers to how the scene begins with a relatively tight shot, then the camera pulls out to show an enormous dinner table and then cuts back to a tigher shot of the three men.

Ken Adam, the production designer, also chimes in at this point. “This was the first time we see an actual gold bar. We made these out of lead. The gold bar had an enormous weight but obviously wasn’t gold.”

Soon after, Hamilton explains his spin on the Bond-Q relationship.

“I was always convinced Q hated Bond,” the director says. “He always mistreated his gizmos and never brings them back.” This became the template for a number of Bond movies to come.

Hamilton and Hunt appear to disagree how much English actor Gert Frobe, who played Goldfinger, actually knew. Hamilton makes it sound as if Frobe knew two sentences. Hunt says Frobe could speak English but slowly. “His knowledge of English was great. His pronunciation of English was poor.” Either way, both agree (separately) that Frobe needed to be dubbed.

When it came to cars, Hunt says, “Ford’s was very good to us. The producers must have had a deal with Ford’s.” Aston Martin, meanwhile, demanded to paid for the DB5 cars it provided for the film, according to Hunt.

Screenwriter Richard Maibaum also weighed in on the delicate balancing of drama and humor. “Every now and then you have do what I call ‘pulling down the balloon,’ and make it more realistic,” Maibaum says. He cites how the audience laughs while Bond shows off the Aston Martin DB5’s gadgets only to then see the death of Tilly (Tania Mallet).

The participants also comment about a scene that gives 21st century audiences pause — when Bond “must have appealed to her maternal instincts” to make Pussy Galore 007’s ally.

Maibaum, in his comments, says it turned out fine. “It all came out the way we hoped it would.”

Hamilton hedges his bets a bit. “I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie. How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

Later, Peter Hunt sums up Sean Connery’s appeal as Bond. Connery, he says, was among the few actors who look as if they “can virtually walk into a room and f*** anybody.”

REVISITED: The ‘banned’ James Bond commentaries, Dr. No

"Pretty interesting, eh, James?"

“Pretty interesting, eh, James?”

The io9 website did a post this week about the “banned” Criterion James Bond commentaries.

As a result, some fans are, again, discovering the commentaries from early 1990s laser discs that were recalled because Criterion didn’t get permission from Eon Productions for a candid discussion from some 007 film creators as Terence Young, Peter Hunt and Richard Maibaum.

This blog did a post in January 2012 on the topic. Anyway, here’s another, more detailed look at the commentary for Dr. No. It’s still just a sampling, though. You can listen for yourself BY CLICKING HERE.

During the main titles, director Terence Young said: “I wasn’t happy with the theme we had. They were trying to use Underneath the Mango Tree for the theme.” The director says that “was really stupid” because the series would “eventually run out of mango trees.” He credits John Barry for the sound of the James Bond Theme, even though it was credited to Monty Norman.

The director also credited Ken Adam for providing Dr. No having with “a very luxurious look.” Meanwhile, on location, Young said, “To save money, we shot in real houses.”

Young, not surprisingly, praises Sean Connery repeatedly. “He was one of the first cool people in pictures,” the director said. “There was a lot of cool in these pictures.”

Hunt also liked Connery but remarks the actor was “average” when it came to stunts and action scenes. “He wasn’t like Burt Lancaster.”

Both Young and Peter Hunt talk up Jack Lord. Young calls him the best actor to play Felix Leiter up to the time the commentaries were recorded. Meanwhile, according to Hunt: “Jack Lord was a very fine supporting actor. I’m sorry he didn’t go on” to do the other pictures. By the time we did the other pictures, he had become too big for us.”

Cost in 1962: 475 British pounds

Cost in 1962: 475 British pounds, according to Ken Adam

Adam, was who was interviewed separately from Young and Hunt said he had “475 pounds left” for the set where Professor Dent receives his instructions from Dr. No. “It was a complete stylization. It wasn’t based in any way” on reality. “The whole idea of that grid in the ceiling…was like a spider’s web.”

Maibaum had passed away by the time the laser disks were released. In a separate interview he commented about 007 creator Ian Fleming.

“I had the feeling Mr. Fleming was a bit of a snob.” But Maibaum respected the author, calling him “a much greater writer than anybody gave him credit for. I had and still have great admiration for him.” At the same time, Maibaum says Fleming seemed puzzled why there was so much more humor in the Bond films than in the novels. The screenwriter chuckles about that, given he had worked to inject more humor.

Meanwhile, on the commentary, Young takes credit for the final script. “I was locked up in a hotel suite. I rewrote the script going back to the book.” The director also says in the commentary: “We didn’t have an ending. We cooked this one up on the set.”

Funeral in Berlin gets new U.S. DVD release

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Funeral in Berlin, the second Harry Saltzman-produced film based on Len Deighton’s spy novels and starring Michael Caine, is now available in a new DVD release in the U.S. through Warner Bros.’s Warner Archives.

Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions, producer of the James Bond film series, had ambitions beyond the 007 movies. At the same time, Saltzman summoned 007 film veterans to work on his Deighton-based films.

With 1966’s Funeral in Berlin, Saltzman hired Guy Hamilton, who helmed Goldfinger, as director. Also on board was Ken Adam as production designer and Peter Murton as art director. Other films in the series employed John Barry, Peter Hunt and Maurice Binder.

Warner Archive specializes in “manufactured on demand” (or MOD); the DVDs are made as they’re ordered and the sets aren’t available in stores. Warner Bros. has used Warner Archive for home video releases of properties in the vast WB library, including THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. and THE FBI television series.

The price for Funeral in Berlin is $18.95 plus shipping and handling. For more information on ordering, CLICK HERE.

For more information, you can view the IMDB.COM pages for:

1965’S THE IPCRESS FILES

1966’s FUNERAL IN BERLIN

1967’s BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN

Peter Lamont working on a book about his film career

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont, whose 007 art department career ran from Goldfinger through Casino Royale, is working on a book, according to THE WEB SITE OF TOMAHAWK PRESS.

The book is to be called The Man With The Golden Eye. Here’s the description:

The legendary Academy Award winning production designer Peter Lamont is finally opening up his archive for Tomahawk Press in a new book, co-written with Max Pemberton. Lamont designed 18 Bond films, and many of James Cameron’s films, including Titanic. Lamont’s iconic work provided the classy look for these films, and his contribution cannot be overstated.

In addition to being one of the world’s foremost production designers, Lamont is an extraordinary raconteur -– his stories providing new perspectives on the both the Bond franchise and James Cameron’s work. We cannot express how excited we are about publishing what we know will be an extremely important and beautifully designed book.

At this point, there aren’t further details but the publisher promises more as time unfolds.

Lamont, 83, worked on every 007 film of the Eon Production series from Goldfinger in 1964 (as a draftsman) to 2006’s Casino Royale, as production designer, with one exception. He skipped 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies to work as production designer for the James Cameron-directed Titanic.

Lamont scored an Oscar for that film and was also nominated for 1986’s Aliens and 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. On the latter, he worked as art director under legendary 007 production designer Ken Adam. After Adam left the Bond series for good following 1979’s Moonraker, producer Albert R. Broccoli promoted Lamont to production designer for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.

For Lamont, the Bond series also was family business. His brother Michael Lamont and son Neil Lamont held art department posts on the Bond films.

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