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Goldfinger: Ultimate Edition

A man in a wetsuit emerges from the water with a fake duck strapped to his head. He climbs a wall, sees a guard and efficiently takes him out, lays down some plastic explosives on his target, and then removes his scuba gear to reveal a white tuxedo underneath, to which he adds a flower to his lapel. He then arrives at a nightclub when the bomb goes off, and while he lights a cigarette — as those around him panic — he gives a bemused look of playfully false shock. In three minutes of screen time, Goldfinger (1964) reveals the formula for which James Bond (played here by Sean Connery) and the film series would become world renowned. For Bond, being a secret agent has always been dreadfully amusing. Goldfinger was the third franchise entry — following Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963) — but it was the first to showcase the 007's playful sense of humor. Bond was drawn from a series of books by Ian Fleming, partly made popular stateside due to John F. Kennedy's admiration of them, but regardless it was perfectly suited to the Cold War era's spy-curious public. With globe-hopping intrigue swathed in a Playboy-era swagger of a hard-living, Martini-drinking super-spy super-stud persona, the formula has proved to be so potent that it has remained a pop-culture staple for 40 years and counting. At its worst, the franchise can play like the pornographic fantasies of middle aged businessmen. But when it's done as well as Goldfinger, it's cinematic popcorn at its most alluring.

After the stunning pre-credit sequence, Bond finds himself in Miami tailing gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), whom Bond foils at some card game trickery. It's there that he meets Goldfinger's kept woman, Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), whom Bond quickly beds. The price for her betrayal is death, and she's covered head to toe in gold paint. Bond meets Auric and his henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata) socially for a game of golf, where he's told to keep his distance after some displays of Oddjob's strength. But 007 finds he's not the only one on Goldfinger's trail — Jill's sister Tilly (Tania Mallet) is also after Auric for revenge. Bond tries to protect her after a failed assassination attempt, but she's killed by Oddjob's fatal flying hat and Bond is captured. Goldfinger straps him to a table and starts to use a laser in an attempt to split Bond in half (which leads to one of the series most quotable exchanges: "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."), but when Bond says the phrase "Operation Grand Slam," Goldfinger figures it might be better to keep him alive until his mission is pulled off. His grand scheme is to explode an atomic bomb in the middle of Fort Knox, thereby destroying America's economy and making his own stockpile of gold worth that much more. Assisting Goldfinger is pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), who leads an all-female team of pilots in her flying circus. At first her interests seem Sapphic, but after prolonged exposure to Bond's immeasurable charms, her loyalties (and possibly her sexual orientation) come into question.

*          *          *

Though the 007 franchise has continually tried to mine Goldfinger as a template for what works and what doesn't in all things Bond, it's interesting to note how incidental the movie's plot is, and how so few of the films after could effectively mimic what makes the it so special. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the picture moves along at a very quick clip and is staged with panache, but the story recalls Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep — both films know that as long as the main character was kept compelling while compiling clues, little else mattered. And that's what Sean Connery had as Bond — the series has shown that few can deliver such bons mots as "Shocking, simply shocking" after electrocuting an assassin with the same verve. And Connery is undeniably charismatic, even if his Rat Pack-era machismo is what dates the film the most — its sexual politics are inarguably antiquated, but such is endemic of the time period. It's also worth noting — especially to future Bond filmmakers — that one of the best elements is that Bond spends the entire second half of the film a prisoner. He keeps his cool (how could he not?), but 007 is always trying to find some advantage over his adversary, who becomes more threatening simply by besting Bond. It's one of the reasons why the opening of 2002's Die Another Day was so effective — it ends with Bond in the custody of the North Koreans, tortured through the opening credit sequence. But where future episodes would err too heavily on the comedic side of the character (particularly in the Roger Moore entries), here the filmmakers find the perfect balance between absurdity and Bond's role as a man with a license to kill. When that balanced is attained, you get something as thoroughly entertaining as Goldfinger.

MGM presents Goldfinger in a solid anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) with the original monaural audio, along with remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS surround tracks. Extras on the first disc include a commentary by director Guy Hamilton and a second commentary track with cast and crew. The second disc features "Sean Connery from the set of Goldfinger" (3 min.), "Theodore Bikel's Screen Test "(6 min.), "Tito Vandis's Screen Test "(4 min.), "On Tour with the Aston Martin DB5" (12 min.), "Honor Blackman: Open-Ended interview" (4 min.), numerous featurettes on the classic Bond behaviors, allies, villains, a "Mission Combat Manual," "Q Branch" and "Exotic Locations" (3 min.). Such is followed by "The Making of Goldfinger" (26 min.), "The Goldfinger Phenomenon" (29 min.), an original period featurette (2 min.), the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a still gallery. Various editions of the Bond series have been issued and withdrawn during the DVD era — this latest arrives in MGM's "The James Bond Ultimate Edition: Volume One." Dual-DVD slimcase.

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