To gush about how “Goldfinger” is the greatest Bond film ever (which it isn’t) and how it set the formula and standard for subsequent Bond films has been done to death. So, I want to specifically focus here on things that are wrong with the movie.
Don’t misinterpret this as me saying I hate the film. I don’t. But I think it is just a tad overrated and cliched now, and that people often make it their #1 Bond film almost out of a sense of obligation or even guilt, as if it is being disloyal to pick a favorite Bond other than Sean Connery.
Sure, it earns a place in my top 5, but I can think of at least two Bond films that are easily better. Sometimes three, depending on how charitable I am feeling toward George Lazenby on any given day.
Anyway, one of my big complaints about the film is that Bond really comes off looking rather incompetent throughout the proceedings. Most of the second act has him sitting locked up in Goldfinger’s captivity. He largely reacts to things happening to him, rather than being a force for taking action and making things happen. Some of the breaks he gets come to him almost by luck.
He makes a mess of his assignment in Miami by antagonizing Goldfinger, when in fact his job was just to observe the man. As a result of this, Oddjob tracks him to his hotel room, knocks him unconscious and kills Jill Masterson. Consequently, Bond is recognized by Goldfinger on their next encounter, effectively ruining his cover as a secret agent. In the previous two films, Bond never did anything so reckless.
Another complaint I have about the series is the lack of attention to continuity, which was a particular problem in the Bond films of the 1960s. The granddaddy of continuity errors, of course, comes in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” when Blofeld fails to recognize Bond, even though the two met face to face in the previous film, simply because the spy is wearing glasses and a kilt. But another pet peeve is that Felix Leiter is played by a different actor every time we see him, which gets comical after a while.
Jack Lord was the first and best Leiter, but after “Dr. No,” he apparently declined to return when the producers would not give him equal billing with Connery. (As if!) So the part was recast for “Goldfinger,” or I should say miscast. Cec Linder may not be the worst Leiter (that distinction would have to go to Norman Burton in “Diamonds Are Forever”), but he’s no Jack Lord. He often comes off as incompetent, silly and obnoxious. It’s hard to believe he and Bond have shared adventures in the past.
Some of the other characters come off as idiotic. Tilly Masterson, the sister of the girl who gets covered in gold paint, goes after Goldfinger seeking revenge but clearly does not know one end of a gun from the other. She nearly hits Bond when she is aiming for the villain, in one sequence. I find her to be one of those annoying characters who either should have been rewritten or written out.
Except for Miami Beach at the beginning, the movie does not even give us much in the way of glamorous locations. I mean, after watching the movie, are you filled with the urge to take a luxurious vacation in … Kentucky?
And, I know it’s Bond, but it seems a bit cheesy that Pussy Galore has her change in allegiance only after succumbing to Bond’s charms. It’s almost as if the writers could not come up with a better thought out explanation for her to turn against Goldfinger. Why couldn’t her character have been the sister of the gold-painted girl, and then her learning of her sister’s murder is what turns her to Bond’s side in the end? It just seems like lazy writing — something it’s hard to imagine being allowed now in the Daniel Craig films.
Yet, for all this, “Goldfinger” is a fun movie and I suppose it does deserve its status as a classic, though maybe more for the impact it had on pop culture than for the actual merits of the film itself, which like many Bond movies does not withstand being thought about too hard. Even so, it is still far superior to many of the Bond movies that would follow it.