Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Goldfinger, by Ian Fleming
(pb; 1959: seventh book in the original 007/James Bond series)
Bond battles Auric Goldfinger, a wealthy gold bullion collector and SMERSH agent. Bond first encounters Goldfinger when he busts the polite but petty millionaire as a card cheat, fleecing millions from Junius Du Pont (a Bond acquaintance from Casino Royale). Not long after that – coincidentally – Bond finds himself investigating Goldfinger again, this time because Goldfinger's bullion fever (illicitly indulged in) threatens to break the Bank of England, while funding the Russian Secret Service known as SMERSH.
This is Bond by the numbers. It's still hard to put down, because Fleming's lean, action-minded prose keeps the humor-spiced plot percolating at a decent pace. However, Goldfinger is a bland bad guy, when compared to past Bond villains, and Pussy Galore – a lesbian flirtatious cat burglar – is an unlikely romantic match for Bond, given her sexual predilections; not only that, but there's not much build-up between Bond and Galore, who doesn't appear until midway through the novel. This is not the gentlemanly take-it-slow Bond of the previous six books – this is the cinematic version of Bond, who's little more than a slut.
Those nits aside, there are other saving graces in Goldfinger, other than Fleming's able writing. One of the graces is Oddjob, Goldfinger's cat-chowing, bowler-throwing (his hat is razor-edged) Korean assassin-handy man, who's quite a character, despite his ape-like speech: the scenes where Bond baits the stoical Oddjob are priceless. There's also Fleming's constant referencing of past Bond adventures – most, if not all, of the books are well represented here.
Felix Leiter, the CIA-agent-turned-Pinkerton who appeared in Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, and Diamonds Are Forever, is also back, one of my favorite Bond allies. While this is not one of the better Bond novels, it's still a fun read, and worth your time.
Followed by For Your Eyes Only.
Goldfinger, the film, was released stateside on January 9, 1965.
Sean Connery played Bond. Honor Blackman played Pussy Galore. Gert Fröbe played Goldfinger. Harold Sakata played Oddjob, and Cec Linder played Felix Leiter.
Guy Hamilton directed, from a script by Richard Maibaum.