GOLDFINGER (1964)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Goldfinger poster

Directed by: Guy Hamilton

Written by: Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn

(based on the novel GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming)

Starring: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn & Lois Maxwell

The third Bond film in the franchise and the second of eleven that I plan on reviewing (in lieu of the upcoming SPECTRE), GOLDFINGER serves as the film that really perfected the Bond formula. As enjoyable and influential as DR. NO is, it also has a few kinks in its gears. For example, the title villain was underutilized and Bond wasn’t exactly given a vast range of ridiculous gadgets to use. Neither of those things is an issue in GOLDFINGER, because this might hold up as one of my favorite Bond films by the time I’m done with these retrospective reviews. Opening with a solid first scene, stylized credits and a catchy theme, GOLDFINGER starts off strong and keeps that momentum going throughout the whole film.

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James Bond (a.k.a. 007) has just successfully completed a mission and is relaxing in a Miami hotel. It turns out that there were ulterior motives for Bond taking a vacation in Florida. MI6 has instructed Bond to keep an eye on another hotel guest, the robust Auric Goldfinger. What begins as a simple assignment quickly turns personal when Goldfinger kills a woman whom Bond took to bed. 007 makes it his mission to take down Goldfinger and thwart his insane secret plot, but this will be difficult when the baddie has a high-powered laser and an unstoppable Korean bodyguard (Oddjob). Bond’s only hopes come in high-tech gadgets, his own ingenuity and seduction powers that seemed rendered useless on the risqué-named Pussy Galore.

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Sean Connery slips into the skin of Bond with expected style and panache. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot you can say about his performance other than he’s Bond. I’m not able to separate him from the character and that’s a good thing. The main draw for GOLDFINGER are the side characters. Auric Goldfinger may go down as one of the greatest Bond villains ever. Instead of making stupid mistakes that stereotypical Bond villains usually make (e.g. escapable traps and not sticking around to watch Bond die), Goldfinger has the balls to actually try to casually kill Bond with an inescapable trap…which leads to a tense conversation as Bond tries to plead for his life in a roundabout way. Oddjob is a Korean thug who uses his steel-rimmed hat to kill targets. It’s an idea that’s so silly that it works and leads to a memorable showdown between Bond and the hat-wielding thug. The only real female character comes in Pussy Galore. Yes, Bond is still a chauvinistic pig, but this is also poked fun at in his conversations with Pussy.

Goldfinger (1964)

I think the main quality that makes this Bond film stand out is that it has a great sense of humor. It had established certain clichés at this point (including the “Bond, James Bond” line) and began poking at them in this third film. When 007 begins to introduce himself to a disgruntled female driver, she cuts him off and doesn’t let him finish his famous introduction. It’s a nice little wink and nudge towards the viewer that made me laugh. The film is also loaded with a ridiculous entertainment factor that primarily focuses on being fun, rather than being dark or intense. Goldfinger’s ultimate plan is silly, to say the least, but still fits perfectly within the context of this hugely enjoyable spy movie. It certainly helps that GOLDFINGER is fast paced from beginning to end, leaving little room for the movie to drag or become weighed down by exposition.

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Ultimately, I imagine GOLDFINGER will wind up as one of my very favorite Bond movies. It definitely knows the kind of film it is (like DR. NO) and fully embraces that in the best ways possible. Certain spy movie clichés (insane gadgets) are still being introduced in this third Bond entry. Others (diabolical villains with insane plots) are being expanded upon. Well-known clichés of the Bond series are also being poked at in funny ways. All in all, I has a complete blast watching GOLDFINGER and highly recommend it as one of the best early action movies of its type.

Grade: A+

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1967)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Shrew poster

Directed by: Franco Zeffirelli

Written by: Paul Dehn

(based on the play THE TAMING OF THE SHREW by William Shakespeare)

Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Natasha Pyne, Michael York, Victor Spinetti, Alan Webb & Michael Hordern

TAMING OF THE SHREW isn’t exactly the easiest Shakespeare comedy to discuss in this day and age. In this day and age, positive movement is going strong in squashing sexism. It’s fairly well-known that Shakespeare’s era was not a pleasant one for women. This is apparent in torture devices like the Scold’s bridle (an iron cage that was locked onto the head of accused nagging wives to keep them from speaking) and in the fact that TAMING OF THE SHREW was absolutely hysterical at its time of origin. The play and its film adaptations are pretty much a humorous take on spousal abuse. As you might imagine, that light-hearted concept hasn’t exactly aged well over time. Thankfully, this 1967 film tries its best to add laughs that are not included in the original text and winds up being a decent effort. However, a slow pace and uncomfortable overtones remain.

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The film begins with the lord Baptista trying to marry off his two daughters. While everyone pines for the younger Bianca, they are all petrified of the older Katharina as she has a fiery temper and terrorizes anyone who comes near her. Baptista will only allow Bianca to wed if someone will first marry Katharina. Lucentio, a potential suitor for Bianca, has devised a clever plan and recruits the eccentric Petruchio to woo Katharina. Through sneaky tactics, Petruchio is wed to Katharina and uses manipulation to tame his new shrewish wife. Meanwhile, Bianca is the center of many suitors’ attention as they squabble for her hand in marriage.

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One of the biggest problems with Shakespeare adaptations are inherent in source material being rather lengthy. The length can work better in a play environment with performers standing in on a stage and an intermission halfway through, but might be a mixed bag on film. In SHREW, scenes have been omitted from play and that’s a both a blessing and a curse. The positive is that the introduction jumps right into the main story as opposed to the corrupted text’s actual, pointless opening scene. However, a side story with Bianca and Lucentio is almost completely skipped over. This wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t the same amount of set up given to those side characters. While the actual taming of the shrew is the main focus of the play, there are other scenes detailing Bianca’s side-story that do pay off in the end. This film just ignores that almost entirely, which makes the conclusion a tad anti-climactic. Nice touches are made in how certain dialogue exchanges play out, particularly Petruchio’s introduction to Katharina, as the actors use the sets around them to their advantage.

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The biggest issue prevalent in 1967’s TAMING OF THE SHREW is the same problem that many have with the actual play. Of course, this is the blatant sexism on display. The marketing even went as far to have the tagline of “A motion picture for every man who ever gave the back of his hand to his beloved…and for every woman who deserved it.” That attitude is pretty much on display in jovial fashion here. At least one can take solace in Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor being married at the time this was filmed. Burton is clearly having a blast as the crazy jackass Petruchio and Elizabeth Taylor steals the film as Katharina.

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In spite of blatant sexism and a long running time taking some of the fun out of this Shakespeare comedy, the film makes the honorable effort of saving an ending that was played out as rather depressing in most productions. The creativity on this point offers a bit of wink-and-nudge that Zeffirelli, Burton and Taylor were all aware of the play’s questionable issues in treating domestic abuse with a light-hearted lens. Tudor times were horrible for women, but at least there’s an attempt to pretty parts of it up with the slightly redeemable final scene. This is far from the best Shakespeare adaptation, but it’s currently the best version of SHREW available.

Grade: B-

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