Goldfinger (1964); Thunderball (1965)

I did see Goldfinger when 7Two showed it last week, and quite frankly if you’d had the stomach bug that made me lose three kilos last week you wouldn’t have felt like writing about films either (hell, I barely felt like watching them). So with Thunderball being on tonight, I just decided to run them in one entry. Goldfinger marked the continuing rise of the series (and its corresponding rise in budget), and with hindsight it obviously also contained the series’ first really iconic moments. The theme song. The dead girl covered in gold paint. The Aston Martin. Pussy Galore. Oddjob. “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!” And of course Guy Hamilton’s first Bond credit. Is that enough to account for the change in feel between the first two films and this? Cos before we had Bond facing off against the organisation SPECTRE, but here we have him up against more of a comic book supervillain… not quite the same thing. Either way, there seemed to be a slightly more pronounced sense of… stylisation? Don’t know if that’s quite the word I’m after, but with Ian Fleming dead it’s kind of like the filmmakers decided they could make the tone of proceedings slightly more fantastic or something. Whatever, it arguably pointed the way ahead for the series, and was probably the best of the three of so far. Certainly it was an enormous hit, and it was pleasing to rediscover it. It helped me ignore those fucking stomach pains for a couple of hours if nothing else…

As for Thunderball, I’m still not sure if I was rediscovering it or meeting it for the first time. Unlike Dr No, which I did know I’d seen though I didn’t recall much about it, I’m not actually sure about this one… my records indicate I have seen it, but all I recalled tonight was the scene with the spine stretching machine, and now I’m not even sure of that… Whatever. Bond is facing SPECTRE again, who want one hundred million pounds to not set off a couple of nukes they’ve stolen. The film begins with probably the most preposterous scene in a Bond film yet, i.e. the jetpack escape, but the rest is played a bit straighter like Terence Young’s earlier efforts; apparently this should’ve been the first film but it probably wouldn’t have worked on that film’s lower budget, at least not in the same way. The plot has a certain timeliness now, of course, and it really was “the biggest Bond of all” that the poster promised; in inflation-adjusted terms it’s actually still the most financially successful Bond film of the lot (returning just shy of a billion dollars in real money). But it’s possible to see a certain looseness already creeping in; there’s a marked sense of runtime bloat, the story takes longer than it really should to get going and, well, there’s only so fast you can act underwater; it’s really not the best setting for what’s supposed to be a big battle climax. Obviously perfectly fair entertainment, though, and another pleasant way to pass two and a half hours on a Thursday night, but after this a certain degree of instability lay ahead for the series. Next few Thursdays are going to be interesting ones to cover…

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