The Bond film franchise reached a milestone two years ago marking its fiftieth anniversary. Of course now subsequently every few years a Bond film will be celebrating that big 5-0 mark.
I had planned on writing about the 50th anniversary of what is widely regarded as the best, the most famous and most iconic Bond movie of them. Duh, Goldfinger naturally.
But then I was reminded by a fellow Bond fan earlier this year that a certain Bond film would be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Despite not being as popular or well liked as Goldfinger I think it’s still worth giving it a shoutout – Licence to Kill.
So this is sort of a double whammy anniversary Bond blog! I could have made this a triple addition, but no one really cares Die Another Day is turning twelve years old.
Let’s get Licence To Kill out of the way first. Not surprisingly Licence’s twenty-fifth anniversary came and went without much fanfare this past June. There was no big-screen re-releases or special screenings. Other than a few hardcore Bond fans out there that took a moment for reflection there was no real celebration.
I recall that summer of ’89 going to see Licence and really liking it. I liked that it got darker, the Bond girls were both smoking hot, Robert Davi was an excellent villain, the stunts were spectacular, Carey Lowell had a sexy set of gams and Timothy Dalton was staying true to his declaration of being a no nonsense Bond.
In a summer of jampacked big-budget movies (what a great summer that was) Licence was one of my favorites flicks that summer and I couldn’t wait to see what Dalton was going to do next as 007.
Of course, the joke was on me. Licence would be Dalton’s swansong and Bond would take an extended hiatus from movie screens.
For the longest time Licence had been routinely knocked. It seemed like it was the bastard child of the Bond series. Dalton was pegged as one of the worst Bond’s and Licence one of the worst 007 films. When Pierce Brosnan rocked the world with GoldenEye, the view on Dalton and Licence got even worse.
It seemed like everyone was happy to brush Dalton, his gritty Bond and his revenge adventure under the rug and forget all about them.
I can understand some of the criticisms about Licence. Yes, it looks cheap in spots. Some of the sets look very flat. The Miami Vice-ish storyline and Americanizing of Bond – OK, yeah, they were latching onto the big bad guy drug lords that were the goto villains in the late 80’s.
Sure some of the fun, humor and fantastical elements of the Bond films are no where to be found amongst guys being fed to sharks. Oh and some of the acting, I yield. Some of the performances are pretty awful.
As gorgeous as she looks, some of the lines Talisa Soto attempts to deliver makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
But despite all its weaknesses I dug the movie when I first saw it and continue to. I love Bond being solely motivated by personal revenge for his pal Felix and his dead wife. How he infiltrates Sanchez’ organization and proceeds to destroy it from the inside. It’s not designed like a typical Bond film, but it has enough of the flavor and ingredients for me. And Dalton is as cool as a cucumber. Even though his hair does look weird in some scenes.
It’s still thrilling when I watch the scene of Bond underwater, destroying the coke shipment, building up to him getting surrounded, then water skiing away from the bad guys, jumping onto the plane, taking the pilots out and flying away with the stacks of cash.
First time I saw that I was hooting and being that annoying kid in a movie theater making noise. It didn’t matter though the theater was practically empty anyway.
The movie continues to get a real divided reaction out of fans, but I still consider it as one of the most underrated Bond flicks. Happy 25th Licence To Kill! I still don’t like the winking fish ending shot though.
Now, Goldfinger. The quintessential Bond movie. Its fiftieth anniversary will be getting much more attention than Licence To Kill could ever dream of getting.
September 17, 1964 Goldfinger was unleashed onto the world. I believe that was the premiere where the crowd got a bit rowdy and there was some breaking of things. The people got a little overexcited. I think that’s when Connery decided he wouldn’t attend anymore Bond premieres or something.
There has been so much written about Goldfinger and its so packed with now classic moments and scenes it’s difficult not be objective about it. So, leaving all that stuff aside, like Shirley Eaton’s gold painted corpse, Shirley Bassey belting out the theme song, Oddjob’s whizzing bowler hat, the gadget-filled Aston Martin, rolling in the hay with Pussy Galore, castration by laser – it’s still a really fun movie.
One of the most often criticized aspects to Bond movies are its plots. The often clichéd complaint is ‘it’s always a bad guy trying to take over the world, or destroy the world or build a space station’ (maybe that last one not as much). There’s always the problem of trying to create some kind of logic behind these plans and make it feel like we haven’t covered this ground a thousand times before.
In Goldfinger it’s one of the most basic, simplest plots in the series. The bad guy wants to break into Fort Knox. That’s about it. Sure we could complicate things for novice Bond fans and explain he wants to destroy all the gold there too and hope they can handle that twist, but really it’s a very straight forward goal. Our main villain even explains it all to us with the help of a giant model. A device that the Bond films would return to use a few times to simplify exposition scenes.
It’s an over-the-top heist movie and it establishes it’s larger than life reality and delivers on it. It’s really an awfully silly movie when you think about it. We have all these stacked blondes flying planes, Chinese guys running around in blue pajamas, the big sumo wrestler in a tux decapitating people with a hat, the bad guys name is Goldfinger for Pete’s sake! This sounds like some trippy dream you’re having!
But somehow it all works. You get into the spirit of it and just have fun with it all. All the cool sets looked great then and they still hold up. I don’t care how many documentaries I see on Fort Knox, I’m convinced the inside of it looks exactly like it does in this movie! It just has to!
Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore I think of as the first ‘strong Bond Girl’. Her and Connery bickering back and forth is more interesting and amusing than her just falling for him and she holds her own up against 007. Even though she’s eventually worn down by his manly aggressiveness. Remember – forcing yourself onto a woman and making her kiss you will only work if you’re a double-0.
Goldfinger and Oddjob are a pair of the most iconic bad guys ever. They really set the standard for those archetypes in the Bond series. Every character that has come since gets compared to those two.
There’s very clear good guys and bad guys. And let’s not forget about all the nifty gadgets. It’s no wonder this movie has reverberated so strongly through the years. We got a reference to it in the last Bond movie! Oh yeah, there was a reference in Quantum of Solace to it too!
It’s often said that Goldfinger really set the template for all the Bond films that were to follow. And it’s true. I’m not going to go through the whole Bond Blueprint thing again, but it gets all laid out here and that’s the template the series has followed ever since.
I know there’s some who don’t like how Bond becomes a stagnant participant in the second half of Goldfinger. Once Bond gets captured he just sits off to the side watching Goldfinger’s plan unfold waiting for Felix and the army to arrive.
That never bothered me at all while watching the movie. I don’t even think about it. There’s enough stuff to keep me engaged that it doesn’t occur to me our hero is just sitting in a jail cell and being led around at gunpoint most of the time. The movie is just filled with one good scene after another and I get hooked into it everytime.
I love seeing the photos of the lines of people waiting to see Goldfinger. It must of been such an electrifying experience seeing this back then with jampacked crowds when Bond was becoming a phenomenon. Getting to experience this movie when it was brand new and discovering that it was unlike anything people had seen up to that point. Not realizing they were watching what would become the definitive Bond Film.
Watching it must of felt so fresh and unique. It must of lit up kids eyes and had them running around the schoolyards playing James Bond for months.
And remarkably it all holds up really well. I mean, just consider, the movie is now fifty years old – how many films from 1964 would kids be interested in watching today and actually liking!
Oh and Connery is great in this. I always thought at this point he was still mildly excited about doing Bond. It was said he had some reservations about playing Bond a third time and was worried about being typecast. But he had to see the upside to the role. Two years earlier he was playing a small part in The Longest Day.
Now he was one of the most famous stars around, had an extremely popular steady gig, told EON that he wanted to work with Hitchcock, which they helped make happen and got a decent pay raise. Then supposedly at some point during production after some grumbling he got a deal to get a percentage of the box office from all Bond films from then on.
Things weren’t that bad. It wasn’t until after Goldfinger was released and became one of the biggest hits ever that things really started to cool Connery for Bond.
By the time Thunderball came around it appeared that he just wanted to get through his Bond contract as painlessly as possible.
Around the Thunderball time Connery supposedly told a journalist, “My only grumble about the Bond films is that they don’t tax one as an actor….I’d like to see someone else tackle Bond, I must say – though I think they’d be crazy to do it.”
It’s really not that enthusiastic of an endorsement. But on Goldfinger Connery seemed much more content, was a good soldier and any misgivings he had he kept between him and EON. It was after its success things started to sour.
So Goldfinger,fifty years old. And it’s never going away. Out of all the Bond films this will always be one of the most popular ones. We’ll be seeing the images and scenes from it forever. And I’d bet that if any future Bond film decides to make a reference or does a homage to one of its predecessors, it will likely be Goldfinger.
Join me in 2052 when I’ll commemorate Die Another Day‘s fiftieth anniversary!
Licence To Kill Trailer