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Guy Hamilton
Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Harold Sakata, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallett, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn
Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn, based on the novel by Ian Fleming

James Bond Back In Action!

Rated PG.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 10/19/1999

• Audio Commentary with Director Guy Hamilton and Actors Sean Connery, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Michael Mellinger, and Honor Blackman
• Audio Commentary with Stuntmen Alf Joint and George Leech, Effects Supervisor Cliff Culley, Draughtsman Peter Lamont, Composer John Barry, Production Designer Ken Adam, Special Effects technicians Joe Fitt and Bert Luxford,
Making of Goldfinger Documentary
• “The Goldfinger Phenomenon” Documentary
• Photo Gallery
• Publicity Featurette
• Radio Interviews with Sean Connery
• Collectible Booklet
• Theatrical Trailer
• Television & Radio Spot

James Bond Collection

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Goldfinger (1964)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 29, 2006)

For my money, Bond never got any better than Goldfinger. The series got bigger and flashier, but no film ever portrayed the fun, action, and danger, and the high-tech nuttiness of the world of James Bond any more perfectly than this 1964 classic. This was the film that convinced me that Sean Connery was unquestionably the best Bond ever.

It may sound like heresy, but for much of my life, I thought Roger Moore defined the character. It's a matter of timing. By the time I became interested in the series in 1979 with Moonraker, Connery had been without his license to kill for eight years and Moore was firmly ensconced in the role. Considering that these were the days before common and affordable VCRs, that meant that for all intents, Moore was Bond to my generation. We had very little experience with anyone else.

By 1987, the home video picture had changed. On a summer break from college, I became enamored with the Bond series and rented most of the films. Most of them seemed somewhat disappointing - partly a result of the poorly panned and scanned transfers - but Goldfinger appeared to be something else entirely. Here was a film that fully presented Bond as I thought he should be: smooth, classy, resourceful, and damned slick!

As the years went by, I expanded my Bond horizons and came to better appreciate other films in the series. Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and You Only Live Twice were strong entries, and Thunderball - the direct follow-up to Goldfinger - briefly made me reconsider which Bond film I liked best. Still, I always came back to Goldfinger. It simply balanced all of the good things about Bond - action, humor, sex and spectacle - and left out the excess that would mar the franchise in later years. After 42 years, it remains the model that almost every other Bond film strives to emulate. They may approach it, but they'll never outdo it; you can't top an original.

What makes Goldfinger a classic? After all, it doesn't seem to offer anything that can't be found in all the subsequent efforts. While it's true that later films were able to replicate the components of this picture - from the standard complement of babes to the wacky gadgets and the monomaniacal villains - none could duplicate the style, panache and sauciness of Goldfinger. The stunts got bigger, the babes hotter, and the villains scarier, but it felt like looking at a paint by numbers copy of The Mona Lisa; technically it seems correct, but it lacks the beauty and the originality of the classic.

Connery's never been better than he was here. Goldfinger had him in a perfect place. The Bond series had done well, but it hadn't yet reached phenomenon status, so he and the others still had something to prove. After the enormous success of this picture, you could see the weight added to Connery's shoulders. He still provided effective work in his few subsequent Bonds, but it seemed clear that he tired of the role, especially as the technical aspects of the films grew more and more complex.

This movie also worked remarkably well because of a strong trio of villains. Gert Frobe played our eponymous baddie, bullion-obsessed Auric Goldfinger, with a very convincing and effective attitude of arrogance and self-confidence. He's a match for Bond not because of his physical strength - the dude's really a tub of goo - but due to his intelligence and his belief in himself.

Goldfinger didn't need physical strength because his number one sidekick made up for him. Oddjob, the Korean butler with incredible power and one bitchin' bowler, remains easily the best physical baddie in a Bond movie. Harold Sakata doesn't get much dialogue - actually, he doesn't get any dialogue, unless you count "unh, unh" - but he makes the part work through his sheer presence. You have to love a villain who gets whacked by the hero but who just smiles bemusedly in response.

The final villain doesn't completely qualify as such, since she changes teams (in more ways than one) by the end of the film. Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) spends most of the movie as an employee of Goldfinger's, but Bond's sublime sex appeal persuades her to transfer over to the side of what's right and proper before the action ends. Galore represents one of the innovations from Goldfinger that did not carry over to most of the subsequent films: a strong, independent female lead. Blackman plays her with grit and a cool ferocity. In the future, the females in these films would be called "Bond girls." Pussy Galore was the first - and remains one of the few - "Bond women".

After 42 years, Goldfinger hasn't aged a day. Yes, the effects are dated, and the world of 1964 certainly looks nothing like our modern society, but the film's action and style still resonate and excite. I've avoided the phrase until now, but I can't resist: nobody does it better.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

Goldfinger appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the film comes enhanced for 16x9 televisions. When not a disaster, the transfer came as a disappointment.

The majority of the problems stemmed from source flaws. Throughout the film, it displayed prominent signs of specks, marks and blotches. These created quite a few distractions and rarely left the image unscathed.

Not that the rest of the transfer made up for these problems. Sharpness was adequate but erratic. Though much of the movie seemed reasonably concise and accurate, parts of the film appeared soft and indistinct. Jagged edges and shimmering were minor concerns, but I noticed some moderate edge enhancement at times.

While colors occasionally stood out as quite good, more than a few instances seemed less lively. In general, the tones tended to be decent but veered toward the muddy side of the street. Blacks were too dense, as they blended into the backgrounds without much definition, while low-light shots appeared lackluster. Some of those issues stemmed from “day for night” photography, but other dark images also seemed too opaque. This transfer didn’t deserve better than a “C-“.

Goldfinger offered the film's original monaural sound mix. For a film of its vintage, the audio was adequate. Speech sounded a bit brittle at times. While the dialogue remained intelligible, it could seem flat and edgy on occasion. Effects were respectable, as they demonstrated decent clarity and definition, and they even produced reasonable low-end punch at times. Music was pretty bright and lively; the score also benefited from some nice bass response. I noticed a little popping and background noise. This wasn’t an above-average mix, but it seemed acceptable.

Since this DVD adapts a laserdisc box set that originally listed for $100, one would expect a nice accumulation of supplements. In the case of Goldfinger, one would not be disappointed; almost every aspect of the original laserdisc set shows up here.

The set contains two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Guy Hamilton, Graham Rye of the James Bond Fan Club of England, and actors Sean Connery, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Michael Mellinger, and Honor Blackman. Bond historian Lee Pfieffer hosts the edited, compiled discussion and offers plenty of details himself. Pfieffer tells us biographical elements about the participants along with various production notes.

As for those involved in the movie’s creation, they go through a mix of anecdotes and information about the shoot. The piece looks at cast and characters, sets and locations, gadgets and car, performance issues such as dubbing Frobe, changes from book, score, stunts, creating a faux Fort Know, and trivia bits. Quite a lot of good information pops up here and we get a nice view of the production.

Unfortunately, quite a lot of dead air slows the proceedings. I don’t like blank spots during running tracks, but I find copious gaps to be even more annoying with so much material from which to choose; surely all those participants could have added up to 110 minutes of content. The quality of the information is good enough to make the track useful, but the gaps turn it into a moderate disappointment.

Similar complaints greet the next piece. The second commentary presents stuntmen Alf Joint and George Leech, effects supervisor Cliff Culley, draughtsman Peter Lamont, composer John Barry, production designer Ken Adam, and special effects technicians Joe Fitt and Bert Luxford. Hosted by John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation, this one touches on stunts and effects, elements related to the Aston Martin, music and production design, changes from the novel to the movie, and other filmmaking issues.

As I alluded, dead air continues to be a problem here. We get fewer gaps but they tend to last longer periods of time. I like the information on display but wish we didn't find so many pauses.

In addition to the two commentaries, the Goldfinger DVD presents two nice documentaries about the film. The Making of Goldfinger offers a nice overview of the picture. Most of it comes from Nineties-era interviews with the participants; those clips are interspersed with vintage footage from the set. It's a solid piece that gives us a pretty good look at the movie.

The second program covers the publicity of the film and discusses the way the film impacted upon society as a whole. I liked this piece even more than the more traditional "making of..." program because it offers such a nice look at the way the world reacted to Bond in 1964. While some of this documentary focuses on interviews, most of them - and the rest of the footage - comes from that era. That's the part that makes it so much fun; new interviews are great because of the perspective they offer, but historical information can be very entertaining because of their immediacy. Lots of fun!

A third - very minor - documentary can also be found on this DVD. A two-minute featurette from 1964 offers a brief look at the film. It's pretty lame, although it does present a few nice clips from the set.

In addition to this featurette, the Goldfinger DVD presents a tremendous amount of publicity materials. Only one trailer appears, but we also get three television ads. One comes from the original release of the film, whereas the other two shill for a re-release double-feature of Goldfinger and Dr. No. All of these are decent; they're typical of the rather shrill ads of the time, but they get the job done.

Some more unusual promotional materials show up here as well. A whopping 22 minutes of radio ads appear on this DVD. Most of these fall into the standard "go see this movie" category, but some are inventive and delightful, like one that depicts a man who comes home to find that his wife has covered herself in gold paint because she's such a Bond nut. Also very entertaining are the "open-ended" radio interviews with Sean Connery. These were issued to radio stations so that deejays could pretend that they are conversing with Connery. The tape contains the answers to some questions that the script has the deejays ask. It's clumsy and goofy but very entertaining nonetheless.

Another recurring feature for the Bond special editions stems from the extensive still photo supplement. The section for Goldfinger includes a whopping 240 photos, which is easily the most of any of these DVDs. As with the others, these photos are presented under different chapter headings. There are 22 of these in all, and these offer a nicely efficient way to manage the pictures so that you don't have to wade through tons of dreck to later review one that you like. As always, I'm not a huge fan of these still archives, but this one is well executed and you gotta love the shots of Shirley Eaton getting made up with the gold paint!

Finally, the Goldfinger DVD includes a nice eight-page booklet inside the case. It offers some fun facts about the production. You'll hear some of them elsewhere, but most aren't repeated in other areas.

As I mentioned at the start, the Goldfinger DVD adapts the materials from a $100 laserdisc set. So what's missing? Not much. The trailer included was the same for both British and American audiences, and the LD set presented the audio track from both countries; the DVD omits the English narration. Also, the LD included a promo ad for an ABC broadcast of Goldfinger, and that's not here. That seems to be it! That's a pretty minor couple of omissions, in my opinion.

As much as I love Goldfinger, this DVD stands as something of a disappointment. The movie itself remains a delight after more than four decades. While the disc presents some very nice extras, both picture and audio aren’t strong. It’s a good enough DVD to merit your attention given the high quality of the flick, but it’s not a great release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6086 Stars Number of Votes: 161
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