Girl on Fire: Goldinger’s Best Shot

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I was asked quite graciously by Nathaniel R. over at The Film Experience to contribute to his series Hit Me with Your Best Shot. And here is my rambly, weird contribution. 

Bond likes to have his way with women, and often, much to contemporary viewers’ dismay, at any cost. So, with a feminist slant, it’s interesting to take note how very odd Goldfinger is in Bond’s oeuvre in that it’snot od or even atypical at all. Bond’s rather misogynistic attitude is present in the books and such an attitude more than seeps into the films. In the pre-credits sequence, Bond uses the woman he is romancing as a shield from an attacker.  But, more heinously, Bond forces himself upon Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), when he is well aware of her sexual orientation.

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That Goldfinger is hardly an anomaly in terms of Bond’s attitudes towards women, particularly his violent ones, feels kind of gross. (Remember Roger Moore slapping Maude Adams in The Man with the Golden Gun?) But perhaps the fact that, thinking retrospectively about the films at least, they do seem so dated in their gender politics (I guess not necessarily their fault given the time period they were made in) is why I find the image of an explosion projected onto the back of a golden girl in the main titles sequence so resonant. The image, created by Robert Brownjohn (who did the titles for this and From Russia with Love while Maurice Binder was on leave), is nearly prophetic and totally inadvertently so. Yet its unintentional subtext about the women of the Bond franchise makes it seem more powerful. It’s emblematic of pain.

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Personal interpretation, yes. It does not let Goldfinger off the hook at all, but it’s an image that’s striking nonetheless, carefully saturated and gilded, with model Margaret Nolan in a position of vulnerability, revealing her back to the audience, as Shirley Bassey’s harrowing vocals give the impression of a house up in flames. Natalya in GoldenEye remarks, “How can you be so cold?” While Bond remains frigid towards the women he beds (and occasionally loves), the women are on fire.

Runner Up: Odd Job

 

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I am also quite fond of Odd Job. Just in general. I always enjoyed his hat trick, and, rewatching the film recently, his giant, menacing silhouette is still worthy of a shiver. John Barry has a penchant for slightly melodramatic scoring (I honestly never saw the need to introduce Bond with Monty Norman’s theme every. single. time.), but the ringing of the bells is kind of reminiscent of a horror movie. It’s foreboding. It’s iconic. Just like Bond.

 

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