Friday, 23 November 2012

From Russia with Love and Goldfinger

It is with the second and third Bond films produced, From Russian with Love and Goldfinger that the genre became much as we know it to this day and a popular and commercially successful cinema form of entertainment.

From Russia with Love introduced the opening sequence immediately after the Bond front screen and the sequence was directly related to the story after which came the full credits and the second development a song embracing the title of the film with an established artist of the day (Matt Monroe), to best effect with Goldfinger with the first Bond Performance by Shirley Bassey. The opening scene in Goldfinger was unrelated to the story line a feature which some of the other Bond films followed.

The two films also established the involvement of the clever tricks department led by Q. In From Russia with Love the important extra is a case which has to be opened in a special way or a can of talcum power will explode in your face. The case also had an external knife hidden which can be released for an emergency and a high powered riffle contained within its shoulder rest plus two strips of 25 Gold Sovereigns. In Goldfinger the concept progressed several leaps forward to include a visit to the development laboratory and the famous Aston Martin car with the ejector seat, a tyre wrecker, a front machine gun, a rear bullet shield and the ability to create a smoke screen and a oil slick.

The inclusion of a gratuitously sexual relationship or two together with the demise of a friend or two, both male and female also became features but somehow always without the real horror and pain of reality.

Goldfinger also introduced the super henchman with Oddjob although the best known become Jaws. Bond is always captured and narrowly escapes death, more than once on occasions also becomes an established aspect. There is also the coda. Just when you think the film is over and Bond victorious there is a twist.

Now to the stories and main characters. From Russian to Love continues the involvement of SPECTRE and we are soon introduced to its hierarchical structure with number I 3 and 5 involved. Number 5 is an International Chess master who is called away from an international competition at a time when Russians champion dominated the chess scene versus Americans and tournaments were major events televised, reported and games analysed. He is the brains of a plan to capture a Russian decoding machine and set the Russian and British intelligence services into open conflict. The involves the head of the Russian counter intelligence service (SMERSH) led by Rosa Klebbs played by Lotte Lenya, the famous singer wife of Kurt Veil and actress. She has selected one of her best students to carry to the clandestine operation by contacting London and offering them the decoding machine because she has becomes infatuated with the picture and file information about James Bond. She is ordered to seduce him and offer to defect to London with the machine. N M and Bond are aware it is a trap but the opportunity get hold of the decoding machine is too good an opportunity to miss.

The film opens at night at the training centre for SPECTRE Operatives run by Walter Gotell as his best operative played by Robert Shaw as Red Grant. He is seen to garrotte Bond in a matter of seconds until we find that the dead man was wearing a mask and later in the film Walter explains to Klebb when introducing her to Grant that training is one thing but field experience is more important and which is why they use expendable people to practice on. Klebb is also portrayed as a predatory Lesbian although in the films this aspect is hinted at whereas in Goldfinger the book the subject is explicit. The role of Grant is to create mayhem between the two services and then when the girl, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) leaves with Bond and the machine for England eh has to get hold of the machine the has to get hold of the machine and kill the couple. Thee machine is to be sold back to the Russians for an extortionate price.

The selected location is Istanbul where the girl works in Russian Embassy. Bond‘s contact us is Ali Kerim Bey who like Bond is a ladies’ man but unlike Bond Bey has many sons who assist him. In the world of post war Turkey the various intelligence services are open in following and keeping an eye on each other’s activities but they appear comparatively harmonious in their relationships. However Red Grant soon upsets the balance by killing one of those trailing Bond, and the local British agent, Bey, then narrowly escapes a bomb placed on the wall adjacent to his desk. Bond and Bey then escape a major shoot out when the local Russian boss launches an all out assault on the two when they attend a Gypsy camp. Grant steps in to ensure Bond is not killed before gets the girl and the machine.

At the camp Bonds present when two young woman fight over a man but when during the shoot out Bond saves the life of the Gypsy leader Francis De Wolff he is given the two young to amuse himself although the extent of the relationship during thee rest of the night is only hinted at. Sex with one is OK but with two was considered too risqué Bond then help Bey to assassinate the head of Russian intelligence.

Meanwhile Bond has moved himself from one room in the hotel which is bugged to the Bridal suit where Tatania is found in his bed and where unbeknown to them their love making is filmed. it is also during this film that the double entendre is perfected.

For some reason having secured the girl and the machine the couple arrange to travel on the Orient Express towards the border with when the train is to stop and the couple taken to an airfield for a flight although why they cannot board a commercial airline from Istanbul to London is not explained.

Again when Grant kills Bey and a Russian counterpart who has also got on the train, the plan is aborted and the couple continue to Belgrade and to the Italian border at Trieste. I am also not clear when and how Bond has arranged for another British agent to board the train who Grant kills when they stop at the station and impersonates. He drugs the girl when they are eating and drinking at the restaurant and then overpowers Bond who fails to suspect the man is a villain. However it here that the Talc Bomb in the brief case becomes useful and the knife is used to kill Grant.

Bond then overpowers the driver of a vegetable truck waiting to collect Grant and the machine and outwits and destroys a SPECTRE helicopter sent to pick up the machine/ guard the villain. Bond and the girl then use the motor launch ready for the truck driver to escape to make their way to Venice. They have a quantity of fuel on board in drums which begin to leak when the launch is approached by four others who open fire to stop the craft as the priority is the decoding machine. Bond appears to surrender and uses an emergency flare gun to ignite the petrol on both sides of the advancing enemy who become engulfed in flames and die through burning and explosion.

Because of the failure of the plan the grand chess master and SPECTRE’s number 5 is executed and Klebb is told not to fail by number 1(Henry Blofield), who at this point we do not know or are able to identify. This leads to coda event where the couple are celebrating their escape and unofficial marriage. Klebb arrives as a cleaner and takes the machine appearing to successfully order Tatania to assist but before she can shoot Bond, Tatania comes to the rescue. There is a memorable scene where Klebb, as had training master Gotrell earlier in getting rid of number 3 uses device in the shoe to strike and poison to death an adversary.

This is a rare ending in the sense that the female lead survives although it is evident that although the girl has fallen in love with Bond the relationship does not continue. The film was made for £2 and made close to £80 thus one of the great financial successes of that time in terms of ratio between cost and income.

I have not read the book but according to a Wikipedia article the emphasis in the book was for Smersh to kill Bond because of his success against them in earlier books and to discredit him by filming the sexual liaison with the expendable Russian Marta Hari to cloud his judgement. In the book the decoding machine is called the Spektor and was evidently based on the British successful computer cracking of the German coding machine Enigma. While the film closely follows the book in all other respects Bond escapes death at the hands of Grant by holding his cigarette lighter in a magazine before his heart. There is also a significant difference in the Coda as instead of Klebb finding Bond and Tatania in Venice he tracks her down to Paris and although she is killed she poisons Bond with a stroke from the device in her show and the book ends with Bond unconscious and presumably dying.

Goldfinger has a less complicated story and was even more commercially successful that From Russia with Love making £125 million at the box office from an expenditure £3 million. This I suggest is why subsequent films followed many features established in this movie.

The villain, called Goldfinger, has legitimate gold holdings and jewellery making firm but the authorities know he is up to something when he is shifting large amounts of gold but they do not know how or why and Bond is assigned to find out.

His first contact with Goldfinger is in Miami with the help of a CIA contact where at the best beachside hotel he spots Goldfinger cheating at cards with the help of an assistant based in his room who is able to read the cards of his opponent via a telescope and relay the information via a fake hearing aid, an early version of the communications earpiece which has become so familiar used by security staff at sporting events, the police and personal security officers.

Bond interrupts the assistant played by Shirley Eaton, a very attractive young woman who had featured mainly in UK films for a decade but became Internationally famous because after Bond interrupts the game an insists that Goldfinger not only loses all the money he has won by cheating but gives back more and Bond and Eaton get together. Goldfinger gets his revenge by painting Eaton with gold paint all over with the consequence that he skin is unable to breathe and she dies with Bond finding her naked body stretched out on the hotel bed and the image became an icon for the movies and the Bond Genre, to some extent eclipsing the main Bond girl in the film Honour Blackman who is another Goldfinger staff member with the glorious name of Pussy Galore.

Eaton retired shortly after the film to become a housewife and a mother to which she devoted herself saying these roles were more important than being famous although since the death of her husband she has come into the limelight a little publishing a second account of her life and interests this year.

Her death in the film fuels Bond’s determination to carry out his assignment and he arranges a face to face meeting by playing a competitive round of golf, at the club owned by the villain who he again beats by a little trickery after catching him cheating again, this time facilitated by the next memorable assistant after Klebb, Oddjob, strong as an Ox and with a metal rim brim to his hat which decapitates!

The Aston Martin previously mentioned has a tracking device which Bond has attached to the Rolls Royce driven by Oddjob and which he finds is being transport by plane to Switzerland. He also arrange to take the next transport plane, only half an hour later, so with a 150 miles radius he is able to catch up with the villain soon after arrival, stopping to overlook as the Rolls stops below him on a mountainside to partake of some fruit at a roadside stall, and unlike event, but which is the opportunity for Bond to narrowly miss being shot by a young woman who transpires to be the sister of the character played by Eaton out for revenge, although how she knew Goldfinger was the culprit and was able to be in Switzerland armed and waiting to kill him at the first opportunity is not explained and is one of several highly contrived sequences in the film which stretched credulity and which became a feature of the genre as it moved away from the story integrity of the novels.

Bond is able to stop her killing Goldfinger during her second attempt which results in her being killed by Oddjob and he being captured and just about saving his bacon by arguing that he is more valuable alive as a prisoner than dead.

Bond has established that Goldfinger uses his Rolls to transport the Gold to his factory in the country in journeys he makes several times a year and the with the help of the Chinese he has been developing an intense large laser beam which can cut through metal, including gold. Bond is tied to a solid gold or metal slab with the laser in a way which will split him in two.

For another unexplained reason Goldfinger travels separately to the USA with Oddjob leaving Bond to travel in the luxury private jet piloted by Pussy Galore coming down at a private airfield in Kentucky where she operates a flying school and a team of young women who have been on some kind of training exercise.

Bond is tracked by the CIA, he has a second homing device in the heel of a shoe, who are told to keep their distance by M and London assuming that Bond is in control and not in difficulties.

Bond manages to escape and find himself under a main room on the estate where Goldfinger is explaining to an array of mafia style gang leaders from across the USA who are portrayed in the way the UK portrayed gangsters in the forties to early seventies mainly as inarticulate and thick, who each has invested $1 million of gold and want either their money back or an indication of when they will get the substantial return promised. Goldfinger outlines to them his plan to break into and steal the Gold at Fort Knox, the depository surround by some 60000 service men and their families and which he claims will result in a tenfold return on their investment. He then gases all but one of the gang leaders to their deaths.

The one who leaves with his gold is then killed and which in turn leads to another of the memorable sequences in the film which introduced the general public to the motor vehicle crusher which reduced any car into a small chunk of metal which is returned to the estate for the gold to be extracted. Bond has slipped his tracking device into the car and although destroyed the CIA return to their vigilance on the estate where Goldfinger has entered the final phase of the build up to his plan having worked out the way he is going to kill Bond and this and the nature of his plan is then explained to the audience.

The plan is not steal the gold but to contaminate it was a dirty bomb which will render the material useless for sixty years such is his theory increasing the value of his gold ten fold. The author and film makers were not to know that that 20 years later the whole notion of the gold standard and a nations wealth and currency had to be backed by its supply of gold would be abandoned in favour of monetarism part of which is for the state bank to issue as much currency as it needs and the International financial institutions and markets will accept.

The plan which appears to be well executed is for the display flying team to spray the area with a toxic nerve gas which they believe is only sending the troops and their families to sleep but is in fact killing them, and then the laser weapon brought into to the USA is used to get into the vault where the bomb is then taken to the lower level with a five minute timer to which Bond is chained.

Before this there is a sequence in which Pussy Galore collaborates in posing as another Bond conquest for the benefit of the observing CIA which she has agreed as a Goldfinger measure to distract the watchers from realizing what is about to happen. Why Goldfinger needs to do this is not explained and proves his Achilles heel because Bond not only seduces Pussy but unknown to us persuades her to contact the USA government and military and switch the lethal gas to something which enables the troops and civilians to fake death, including vehicle accidents, to enable the military to kill or capture the villains and their forces and stop the bomb going off. Why again it is necessary to go through charade and permit the villains to enter depository so that only seconds remain before the bomb is due to detonate is again something which astute film goers will have noted.

It is also not clear why Pussy Galore does not appear to have advised Bond of the success of making contact and the counter plan. He has been fighting for his life not just from the bomb going off but with Oddjob who has become imprisoned in the vault along with the representative of the Chinese who have supported the operation with technical know how, finance and manpower in order to undermine the capitalist economy if the West. He narrowly avoids death by Oddjob and only a stroke of luck enables him kill the man by an electric shock. Bond does not know how to stop the bomb but fortunately a USA specialist has accompanied the CIA and military forces and is on hand to click the off switch. This is not the end of the story because the USA President wants to meet and thank Bond for his contribution and instead of travelling the normal way the CIA decide in the final ludicrous Coda that Pussy Galore should fly him in Goldfinger‘s luxury plane which once in the air we learn Goldfinger dressed as USA General has managed to disable the guards to the plane, who have been bound and gagged but not killed and taken over the plane. He and Bond fight with a bullet penetrating the fuselage resulting in Goldfinger being sucked out though a damaged window and the two escaping by a parachute as the plane nose dives into the sea. Bond covers themselves with the parachute to avoid immediate detection which again is another signature ending for the genre. The film was a huge success with the first major spin off in memorabilia with Corgi issuing models of the Aston Martin

According to Wikipedia Goldfinger was originally to be titled The Richest Man in the World when written in 1958, as the 7th book in the series with Goldfinger suspected of being involved with the Russian SMERSH. Goldfinger is also presented as a villain with a more complex character, hence his propensity to cheat at games despite his wealth and power.

He appears to only enjoy sex with gold painted prostitutes and has a pornography collection in yellow surrounding himself with Orientals who he refers to as yellow faced.

This was the first time that Bond was also built up as the saviour of the USA which is hugely ironic given that the UK secret service was effectively being run by the Soviets with their ring of traitors. Fleming also used the names of people he knew with Goldfinger the name of a London Architect who threatened to sue with the matter settled out of court. Bond does drive an Aston Martin but is a car without the tricks.

In the book it is an acquaintance of Bond in the USA who asks him as a favour to check out Goldfinger’s cheating habit with does lead to the affair with his assistant Masterson, and to her death, however the gold when taken from the Rolls Royce is changed into aircraft seats for his line which is then sold on the market in India for vast profit.

Bond is captured by Oddjob who tortures him and threaten to split him in two with a circular saw as a means of finding out why he is trailing his boss. The plan to steal from Fort Knox is based his New York base with help of New York mobs and the plot involves poisoning the water with help of Pussy Galore who is the lesbian leader of a gang of lesbian burglars “The cement mixers” with Tilly Masterson (hinted at being lesbian in the film) but openly gay in the book, surviving the earlier encounter and engaging with Pussy until she is killed by Oddjob as she is in film. Bond converts Pussy to his heterosexuality and bi sexuality was not openly written or portrayed at the time. Felix Leitner the CIA man is greeted by Bond as a friend in the film because he has appeared in earlier books and lost an arm and a and a leg ( in Live and Let die) and in the Goldfinger book Bong admires thee way his friend drives a car with his hook!

Finally in the book’s Coda Goldfinger has hijacked a BOAC jetliner in which in the fight Bond strangles Goldfinger and gets Goldfinger’s crew to ditch the plane off the coast of Canada where he and Pussy as rescued by a weathership.

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