Bond Pretitle Sequences: Goldfinger
Simon Pitt |
Friday 23rd August
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
In his latest book, Lost at Sea, Jon Ronson, tries to follow Bond’s footsteps from Goldfinger. Bond’s lifestyle is not a healthy one. And that’s without all the fights and dubious sexual liaisons.
I awake the next morning feeling unbelievably nauseous and constipated, and stumble blearily across the road for breakfast at the railway station.
You do wonder how he stays in shape. He smokes his way through the first twenty or so films. It’s like he’s trying not to live to his fifties. Maybe the MI6 pension isn’t very good.
In many ways, Goldfinger is the prototypical Bond opening sequence. It has it all. Bond on a mission. Some silly extravagance, an unlikely escape and a cavalier pun in the response to someone’s death.
The idea was that of Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn:
In Goldfinger we decided to have a little mini adventure at the start of it which had nothing to do with the story that followed.
He sounds so casual, but he started something that has been used in every single subsequent Bond film .
We begin with Bob Simmons as Bond, doing the gun barrel walk. It occurs to me, as I watch this, that I’ve just assumed that this is supposed to be Bond walking here. Maybe it isn’t. This low-grade black and white version is just a silhouette. It could be anyone. Perhaps it’s entirely unrelated to the rest of the film. Like the Monty Python film that begins with a few seconds of Dentist on the Job.
Either way, the white dot disappears and we cut to some sort of refinery. In the water, a solitary seagull swings along. But this isn’t any seagull. It’s an employee of her majesty’s government hired to sit on Bond’s head. Or an ex-seagull. I’m not sure which.
Strangely, the film seems to be speeded up as Connery takes the seagull off and throws it away. Maybe he was doing it too slowly. They often seemed to speed up the film in the early days. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the film is clearly speed up as Teresa drives away.
Paul Dehn describes the pre-credit sequences as "a wonderful piece of nonsense", and sees them as setting up the tone of the film that follows:
I mean, where you can go swimming with a seagull on top of your head and you can unzip you suit and have a white tuxedo underneath. If that makes you laugh, let’s all now, after the credit titles, go for a great big ride and have fun.
They're almost like an aperitif, before the main course of the film.
Connery climbs up a wall and knocks a man out. This bit of film is sped up too. Maybe Connery is just a very slow mover.
Inside a secret room, he sets the explosives. In those days, setting bombs was a lot more messy than it is now, involving squeezing out plastic explosive and setting charges. I’ve always thought setting bombs in films looked too easy. It’s actually quite a specialist task. Although here it also seems to involve an analogue alarm clock with an unnecessarily loud tick. You’d think they’d be able to get a quieter clock.
Outside, Bond takes off his wet suit. For those counting, it’s the second wet suit in a pre-title sequence. Bond won’t wear a wetsuit before the credits again until Die Another Day, where, again, he has a perfectly un-rumpled suit underneath. See, this is where Dalton went wrong. In The Living Daylights, he never took his jumpsuit off, and in Licence to Kill, he wears a harness on top of his suit. Wrong way round, Dalton. Bond is suave, even when on a mission. Whereas Dalton wasn’t suave, even when in a suit.
The white suit underneath the wet suit is what I think of as a “suave twist”. It’s not exactly a plot twist, but it is a nice surprise. What I call the “Oh, he was wearing a suit all along!” moment. Bond even has a flower for his lapel.
Fully equipped, he goes to watch a belly dancer jiggle away. As the bomb explodes, Bond casually wonders over to his contact, while everyone else runs away. It’s like he’s not even trying to blend in now. Is this man really a spy?
The belly dancer flounces out, looking angrily at Bond with a flick of her skirt. “I have some unfinished business to attend to.” Bond says.
I’m not sure I really get this bit. I don’t understand why the belly dancer is annoyed. Surely either she was in on the mission, and so knew this was going to happen, or had nothing to do with it. And come to that, why is she annoyed? Because she lost a bit of money from the evening’s belly-dancing takings?
She doesn’t seem so annoyed with Bond when he arrives at her room. Even though it looks like Connery throws the towel into the bath.
She’s very jumpy around Bond’s gun. It’s a gun, so I guess there is something to be scared of, but she acts like it bites here, and that’s one thing guns can’t do. “I have a slight inferiority complex,” Bond says wryly. I guess that explains the big cars then.
As Bond returns to his unfinished business, a man appears from behind and advances with a club. This is another of those moments that has become famous in the Bond saga. Again, I remember when I was little, my mum standing in the living room as I saw this the first time, saying, “oh, this is a good bit!”. Now I think about it, my mum has a surprisingly detailed knowledge of Bond films.
I always thought the reflection in the eye was just a silly film trick, but there is some science behind this. And, by a strange quirk, Bond, looking at the reflection, would see a wider field than the woman whose eye it is reflected in.
the curved panorama that you see reflected in an eye is broader than the image that falls on the retina at the back of the eye, which converts light into electrical impulses that go to the brain and tell you what you are seeing. This means that the wide-angle reflection shows more of the surroundings than the viewer (the person whose eyes are doing the looking)
Bond, though, doesn’t think there’s much doubt and throws her into the way of the club and starts fighting the man. Once again, as with Thunderball, Bond is surprisingly lackadaisical. He seems to keep thinking the fight's over when it’s not.
There’s something about these one-on-one fights. There’s tension in them in a different way from the impossible odds situations of the later Bond films. The scrappy struggles seem somehow more realistic than the choreographed battles of the more recent films. If you’ve ever seen wrestling or boxing, you’ll realise that doing anything sophisticated while someone is trying to punch you is actually quite difficult. Even punching them back is hard enough, let alone trying to throw them or do a fancy block.
Connery looks really pleased with himself when he throws the man into the bath. He acts as if the fight is all over, but all he’s done is got the man a bit wet. It’s not as if the rules of the fight were the first one in the drink is the loser.
It’s particular bad for Connery since the man then reaches for his gun. Luckily, he’s very ham fisted about getting it, giving Connery time to throw an electric heater into the bath. “Shocking,” Bond says. And then, since it’s such a good line, he says it again, “positively shocking.”
With that, he closes the door and we crash into the titles.
This sequence has it all. Some unexpected, only semi-believable moments, with the reflection in the eye and the electric fan into bath. It has some effortlessly suave turns, like the reveal of the dinner jacket under the wet suit. It even has the first case of Bond’s female friend turning out to be a double agent, a pre-credit sequence trope that we will see again and again throughout the rest of the films. In many ways, this is the pre-credit sequence that set the tone.
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- We don’t hear any references to Bond’s name or code number.
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- “Shocking,” Bond says after throwing the fan into the bath and electrocuting the man, “positively shocking,”
- “I have some unfinished business,” Bond says. He means the belly dancer.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- Bond kills the thug in the bath.
SP will return…
- Bond has a wet suit with a seagull on the top. One of his silliest gadgets.
- He also seems to have a crumple-proof suit.