Welcome back to the newest installment in the Bond vs Bond series I’ve been chugging along on for a month and a half now. This is gonna be a real interesting entry, as it will be delving into the movie that pretty much turned Bond into the icon that would be unkillable for at least 53 years. And it’s the book that would signify an upswing in the series after the pretty steep drop in quality in Dr. No. The book that did that would be Goldfinger. And this is one that made me really have to ponder what one would come up on top, since the quality of the two are so close. Now it drops much of the racism from the last book, but it’s Fleming so it’s still there. And this time he adds in the weirdly misguided views on homosexuality. The movie drops the racism but goes whole hog on the sexism and gay bashing. Also a little rape stuff. But after some careful consideration, I’ve made a decision. So sit back and relax as I dive into the 7th book and the 3rd movie. I don’t expect you to die. I expect you to read.
To see the write up on Casino Royale, click here.
To see the write up on Live and Let Die, click here.
To see the write up on Moonraker, click here.
To see the write up on Diamonds Are Forever, click here.
To see the write up on From Russia With Love, click here.
To see the write up on Dr. No, click here.
1959 saw Ian Fleming release the 7th Bond book, Goldfinger. We were 3 years out from Bond being brought to life by Sean Connery and turned into the mainstream icon he’d become, leaving the prose novel world. Coming off the heels of Dr. No, a book that caught a lot more heat than his other books for the violence and sexuality and miserly attitude towards other cultures, he would write the book that would end up becoming the landmark Bond movie. He couldn’t have known that, obviously. Fleming obviously had his eye on films, writing some of his books to eventually become movies (Moonraker). And they’d already tried to adapt Bond for CBS in America, and that didn’t move past the pilot stages. But to rebound from the valley that was Dr. No with such a massive peak, it’s quite something. Sadly it was a peak he wouldn’t be able to see in finished form, as Fleming had passed away before Goldfinger was released. So we are are officially at the point in the cinematic portion of this where Fleming is gone. And this is pretty much the point where things would start being changed more substantially from the book. Further away from his death, the further away from the books they would be. Cause this book is pretty faithfully adapted into the movies, but there are some pretty big changes to the plot of the novel, pretty much changed because of Flemings deficiencies as a writer on this book.
The novel and the book have a broad similarity to the plotting. James Bond is sent on a mission to investigate one Auric Goldfinger due to gold smuggling, gets captured and forced into a larger plot regarding a heist at Fort Knox. That very broad log line is very much in line with the plots of both movies. But there is a very massive change in the movie as to make things very different and the stakes that are given to be much more serious. Cause in the book, the details are much more straightforward. Auric Goldfinger is a SMERSH agent. He is their money man, who has to do money drops once or twice a year to support SMERSH missions. So the Fort Knox job is a big money maker for SMERSH, and a way to fuck over the Americans in the process. That’s very simple. It’s a heist, plan and simple. But the movie has to make a big change. And that change is for a pretty wild reason.
In the book, the heist is to be pulled off by Goldfinger and a crew of 6 American crime organizations by getting a shit ton of dump trucks and the like to move all of the gold. Simple, right? Well not according to anyone with simple knowledge of physics, as the amount of time to get all of the gold loaded onto the massive amounts of trucks needed to move the gold. It just couldn’t be done. And the makers of the movie heard those complaints and took them to heart. So much so that they put those complaints into the movie. When Goldfinger has Bond captured, they are talking about the job. And Bond says to Goldfinger the very complaints that people had about the realistic nature of pulling off that job. To which Goldfinger himself asks Bond, “Who said we were stealing anything?” And Goldfinger proceeds to explain to Bond that he isn’t stealing the Gold for China, who he works for in the movie. He tells him the idea is to set off a nuke in the reserve, irradiating Americas gold reserve and sending the US economy down the shitter while also making his golds value go up by at least 10x. That is such a massive change in scale for the stakes of the two. And the nuke thing wasn’t made up out of thin air. Fleming has, in the book, Goldfinger plan to use a “clean” nuke to open up the vault. So the producers of the movie saw the flaws in the plan that Fleming had and changed them completely to fit a much more tighter narrative, a more sensible narrative. Both have the hook of Goldfinger purposefully killing 60k people by poisoning them all to make getting to the reserve much easier. But the actually reasoning behind the break in and the details of actually breaking in are so fundamentally changed as to be a different experience.
Now, the details of the break in are very different. In the book, Goldfinger and the crew of thieves ride in on a train, pretending to be doctors and such to take care of the people who have “fallen ill”. When they get to the station in front of Fort Knox, all of the soldiers that have pretended to be dead spring up and start to fire on Goldfinger and his men. Bond escapes the train and gets back with Felix Leiter, the man he had contacted to enact a plan to stop the robbery. In the process, Bond gets into a quick little fight with henchman Oddjob, but Goldfinger and Oddjob end up escaping. Also, apparent Bond girl Tilly Masterson is killed in the shootout, leaving us with the feeling that there will be no end of book conquest for Bond. So essentially, they don’t even get close to the vault to even feel like they’ve succeeded.
The break in in the movie is much, much different. For one, Tilly Masterson has died before the break in (more on her later). Secondly, there is no train involved and no undercover action at all. They just stroll in with their vehicles and the nuke they are gonna set off. And they even get into the vault, because Leiter and the military need to make sure the bomb is there and they can’t possibly get away with it. So the bomb is in the vault, ready to go when the trap is sprung and a shootout occurs. And Bond is locked in the vault with the bomb, as Goldfinger has no use for him. He’s only been brought along to make sure no other agents are assigned to the case. So things go to shit and Bond has to try to stop the bomb from going off, while fighting Oddjob. And in this fight with Oddjob, he kills him. But Goldfinger manages to escape and the bomb is diffused. The ending of the movie is much bigger and grander than the one in the book. Much better and thrilling too.
The wrap up with Bond getting Goldfinger is much different in both. In the novel, Goldfinger and Oddjob and Pussy Galore manage to hijack a jetliner and plans to take Bond back to Moscow for interrogation by SMERSH for being a massive pain in their asses. But Bond ain’t having that. Bond takes out a knife hidden in his shoe, sneaks up behind Oddjob and punches out the window with the knife, causing depressurization that sucks Oddjob out of the plane. In the ensuing madness, Bond snaps and proceeds to pummel Goldfinger and finish him off by strangulation. Bond then forces the plane to make an emergency landing in Canadian waters, with only Pussy Galore surviving with him. They are taken in by Canadian police and Bond ends up sleeping with Pussy. Cause Bond always gets Pussy. I’m so sorry.
The movie ends a little less busily, but in a similar vein. Bond is getting on a plane to head home. But Goldfinger and Pussy are on the plane and plan to execute him. Bond fights him, causes the gun Goldfinger is carrying to fire and rip a hole in the plane, sucking Goldfinger out. Pussy lands the plane and they wait for Leiter to rescue them. Simple enough. But what makes the endings different is the use of Pussy Galore and Tilly Masterson in them. And to get to them, we need to start at the beginning.
In both the novel and the film, Goldfinger is a Bonds mission. But how we get that is very different. In the novel, Bond is waiting for a plane at a Miami airport when he runs into Junius Du Pont. Du Pont was at the card table in Casino Royale, so he knows Bond is more than a simple card player. He hires Bond to watch this Goldfinger, because he assumes Auric is cheating. Bond accepts and does the job. He finds Goldfinger is cheating by having a woman, Jill Masterson, watching Junius’ cards from the suite that Auric is renting. Bond takes the radio that Jill is using to relay messages to Goldfinger that he has to stop or the cops will be alerted and to let Junius win his money back. Also Goldfinger has to pay for Bond and Jill to take a train back to NYC. Auric does and Bond screw Jill the whole time there. When Bond gets back to M, M tells him of a job to follow a man believed to be smuggling British gold, an Auric Goldfinger. Later on in the story, Bond is following Goldfinger around Europe, when he believes Goldfinger is also being followed by a woman. When Bond follows Goldfinger to one of Goldfingers plants, he finds that the woman is there with a sniper rifle. That woman ends up being Tilly Masterson, Jill’s sister. It turns out to Jill was killed by Goldfinger, painted gold and dead by skin suffocation. Tilly wants revenge but ends up being brought along for the heist when they are captured. Much different then in the movie.
In the movie, Bond is resting at a Miami hotel when Leiter arrives to relay a message to Bond from M that Bond needs to keep an eye on Goldfinger. Doing this, he figures that Goldfinger is cheating and makes his way to the room that Jill is in, cheating with Goldfinger. But its here that things change. Bond sleeps with her here, and gets jumped by Oddjob afterwards. Bond wakes up and sees Jill’s goldplated body on the bed. This isn’t a late story revelation for him like it is in the book. When he gets back to M, he finds out the job is about smuggling and goes about it. Bond follows him to a plant and finds Tilly there. He finds out she’s Jills sister and they are attacked by Goldfingers men. But here things take a turn. Bond and Tilly make a run through the woods to escape when Oddjob’s hat emerges and breaks Tilly’s neck. So, she dies much earlier in here than in the book.
Tilly’s demise in the movie makes more sense if Pussy Galore is gonna be the end game girl for Bond. In the book, Pussy Galore is one of the heads of a crime organization that Goldfinger brings on to help with the heist. This is pretty late into the book. Pussy is a lesbian who runs a gang of lesbian thieves. Simple enough. During the job, Tilly falls for her. So during the end shootout, Tilly runs from Bond and ends up getting killed because she loves Pussy. That’s right. The silly lesbo dies because she likes Pussy too much to think straight. In the movie, Pussy arrives much earlier than the novel. She is there when Bond wakes up after being caught and drugged by Goldfinger. Pussy isn’t a crime lord. She’s Goldfingers pilot and she has a stable of female pilots who are gonna deliver the drug over Fort Knox. In the movie, she’s a much more present character and given more depth and strength. She has no use for Bond’s shit and puts up a fight. Hell, she only ends up sleeping with Bond because Bond rapes her in a barn. Yeah, he rapes her into Stockholm Syndrome. After that, her mind is so broken and warped by this awful man that she works for him and sleeps with him again at the end. In the book though, she’s just this lesbian presence that Bond finds a challenge in. She only ends up sleeping with him because “she’s never met a real man before”. It all ties into this weird dislike and misunderstanding of lesbians from Fleming. It’s simultaneously worse and better than the movie’s version. Cause at least the version in the movie sets her up as a strong woman who is broken by Bond, not some cartoon version of a lesbian.
The changes to Tilly and Pussy are pretty staggering and cause some seismic changes to the story. Tilly in the book is set up as the Bond girl for Bond to fall for, even though she’s more challenging to Bond. But in the end she isn’t super important to Bond. What she does though is set it up for Pussy to turn on Goldfinger and help Bond. In the movie, they just get rid of all that shit and kill Tilly immediately. She’s not important to Bond, Pussy is. So Bond forces Pussy to help him out.
Bond’s situation in the movies is much different. Obviously in the book, Bond coincidentally meets Goldfinger before getting the job from M. In the movie, he’s set on his trail early. But when he is captured in the book, Bond promises to work for Goldfinger and Goldfinger approves. He keeps him under lock and key, but still uses him on the job. In the movie, he’s just a prisoner. There’s no Tilly to worry about, nothing but Bond trying to escape. And he’s left to die in the vault, where Goldfinger was preparing to use him in the job in the book.
There are similarities in the two to make them feel very much in line with each other. But even in the similarities there are differences. Goldfinger and Oddjob are pretty much the same in the two. Goldfingers motivation is much different, obviously. There is a golf scene in both where Bond and Goldfinger play each other for money. But in the book, the game is a long section in it with Bond playing for 10 grand, with the objective being to allure Bond to Goldfinger to potentially work for him. In the movie, it’s a quick scene where Bond just does it to work a way to plant a tracking device on the mans car. The similarity in the game extends to Goldfinger cheating to try to win, with Bond cheating back in the same way to win in both. There’s the scene where Bond follows to the plant where he gets captured, but obviously both are different in the two. In the movie, Bond ends up getting into a car chase to try to escape but fails. In both, Goldfingers car is involved in his smuggling. In the movie, the gold is melted down and added to his cars frame. Simple. In the book, Goldfinger has the gold melted down and turned into a car frame, where he smuggles it to his plant and melts it back down. Then he turns it into airline seats, where they’re sent to India where gold prices are much higher. This change goes into the difference in Goldfinger between the two mediums. In the book, Goldfinger is much more greed oriented. The movie has him as a man dedicated to his cause, looking to do what the Chinese need, the gold price rising for him being a plus. One final similarity with differences is both contain a meeting of crime bosses meeting with Goldfinger to discuss the plan. But in the book, Goldfinger actually needs their help. Only one doesn’t go along and gets killed for it. In the movie, one of them isn’t too keen on the plan and causes all of them to be killed, since Goldfinger doesn’t need them. Goldfinger is more on his own in this one, not beholden to anyone else.
The Felix Leiter aspect of the stories is much different too. In the books, we hadn’t seen Leiter in a long time. It had been since Diamonds Are Forever, two books, since he had been in a Bond story. In the movie, he had been in the prior two movies as well. This goes into the weird continuity of the things. Dr. No was the first movie to be made, so he hadn’t had a history with Bond. They had just met. In the book version of that, they had known each other for years but didn’t meet in that one because it was mainly in Jamaica. And in the books, Leiter had been out of the CIA since being crippled in Live and Let Die, working for the Pinkertons since that point. So his help in the book is a big help, as he’s the only American he knows to help him. And getting that help, no longer being in the agency is a real effort. In the movies though, Leiter is still CIA and gets the help done pretty quickly. Getting his help is different in both too. In the novel, Bond has to stash a note in an airplane toilet, hoping it gets found and sent to Leiter. It does. In the movie, Bond tries to do that by leaving a note in the one dissident Mob bosses coat, hoping it’s found when Goldfinger kills him and disposes of the body. That fails though. Leiter is only tipped off because Bond turns Pussy and she alerts him of the plan. The movie version hinges on the weird rape stuff that happens, but it works better if only because it doesn’t occur thanks to a hyper lucky coincidence with a toilet note.
Both the book and the movie are pretty great. The novel is a return to form for Fleming after the dip in quality with Dr. No. It starts off a little weak with a rehash of the beginning of Moonraker, with Bond getting caught up with the villain by catching him cheat at cards. But after that it really kicks. The movie itself if the most iconic of the Bonds, setting off everything afterwards. It isn’t as perfect as From Russia With Love, so there’s a little dip. But it’s still amazing. And I’ve been agonizing about which is better. And I gotta say, the movie is better. The change to plot of Goldfingers is a better, more villainous plot and one that works much better. It also doesn’t hinge on a coincidence like the book. It slices off some of the fat from the book, changes the character dynamics to work better and add more thrills. It’s close, but the movie has to take it. Sadly, this is the last Connery movie for a long while. Up next is a string of short stories though, taking me into 2 Roger Moore’s and back into a Daniel Craig entry. The first short up, is the one that had it’s name taken for the worst Roger Moore entry. That short is From A View To A Kill, and the movie is the terrible A View To A Kill. This misery is all for you guys. Hopefully the short is nothing like the movie. And if it’s halfway readable, it’ll be better. See you next week.
Book Rankings: From Russia With Love, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger, Moonraker, Casino Royale, Dr. No, Live and Let Die.
Movie Rankings: Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Dr. No, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, Moonraker.
Up Next: The short story, From A View To A KIll