Friday, July 15, 2011

Goldfinger - Ian Fleming

Cover from the first edition.
'Pussy, get back in your basket'.

Bond to Pussy Galore.

  I went to my library two days ago to borrow the next Bond novels, 8 and 9,  to find those exact two were gone!! I was miffed to say the least because for weeks on end no-one had touched any of them, and yet as soon as I start reading them someone else jumps in. How rude and inconsiderate...and they aren't even borrowing them in order of publication!! Haha them's the breaks though huh?!

 Goldfinger is the longest of the Bond novels at 347 pages. I couldn't quite read it in one night but came damn close. It was published in 1959 and adapted into a movie in 1964. I love the movie adaptation and believe only From Russia With Love better than it in all the Bond movies. Like the preceding novels the movie does deviate from the novel somewhat but somehow the movie is the superior of the two mediums to my mind.

 I liked the novel but the movie does what very few manage in that it makes it better. This is the third strongest novel of the seven I have read so far but has its moments of datedness. I find when the dated moments came along the pace of the novel slowed somewhat. Goldfinger suffers from going from great engaging moments to ones that feel flat, hence the novel has a somewhat jerky feel to it. Like the movie it starts with Bond busting Auric Goldfinger cheating at cards. It then moves quickly along to him and Bond having a three chapter long game of golf! Suffice to say the movie abbreviates this game but Bond wins by playing Goldfinger at his own game, namely cheating.

 From this scene until the action hits the U.S the novel is completely different from the movie. After the game Bond is invited to Goldfinger's nearby residence for dinner. Here he meets Oddjob for the first time and is shown his Karate skills as he chops in half a staircase's six inch banister, and then kicks out a fireplace's mantle piece. Then the infamous hat comes off, and like the movie, a nearby statue decapitated.

 This is all wonderful reading but from here the novel goes off the boil somewhat as Bond pursues Goldfinger through France into Switzerland. He is now using the car he is famous for from the movies, the Aston Martin DB 3, ( his previous car was his privately owned  Bentley which was destroyed in Moonraker ). In short Bond is caught along with Tilly Masterton, the sister of the girl Goldfinger famously murders with gold paint. She wants to kill Goldfinger but Bond stops her as he wants to put him behind bars.

 Bond is put on a saw bench and expected to die. In the movie of course it is a laser beam and Connery utters the famous line, ' Do you expect me to talk', with Goldfinger replying, ' No Mister Bond I expect you to die!'. In the novel Bond blacks out and wakens in the U.S with Goldfinger then employing him and Tilly under duress in his attempt to rob Fort Knox. Again the movie deviates from the novel because Goldfinger intends to irradiate the golf in the fort and not steal it. Also the movie sees Goldfinger spray nerve gas on the town's occupants, whereas in the novel they are apparently poisoned through the town's water supply.

 The ending is similar except that Oddjob is killed after Bond smashes a window on the aircraft with a knife which sees Oddjob sucked out. He then strangles Goldfinger. The character of Pussy Galore is actually quite minor in the novel and the movie expands on her much more. Funnily enough the Bond girls have little part in the whole novel compared to its predecessors. Tilly Masterton's sister Bond shags on a train in a 24 hour session, and then she disappears from the novel. Bond doesn't get into Tilly's knickers and she is killed by Oddjob's hat.  Pussy Galore he gets to shag right at the very end. But overall the women are less apparent in this novel as Goldfinger is the main player.

 Like some of the other novels Fleming is back on form with some of his judgements. He calls Orleans in France a 'priest and myth ridden town without charm or gaiety'. He then later has a dig at 'female emancipation' saying through Bond ( how convenient! ), that it is the cause of the feminising of men who are becoming 'pansies' and 'sexual misfits'!!! How dated is that thinking? Not only was Fleming sexist he was anti-homosexual. And in many respects I can't believe these thoughts of his were published in the somewhat conservative 1950's. Sure attitudes were different, but one feels they were said behind closed doors and not outside of 'decent' society'.

 Overall Goldfinger is for me the third best novel of the seven I have read. The game of golf was too long at three chapters especially since I know nothing of the game, and Flemings descriptions went over my head. It has a jerkiness due to certain parts having a dated feel, but I was surprised in that for the first time Fleming started to use some bigger words in his narrative. I think it is a good plot which the movie just made better. But the most obvious thing was the Bond girls taking an almost back seat. Sure Tilly Masterton is in almost two thirds of the novel but Bond doesn't shag her and Pussy Galore is a very much secondary character compared to her movie counter-part, ( even her lesbian 'crew' are left out of the novel). And under the surface the reader can't escape Fleming's dis-tasteful ,dated sexual judgements.

 The movie is better because it has taken a strong novel and expanded on its strengths. Still worth reading but not in the same league as From Russia With Love, or the impressive Dr. No.

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