James Bond
Ultimate Edition 2-Disc DVD Set

Starring: Sean Connery
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 16.99
Certificate: PG
Available 17 July 2006

Investigating an apparently straightforward case of bullion smuggling, James Bond stumbles upon an audacious plot to raid the gold depository of Fort Knox. Auric Goldfinger (aided by his assistants Pussy Galore and Oddjob) loves gold and will stop at nothing to increase his private hoard, even if it means devastating the world's economy...

This was the film in which the gadgets took over. Not that you can really blame the production team for the legacy they established here. As the documentary feature The Goldfinger Phenomenon explains, the public instantly fell in love with Bond's new Aston Martin DB5, with all its optional extras, and this movie marked the beginning of the '60s phenomenon that was Bondmania.

Remarkably, the character of James Bond is sidelined not only by the DB5 but also by Goldfinger himself (played by the wonderfully larger-than-life Gert Frobe), as 007 is held captive during most of the second half of the film. Shocking! Meanwhile, the action focuses squarely on the planning and execution of the villain's raid on Fort Knox. During this time, the audience is entertained by Ken Adam's lavish sets, including those depicting the interior of the gold depository itself, and also the "rumpus room", within which Goldfinger explains the plot to his hired hoodlums and to the audience (this scene would later be recycled in 1985's A View to a Kill).

John Barry's incidental score, incorporating a strident military march, also helps to carry the movie forward, while the potent screen presence of Sean Connery ensures that the viewer barely notices that Bond has taken a back seat.

The film is also remarkable for boasting a main plot that is, uniquely, actually more plausible than the novel that inspired it. Shocking! In Ian Fleming's book, Goldfinger wants to physically remove the gold from Fort Knox. However, as 007 himself points out in the movie, the sheer weight of the precious metal would have made this task impossible. Here, the villain's plan is more cunning than that...

Two audio commentaries reveal, among other things, some interesting lapses of continuity. Again, these are not readily apparent to the average viewer, who will be carried along by the brash and bold direction of Guy Hamilton as he leaves a lasting impression on the series.

One aspect that the documentary features curiously fail to discuss is the interesting way in which the pre-titles sequence mirrors in microcosm Bond's final confrontation with Oddjob (Harold Sakata) towards the end of the movie. In either case, Bond is left apparently defenceless (in the first instance, his opponent reaches for the agent's own weapon, while in the second, Oddjob reaches for his famously deadly bowler hat, which Bond has just hurled uselessly between some metal bars) and in both cases, 007 hits upon an innovative solution that involves electrocuting his adversary. Shocking!

In addition to the more familiar extras, disc 2 also includes vintage radio interviews with Connery and - for the first time on DVD - Honor Blackman. These "open-ended" discussions are a cunning device that allowed radio stations to insert the voices of their own disc jockeys, thus achieving the illusion of an exclusive interview with the actor. Shocking! Other new-to-DVD extras (which were not available for review) include screen tests and newly recovered footage of the Aston Martin on tour.

Sony's usual trick of placing a series trailer at the beginning of each and every DVD within that series is already becoming annoying. (Stargate fans will be familiar with this experience on recent releases of the SG-1 and Atlantis TV series.) In all other respects, though, this new edition is a golden opportunity to own an old favourite.

Richard McGinlay

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