Strictly as an expert in the field of psychoanalysis as it relates to literary and film criticism, I have been exploring for sometime Goldfinger, how it resonated with audiences in the ‘60s, not just young kids, but older men wanting to “live the Bond lifestyle”.
I have concluded that much dynamic tension in Goldfinger between Bond and the main villain is due to the subtext of Goldfinger, which is that of an aging Bond threatened by the impotency an even older Goldfinger represents! And only the virile Oddjob can successfully aid Goldfinger’s frustrated plans involving gold, the ultimate sex metaphor!
Let us begin by examining an action synopsis of the third Bond film. John Barry’s background score beats the march of time as James Bond, covered in costume and with his duck head submerged (head covered and also body, in a full body “condom”) makes his move. 007 is successful (read: virile) at the plant (and we all know what Georgia O’Keefe used plants as metaphor for) and glancing at his watch, (casually so as to attract no one’s attention…but the audience’s…in a bar where Bond can drink afterward) Bond is pleased when his “giant explosion” comes off right on time.
IF BOND HAS ENOUGH TIME to spare, he can then be with an exotic woman, a dalliance he has had at least ONCE before. As they embrace, she is distracted. In her eyes, Bond can sense another man who will interrupt them, and who will not be able to use his gun, (either) which Bond finds “positively shocking”. (Incredible foreshadowing as both a ticking bomb and electric shock will all but complete the psychosexual circle/climax near the end of the film.)
Next, the “Gold finger” title track cues the mood (the most popular soundtrack ever at that time!) and it is a title sequence indeed filled with hidden subtext. “Gold finger” is a subtle warning to Bond and NOT the golden girl–her fate is sealed, and so the coming golden girl represents impotency in old age (words he will pour in your ear, but his lies can’t disguise what you [Bond] fear…).
Following the title sequence, in Miami, Florida, Bond is “back!” (from the plant) …And John Barry brings in a jazzy number overlooking Miami Beach. Jazz is appropriate indeed, for the smooth, world weary Bond (From Russia With Love psychosexual fetish-weary? See related articles linked below.) Bond is draped luxoriantly inside a counter-culture hip beach scene oozing youth itself. (Miami Beach and the Fontainebleau are also a double metaphor in the film, no doubt, for old age and retirement.)
Bond has been with the beautiful Dink (ONCE) and has no TIME for more. Felix Leiter (played by the oldest-looking and oldest acting character actor to try the role ever, Cec Linder) will try to now light a fire under Bond. 007 finds “Jill” and completes his mission–he knows how Mr. Gold-finger cheats at “success.” He’s done for the day and can be with “Jill.” But no! He first has to “have a little fun with Mr. Gold-finger.” “Jill” will be involved also. They enjoy ONE time together. Things are now cold, Bond is COMPLETELY satisfied, emulating his President-cum-hero-cum-lothario-cum-From Russia With Love fetish-reader John F. Kennedy, who has been replaced by the older President Johnson!
With a lady’s remark a younger Bond would have sexually cued on, by Jill, for a SECOND go round, Bond instead brushes sex off next to head for the fridge, an ice cold box. No, to be warm again would be too much attenuated to the Beatles (young 1964 sex symbols with their virile haircuts). Opening the ice cold box and still “joking,” Bond could reach for the six pack of soda within–enough caffeine for a an erotic jolt, surely–but instead he is about to rest his hand on the ice cold phallic symbol of champagne–when he is struck down at the hand of “Odd job.” (Author’s note: It is highly significant to Gold finger’s impotency subtext that differing from the Fleming novel here, Gold finger does not sexually kill his gold woman…but Odd job kills her instead on Gold finger’s behalf.
“M” will now foreshadow what is to come next. An older, somewhat impotent man, he is unable to perform well and Colonel Smithers agrees that their “Brandy” (a popular English girl’s name) is rather disappointing lately. Bond thinks he knows what the trouble is but M’s heated advice is to “shut up and let Smithers lecture…” (on the effects of age) …and of gold. Bond knows a little about “gold” and will learn more from the older Smithers at this time. (Luckily, the older man does not have to repeat himself as he does when a much older Connery is lectured in “Diamonds”–Diamonds being of course, a sex metaphor about which Bond can “remember” even less…other than that the girls love them like their best friend!
MI-6 and M agree that Bond has failed at many levels with Mr. Gold finger. Bond should have NEVER gone for the champagne, if he hadn’t he would have been alert to Odd job’s presence. Even “Q” warns Bond sexually, next. “Whatever you do, don’t touch [it].” “You must be joking” is responded to by “I never joke about my [work]. Now, pay attention and this [sexual fulfillment] will only take another 90 minutes or so.”
Out on the golf course next but not fully back in the sexual saddle, Bond confronts his nemesis, old age, represented by the mysterious Gold finger. Each hole conquered by these aging men will represent a small triumph of one shilling. It is important that what little we can see of the game echoes the novel quite closely, with Bond’s drive arcing straight down the middle of the “fair” way, with Gold finger’s ball quite “lost in the woods”.
Note that Bond KNOWS well of Gold finger’s ball problem, because HE IS standing on it himself. His caddy will now assist in the confrontation. “If that’s his original ball (the virility of Gold finger’s past youth) I’m Arnold Palmer (champion stud of the world)…” says the aging, near impotent caddy, Hawker. (The caddy at Stoke Poges was a friend to Bond in his virile one-time youth, of course, in the Gold finger novel.) “Come now.” says Mr. Gold (and finger). “You didn’t come hear to play golf (with your sticks and balls).” Bond now drops gold (the ultimate sex metaphor for the sophisticated tastes of Bond) onto the ground, and right out of his pants at that!
007 is actually testing Gold finger to see if he can learn better from him about “smuggled gold” than he did from “M” (“mother” or “male”) or Smithers. Gold finger’s response? He is intrigued by the “gold,” certainly, but his own ball curves promptly away from the hole. Caught dead as impotent! Bond is trapped. Old age brings the dreaded impotency, even for the superlative Mr. Gold finger!
All is not lost, yet. Bond chooses to defeat old age (Gold finger) by SWITCHING BALLS. He can thus become Gold finger (or an older man someday) and still “win sexually”, or so he believes. It is therefore GOLD FINGER’s ball that the youthful, strong Odd job will crush symbolically and then discard for his impotent master as Bond watches and tries (unsuccessfully to the audience) to hide his fear of Gold finger’s crushed ball. This dramatic event of switching revealed will not occur, of course, until Gold finger has first used his virile stand in, Odd job, to sever the head from a statue (representing militant, raging impotency). “[Frighteningly impressive.] What does the CLUB secretary (not the club officer but a female secretary in subtext) think about such behavior?” “Nothing, Mr. Bond. I own the CLUB.” (Not the golf club but Oddjob as substitute male phallus, who can only grunt and snort to communicate, the ultimate “Monday Night Football” machismo.)
Things speed ahead fully, now. Gold finger is to be killed by a lesbian’s gun, which almost kills Bond instead when it “fires off” in an inappropriate manner. Bond tries to pick up the lesbian, knowing she is Jill’s sister (!) and falls flat or rather, two flat tires as the case may be. A series of cat and mouse games ensues at great length and with clever film pacing, much to the delight of the audience. Bond is watching Gold finger (will there be time for even a quick one on the watch?) … but poor old “Q” felt “it [sex in old age] is not designed entirely for that purpose”. Gold finger’s “incredible gold supply” is hidden, smuggled, dragged across the Channel, cut out of an automobile, mocking Bond’s “cut ejector seat mobile”, crushed and (a little of it, presumably) retrieved from a Mafioso, “wasted” on painting women, etc.
Bond’s coming “golden doom” seems sure. It would not take a rocket scientist to see the nefarious ejector seat and laser table for what they represent, though the laser represents an “emitted light” not found in “nature” (youth). Gold finger says “Come, I will show you…” [Bond’s questions regarding old age and impotency.] Gold finger is resigned to his fate, not frustrated or even mildly angered at Bond’s coming predicament of impotency, though he himself has been in love with “gold” lifelong. He would welcome ANY enterprise that would increase his stock…but he won’t take any gold from “Fort Knox”, as we shall see. (And you thought the laser table represented castration, but lasers sear and cauterize old wounds, my dear readers…!)
Exasperated and near desperate, Mr. Bond is now perhaps more vulnerable emotionally than he will ever be in TWINE or License To Kill. “Do you expect me to talk (about my recent impotency troubles)?,” asks Bond. “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die…” (On your own, not “I will kill you…kill your vigor…time marching inexorably ahead will do it, just you wait. I will stand here, not killing you myself but I will watch you die.” Is it any wonder this is one of the most popular movie sequences ever?) “Ah, but doesn’t even Gold finger have one more “grand slam” left?” asks Bond as a follow-up question. Operation Grand Slam, as we will see shortly, is “Chance words meaning nothing to you [your sex troubles].”
Bond is now shot “dead” or “fully impotent” but rather wakes with a beautiful lesbian. A young girl wants to watch his transformation through time (the same clock shown in Gold finger and Thunder ball!) and Bond hides his transformation from her but onyl somewhat successfully. 007 wrestles with lesbian Pussy Galore, him on top, her on top, she his near-equal, while Leiter assures his younger and virile but inexperienced CIA colleague that Bond will be at Gold finger’s ranch all day with the girls. (I haven’t entirely formulated what the “palm trees in Kentucky” metaphor indicates here but have submitted my research thus far to the AMA.)
Only Galore’s “maternal instincts” save the day for Bond’s sexual prowess. Bond does manage though, ONCE. At last, “Grand Slam” is revealed, and also, why it means to nothing to Bond’s quest to not only serve MI-6 but himself, and find where “all the gold is”. It’s not that the aged Gold finger wants to re-acquire more potency or “gold”. He wants to keep the whole world from having it and makes his own, relatively smaller stock seem bigger! Remember, dear reader, Bond has spent several long hours taking stock of Gold finger’s plan and now has an added measure of respect for Gold finger’s plan, even underestimating the amount of time the “gold” will be “dead to the world”. (President Kennedy/Johnson’s “good gold” of the bank of America, of course.)
Finally, oh finally, things will turn about or even “up”. Pussy and the girls “kill” the American soldiers, Leiter included, though they will soon pop up fully erect to defeat Gold finger’s minions! Odd job will be killed using the very weapon that was to sever Bond’s head (Though, mind you, even Bond could not sever Odd job’s massive head with it directly) and Odd job will be “positviely shocked.”
A frustrated Bond is about to yank his own cord in two, however, when the bomb will be stopped by an older man who presses a button, more gently than Bond’s rough and desperate touch, stopping the countdown just as it is about to erase “007,” Bond’s “hot number.” Things are really looking up for Bond, (pun not intended) especially when he is to board a plane and have a few more beverages (“Brandies, perhaps?”) before he meets the President who was formerly entirely satisfied himself!
Bond sucks Gold finger out through a hole using Gold finger’s own impotent gun, which Gold finger may only wave about, idly. There is a final moment of frightened exhilaration, one last danger, when even Pussy Galore cannot turn the doomed phallic plane away from its arc, which is nearly straight downward. The plane explodes prematurely before hitting the “wet” and then Bond completes the pre-teaser picture by wrapping him and Galore in the parachute (full body condom again and ultimate closure).
James Bond’s virility will be back!
Then again, sometimes gold is just…gold.