British secret agent James Bond (Sean Connery) is on a mission to sabotage a drugs baron's heroin supply, so under cover of night he swims to the shore of the island that the base of operations is situated upon, breaks his way into the compound and sets a lot of explosive in one of the silos. Slipping out of his wetsuit, he is revealed to be wearing a dinner jacket that he pops red carnation into the buttonhole of and makes for the nearest bar. The explosion goes off, clearing the place in panic and offering Bond the chance to relax with a native girl - but life is not easy for a secret agent, as he discovers...
And that's just the pre-credits sequence, which ends with Bond's most famous quip of all - "Shocking, positively shocking" - as he throws an electric heater into the bath of water a would-be assassin has landed in. More than a throwaway bit of business, it was an announcement to the public that 007 meant fun, cruel, callous fun, at least if you were on the side of the good guys; the bad guys had their enjoyments too, but whoever supported them? The main villian in Goldfinger was in the title, as played by Gert Fröbe in the role that everyone would associate him with for ever after, and no wonder, as he may have been dubbed into English but his sterling performance shone like, well, gold.
That's not to say Connery was overshadowed by him, as here the match between the evil and the virtuous was perfectly matched, perhaps because Bond retained a measure of bad boy appeal. The Scottish star emanates confidence in every scene, already three films into the series and making the role his own, as to this day his casting as the most famous secret agent of them all proved to be the making of this franchise. Nowadays it's difficult to recapture simply how overwhelmingly glamorous this film was in 1964, but it's to its credit that it's still thoroughly enjoyable despite all the seemingly millions of derivatives and parodies since.
Part of that is in its attitude, with Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn adapting Ian Fleming's novel in a tone precisely between tongue in cheek and believing every word. Therefore the film can be regarded easily as an outrageous and near-parodic adventure yarn, or alternatively the way in which every red blooded male was yearning to live his life during this decade (and indeed in decades to come): the action, the girls, the excitement, the refinement, it was all here. Another reason why Goldfinger so quickly became the archetype it was is down a handful of sequences which will never be bettered, and spring to mind the moment the film is mentioned.
One of those sequences arrives early on when promising character Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) is ruthlessly bumped off by her boss Goldfinger for fraternising with Bond: I hardly need to tell you she is suffocated with gold paint all over her body, which might not have killed her in real life, but has passed into movie legend all the same. Then there's the point where our hero is strapped to a table by the villain and has a laser aimed at him, threatening to cut him in two starting with his favourite organ ("Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!"). And the grand finale at Fort Knox, where Goldfinger puts his diabolical plan into operation and proves he was correct to recruit Oddjob (Harold Sakata), the screen's henchman to beat all henchmen. Add Honor Blackman in her most celebrated role as lesbian pilot Pussy Galore, who would bever be named that today unless she was in a spoof, and you have one of the most purely engaging thrillers of its era, with an impact that action movies try to emulate even today. Music by John Barry, including Shirley Bassey on inimitable theme tune vocals.