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  1. Jacques Stewart’s 007th Minute in ‘Goldfinger’

    You know the drill by now; it’s opinion, and as such subjective – highly so even – and of course nobody is required to agree. If you are able to point out the significance of the image coming with this 7th Minute please do so in this thread.

     

    007th Minute watched and commented by Jacques Stewart.

     

     

     

    image Alexander Fleming House by Ed Osborn (c)

    Unburdened by dibbly dibbly do there’s a Dr No one here that explains this increasingly talked-into-a-corner “concept” and one about From Russia with Love right here and it’s on the From Russia with Love one that I realise that I have been totally misguided.

     

     

    There I was thinking its seventh minute was the vital and diverting tale of two middle-aged men playing chess, with the action high-spot being one of them drinking a glass of water in an odd way, largely to douse the cigarillo he’s just swallowed.

     

     

    Well, that’s just what “they” wanted us to think it was, isn’t it? I’ve had another ponder about it and – Clement Freud, analyse this – it’s not really about that at all, is it? Dr No’s seventh minute was, and I stand by this, pretty definitive a statement of what was going to happen for the next fifty years. Bad poo administered by “the foreign” happens to the British in some bit of the world they used to own or at least once put a test-the-water offer in on. The immediate reaction is “oh well, let’s keep trying” swiftly followed by a dawning realisation that this is never going to be anywhere good enough so better call M, because he or she is full of good ideas and expendable faceless alcoholic “bit rapey” psychopaths who do things we’re better off not even thinking about when mowing the lawn. This is then followed by the introduction of the hero, and subverting the early-sixties audience’s hero-perceptions, no it’s not the nicely side-parted ramrod -backed all very monochrome Michael Redgraveish Perigrine Carruthers with the unfortunate green coat, the old “school” tie and an accent so razorsharp the dockworkers he entertains of an evening would do well not to stick anything in his mouth, no, it’s someone altogether more cool and slick and sleazy and outside the perceived heroic idiom of the time who picks up scarlet half-naked women who do carrrds.

     

     

    In comparison, two blokes playing chess does seem a bit, y’know, like filler.

     

     

    However, what’s actually just happened in the seventh minute of From Russia with Love is also series-defining. A dark-haired bow tied man, measured in movement and fond of the old cigarette, is playing a game watched by an audience amazed at his skill. He is then interrupted with a message and in due course will have to leave to meet his boss. Subverting its own subversion in Dr No, the series now starts introducing the villains in the way they introduced Bond. Call it a happy accident, call it fate that it also falls within the seventh minute, call it a statement (one that will become repeatedly and less subtle as the series progresses) that Bond and the villain are (deep breath, here it comes) “NOT SO VERY DIFFERENT, YOU AND I”. That it’s essentially the same broad idea as the introduction of Bond in the first film is, I put it to you, entirely deliberate. OK, I know the Kronsteen chess match is in the novel and this follows it as faithfully as the changes in the screenplay allow, but still – I’m quite prepared to believe it. I just like the idea. If it’s only serendipity, then fortune smiles on the Bond films, and upon us that they can be enjoyed, decades on. It’s a deliciously brilliant coincidence and may well have been intended – but that it happens at practically the self-same point of the film? I think that’s absolutely super.

     

     

    Taking that further, and albeit this may be stretching it I think, it’s capable of being gently caressed in such a way, the comparison of these (nearly) mirrored minutes demonstrates that one dark-haired bow-tied man likes games of risk and this other likes games of the intellect. Only one of these will win the day, and there’s an argument in there about anti-intellectualism, brute force and ignorance overcoming, y’know, “brainy people”, again often repeated throughout the series as there’s really no other fit explanation for Octopussy.

     

     

    The other parallel is that they are each plainly trying to seduce their opponent.

     

     

    With that in mind, we come to Goldfinger.

     

     

    0.06.00 – 0.07.00 Goldfinger

     

     

    Up to this sixth minute, we’ve had Bond with a duck on his head, Ken Adam seeking to convince us that poppies grow in one of his weirdo rooms and out of oil barrels, not sure about that one Ken, what next, a Space Station no-one notices being built? Additionally, we have Bond doing a weird skipping style run, as if trying to loosen a stool, Bond blowing everything up, the concept of heroin flavoured bananas (yes PLEASE) and a lot of cold extras trying to convince us that they’re in Mexico or somewhere other than a Februraried Pinewood. We also, of course, have the most magnificently deft and funny costume change “in cinema history”, probably, a great fight exposing the dangers of bathing near electricity and a woman getting a bit smacked around. Positively shocking. Actually, this is a bit of a weird one all round in its attitude to women, more of which in a moment. Time to join the action at 0.06.00.

     

     

    And it’s the titles. Well, I suppose launching into this meritless endeavour of picking apart the seventh minute of each Bond film was likely to encounter this bijou problemette, but I’m sticking with it and hope that salvation duly comes in the form of The World is Not Enough, not a clause I would ever have considered myself typing, even at gunpoint or having my nethers smeared in Lurpak and dangled before a rabid wolf.

     

     

    Shirl’s giving it some right old welly. It is, it has to be observed, a quite extraordinary sound for a human being to make, and this is really a very odd and slightly troubling song. Last film around we had Matt Munro giving us a sort of Three Coins in the Fountain style harmlessness (played over A LOT OF SHAKY CAM, I CANNOT SEE WHAT IS GOING ON, THAT’S IT THEY JUST COPIED THAT OFF BOURNE SEVERAL DECADES EARLY, THE BASTARDS), not that it’s unpleasant but it’s a bit fifties, y’know, bit sort of tweedy and naice and warm and all utterly Labradory. This one, though, is an unleashed sweatdripping fangbearing Rottmonster of a song.

     

     

    Consider what she’s actually singing about. It’s about a predatory man who murders women and who, in his spare time, paints them, albeit in a manner best described as “not at all nice”. A sort of still life with once-live models, really. For it to have become a staple and perceived to be the benchmark for the themes for the series is a bit disturbing. Now, admittedly some similar sort of songs have entered the public consciousness as crowd pleasers – Young Mr Jones’ Delilah, for example, a popular terrace tune amongst the swigblister-faced enthusiasts of Stoke City, despite it being about wife murder. I wrote “despite” there, didn’t I, when I shoulda done writted “because”. I have witnessed Stoke-on-Trent. Anything to liven it up.

     

     

    Anyway, what’s also “interesting” is the perspective of the singer. Is this a woman who has escaped his clutches, or is she warning the others off because she wants Goldfinger for herself because he’s all bad and dangerous and murdery? I suppose it’s meant to be the former option but given the film’s overall attitude to women, it’s occupied me for a moment.

     

     

    Right, let’s have Shirl bang on about what an utter bastard – but a fascinating bastard you’ll want to know more about – this Goldfinger is and let’s sit in shock at how much of a step-change this piledriver of raucous sleaze must have seemed from nice unthreatening ditties about mango trees. First up at the start of minute seven we have Ted Moore B.S.C. (I assume this means British Society of Cinematographers or the like, not Bloody Sean Connery), and this is perhaps where this whole idea of the seventh minute may fall apart as many pieces from now on are going to be a slightly deathly list of names and I may yet accidentally on purpose defame most of them. Ted, Roger’s dad (science fact!), also “lensed” (a hopelessly grubby quasi-verb, like “medalled” or “leveraged”, ugh) Dr No and From Russia with Love, and there’s a moment here to reflect on the differing characteristics of those two films. Dr No is dark and sweaty and basically dripping with atmosphere; it’s also a great watch in black-and-white (I seriously recommend it; it’s like a Bogart with a bomb up its botty). From Russia with Love seems to have breeze and openness and the slight spring chill of the waterside about it, as if the weather was permanently terribly fresh. Goldfinger strikes me as a combination of the two, perhaps having less immediately distinctive a look to it but there’s some snappy stuff in Miami and lowland Switzerland which makes those locations do their bit and look nice and visitable. I appreciate that most of the final hour is basically England but they do their level best to convince us it’s Kentucky or whatever hellhole it’s supposed to be. Then he went and made Thunderball look like nothing has ever looked before.

     

     

    The point I’m circling is that what’ll doubtless emerge through these title sequences is the loyalty placed by the Broccolis in their people, indeed how those careers marched on film by film. The right call; they had the talent to make moisture drip through the screen from a Kingston clipjoint just as much as we feel the seabreeze swirling through the boat escape through the Scottish Adriatic or the cool valley air of that Swiss service station. The Bonds may often have been criticised as a factory or a cottage industry; that may be a viable point, but less sustainable is the perception that, as a result, they’re all the same. These people had the nous and talent to ensure that they were not. Embrace it. Would we have had fifty years of this with overhaul every film? I doubt it. The confidence that they had their team must have been a hell of a starting point on every one of these ventures.

     

     

    While all that’s been going on, Margaret Nolan has had an aeroplane driven up her abdomen. She was the first human being to be classed as an international airport (science fact!). Great windsocks.

     

     

    Righty-ho, here come (in no particular order other than the order in which they come), Peter Hunt as Editor (bit of an idea what this one does) and Ben Rayner as Assembly Editor (not a Scooby). All that Quantum of Solace gave us was Peter Hunt on quadruple-ristretti. The genesis of the style is all here in the early Hunt films. It’s not hard to see a change of pace after he’d gone; it all became quite languid (Diamonds are Forever flablumps itself around the screen gasping for breath, bit like the lead) and filmed from about a month away (the later Moores, although one suspects that’s deliberate for a variety of red-headed stuntman reasons) or quite sedately (the Sutton mansion goon bash in A View to a Kill has a tea interval and seems to end simply because bad fight stopped play). It’s only because we’ve become so sedated to these things lasting for two hours, because that’s apparently the law, that it’s suddenly a bit jolting to have someone bother to homage the man properly.

     

     

    Here come dubbing editors Norman Wanstall and Harry Miller. However, little known fact, their work was itself dubbed by Jimmy Armfield and Tom Finney (science fact!). Seem to recall that Mr Wanstall won one of those Oscar things for this film and, albeit it might not have precisely been for the dubbing work, anyone who can consistently ensure that Sean Connery spoke in that silkenhoneybutter Scottish accent, rather than his natural whining Scouse, deserved it.

     

     

    Dudley Messenger and Gordon McCallum recorded the sound , which is just as well otherwise this would be a silent movie and it wouldn’t be half as much fun, what with all its songs about girl-murdering, lines about expecting people to just shut up and die or whatever it was and throbby laser sounds emanating from big phalluses. It’d be like The Artist, which would obviously be completely terrible (and is. Fact). Useful for Gord ‘n’ Dud to be kicking around when there were sounds to record.

     

     

    Talking of sounds, she really is giving this a bit of a sound, isn’t she? Thinking back to that cinema audience of Dr No, now witnessing this a couple of years on, yes them again, they’ve come back for more (sensible move), you have these glowing goldengirl images massive against the black of the screen and the rest of your surroundings, and you’re listening to that. Blimey, it rather puts All-Star Family Cribbage in its place, doesn’t it? My goodness, revolving numberplates flipping over that poor dead girl’s mouth. It’s a saucebomb and no mistake.

     

     

    Right, here’s Oddjob and Deadmeatgoon growing out of her abdomen whilst we’re being told that Peter Murton was the art director (I suspect we’ve joined the fray moments after Ken Adam’s been mentioned) and L. C. Rudkin was the production manager. The management of the production does indeed stand as a positively – and distinctly – Rudkinesque bit of old lovely. Bit of a mystery why L.C. doesn’t merit a full name, unless (and here comes that rather suspect attitude to women again), L.C. was a lady wanting to be taken seriously in a world of Millers and Messengers and McCallums and it’s therefore all a bit like J.K. Rowling or W.G. Grace or T.J. Hooker. Or maybe L.C. Rudkin didn’t exist and for some sort of credit-validation “making films” reason I’m now too drunk to bore you with inventing it’s the name of someone’s dog, bit like that thing Robert Towne used to do, and he would have gotten away with it were it not evident that Mission: Impossible 2 was patently the work of a Shi-itzu.

     

     

    My God, she’s got long legs. That Lincoln Continental’s taking blimmin’ ages to drive along it. Still, she’d a cold corpse so what can she do? It’s not as if someone was going to shove her on a massive cinema screen in front of many millions whilst a song blasts out about how mischievous (but also a bit interesting) her murderer is. Oh. You don’t get this in Dixon of Dock Green. You just don’t. Ban this sick filth now.

     

     

    Right, so the Assistant Director was Frank Ernst (…Stavro…no) and the camera operator was John Winbolt and I’m sorry to gloss over their contributions but on the basis their work isn’t immediately noticeable I suppose that’s the mark of them having done a good job. I mean, as far as Mr Winbolt goes, there are no thumbs on the frames nor people with their head cut off. Golf club statues, yes, but not people. However, the deeply fascinating thing on this set of names comes next.

     

     

    “Continuity Girl” Constance Willis. Hmm. I mean, Peter Murton wasn’t described as “Art Director Lad”, was he, and unless Ted Moore’s B.S.C. stands for “Boy, Slightly Childish”, it’s all a bit, well, unemancipated, isn’t it? I can only assume that the job’s full title is “Continuity Girl with Flowers in Her Hair”. God alone knows what the office politics were on that. “Oh dear, Continuity Girl with Loveliness in Her Cheeks, Sean’s hair was on his head in that scene and now it’s sprouting from his mouth. How did that happen? Tsk! You know what that means, Continuity Girl with Cabbage in Her Teeth, it means punishment. That’s right, put on that copy of Floyd Cramer’s On The Rebound onto the record player, that’s right, and do some jigging, that’s it, jiggerboo those Bristols, lovely, smashing Bristols darlin’, Cor!, and if Floyd Cramer’s On The Rebound was released after 1964, that’s just a continuity error and that means it’s your fault, Continuity Girl with Hatred in Her Eyes and once the record’s over you’re going to have to suffer this punishment All. Over. Again. It hurts me more than it does you, I promise.

     

     

    Dear God, the 1960s.

     

     

    Of equal intrigue, albeit promising (hopefully) considerably less by way of jiggerboo, is that Paul Rabiger and Basil Newall are billed above Bob Simmons and his By-Bob-Simmons-Action-Sequencesnessitude. That’s slightly extraordinary, really, given the prominence that the stuntmen would eventually take in the series (to the extent that in A View to a Kill they spend more time being James Bond than Roger Moore does, as he seems to spend most of the time pratting about France as a “confirmed bachelor” Member of the Variety Club of Jersey who is interested in picking up studs with todgers like horses, for a good price). Not to say that Rabiger and Newall aren’t significant – after all the singlemost indelible image of the film is surely the Golden Girl, which I’m assuming is make-up and not, in a dark twist, that they took some top tips from the song Shirley is currently regaling us with. I’m also assuming they did Margaret Nolan’s paintjob and that must have been a hell of a lengthy task as that car’s only just reached her knee.

     

     

    Wardrobe Mistress, Eileen Sullivan, was pretty damned lucky to be credited with that title. Given the precedent of Continuity Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it could have been Wardrobe Honey. Still, there’s a Wardrobe Master in John Hilling, and they did some very good wrangling of the wardrobes. No wardrobes were injured or killed in the making of this film. At least it wasn’t Closet Master: that’s the name of a club in Amsterdam. Assistant Art Directors Michael White, prior to his stint as the Political Editor of The Guardian I assume, and Maurice Pelling are rather oddly not credited alongside Peter Murton. Perhaps they did a bad thing, although it’s certainly not easy to spot; everything looks lush and convincing and expensive even though it’s probably all made of old beermats and cress. Freda Pearson dressed the set, with a nice reduction of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and red wine, albeit this did mean they had to stop Gert Frobe from licking it every now and then. Science fact.

     

     

    Right, here’s Sean Connery in Q-Branch walking past a Post Office van in a scene that many people have claimed is not appearing in this film. That’s a lie – here it is. This scene is projected onto Ms Nolan’s back – will no-one give the girl a decent burial? – which, for the avoidance of doubt, is appearing in this film and is infinitely more interesting than a Post Office van.

     

     

    Special Effects Boy was John Stears and the Aston Martin’s still cool and the laser is still cool and that they managed to fit Sean Connery and Honor Blackman into that little model ‘plane at the end is really clever. Trouble is, this all starts the cult of Q and I suspect this isn’t a popular opinion, and I’m not doing it just to annoy, but I did tend to find a little of Q went a very long way. I mean, what is he really doing turning up in Octopussy other than to give sane people a toilet break or wonder which club’s tie he was wearing this time (the Tufty Club, on that occasion). But, as stated, the Aston is jolly good although much worse was to come. Stears. J. was assisted by Frank George who seems to have been the victim of parents unsure which first name to call him, although it was in truth a lucky escape from being called Candy-Lou. Eileen Warwick was the hairdresser and it’s a little known fact that she was also permanently on hand with her syringe to ensure Sean Connery’s hair remained sedated and didn’t keep escaping to run around and sniff the bottoms of other such creatures. Such backstage fun there was, trying to track it down every morning! Was it hiding in the fold of the seat of Ms Blackman’s courtesy Ford Anglia, ready to spring her a cheeky surprise? Was it in Mr Sakata’s Quaker Oats and tasting largely the same? Had it annexed the Sudetenland? Oh, halcyon days. More innocent times. Now it would be CGI’d in and it would be like going round with Jar Jar Binks on your head. Have just realised that Jar Jar Binks rhymes with Jinx. Everything’s ultimately connected, except, getting back to the point, Mr Connery’s scalp and this hairy… matter.

     

     

    My Lordylumps, even mute and projected onto the pleasant (if becoming slightly whiffy) undulations of a murdered girl’s back so that he’s a little warpy, Sean Connery looks absolutely scrumblelicious. That’s star power for you – few people could have their faces beamed onto gently putrifying flesh and look anything like they would normally do. Although you couldn’t really tell the difference with [Insert name of someone you want to be rude about… here].

     

     

    Now, this is unusual. Here he comes running along, escaping from the last film in a slightly self-reverential way, an irritating habit the films have of winking (that’s the correct first vowel) and repeating on themselves like bad broccoli (and that’s the correct vegetable). A theorem would state that this decision not to take itself too seriously has kept it all going and for the sake of seeing more Bond coming along for years to come, I suppose I shall (generously) have to put up with it. But if they make me sit through anything like Die Another Day again, I shall not be responsible for my actions. I’ll blame the wife.

     

     

    What’s even more of a to-do is that he appears to be running along a boy’s bottom.

     

     

    My mistake, they’re a young lady’s knees. Still, it was a homage to Ian Fleming and his insistence that most of his female characters have young male chutney barrels. That was a bit… odd, come to think of it. But I hope it goes some way to explaining my mistake. Young lady’s knees, young boy’s bottom, easy to confuse the two, officer. (You can use the excuse in reverse, just replacing the word “officer” with “Your Grace”).

     

     

    This is a scene definitely not appearing in this film, but I suppose it’s “nice” to see us standing on the precipice of the steep slope down to the John Cleese Storecupboard of Tat.

     

     

    This is where we’re told the titles are designed by Robert Brownjohn. I confess that I prefer Brownjohn (not a euphemism for…urr) to Binder and, belly dancers and cold hard gilded dead-girls by no means dismissed, the next bit comes as my explanation. What we’re now looking at is a golf ball being putted along her arm and it plops down into her cleavage. That’s hilarious, it’s utter genius and so fantastically, wildly inappropriate that one can’t quite believe they thought they could get away with it. This is, The Actor Pearce Bronston having his faced dunked at some speed into iced water admittedly a very close second, the single most fantastic moment of all of the Bond titles. Look, she’s even grown some little hairs along her arm to replicate the turf. It is art, it is cheeky, and it is fab. They projected the putting of a ball along her arm and into her tits. Go back and watch. You’ll laugh, possibly horrified, at the sheer nerve of it. Robert Brownjohn, I salute you, as does my Mashie Niblick.

     

     

    Right, enough of that. Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn are up next and there is a school of thought (to which I subscribe) that it hasn’t been quite the same since Mr Maibaum’s days. It’s probably nostalgia clouding things but would he have been so crude as to have stuff about “cunning linguists” and “perfectly formed house” (I think that’s what ol’ panda-eyes says) and Christmas coming all over the sheets? I accept I’m writing this watching a man putt a golf ball between a woman’s mummylumps – bit of a cuppy lie, that – but, still. I also accept that I’m writing this about a film with a character called Pussy Galore, but we can hardly blame him for that one. What I think we can probably blame him for is some challenging rearranging of the book. Goldfinger’s reasons for keeping Bond alive are marginally better than the ones Fleming gave him, and it was right to get rid of Tilly “Soames” early on, she was boring and could neither shoot nor drive nor anything “straight” but I can’t help feeling that neglecting the scene with Oddjob being fed a cat and beating up a mantelpiece was a missed opportunity. Also nagging is the uncomfortable suggestion that one can bring a woman over to see things your way – whether she’s a lesbian up for a bit of being cured, or not – by doing a rape-wee inside her Galore. Not that the barn scene is in this particular minute but it clouds one’s view of the overall spectacle from hereon in. One could take the view that it’s fairly evident that there’s some amusing (and evident) chemistry between Mr Connery and Ms Blackman and it’s all a bit of a jolly romp on a Pinewood Friday but… Hmm.

     

     

    Meanwhile, Margaret Nolan has a handgun pointing out of her eye. Can’t identify the type as it’s a bit blurred and in any event I don’t know about handguns, not being a bloodlusting delusional cretin.

     

     

    And just in time, just on the cusp of the seventh minute coming to an end, we’re told that the title song is sung by Shirley Bassey – I’m not sure we really needed telling, there’s nothing else on Earth that sounds like this – the music is composed and conducted by Barry John, having a day off the rugby presumably, and the title song was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, who must have been off their noddles to think this tale of murder and mayhem would pass as family fun, the mucky little pups. Mr Newley was once married to Lewis Collins; something like that anyway. I’ll get back to John Barry, another victim of first name syndrome, as he’s bound to crop up in one of these seventh minutes for a later film. Or is he? At least that adds an element of suspense to this nonsense and arguably more so than all of the rest of Goldfinger.

     

     

    And, as Margaret stands stoically on, she’s probably been impaled on a girder, and has projected onto her face and upper torso some weird flashy lights that I don’t recall occurring in the film, unless it’s the heroin-flavoured banana finally kicking in, thank you Mr Ramirez, we come to

     

     

    0.07.00

     

     

    Conclusions: It’s patently seminal, and they are using their seventh minutes well, so far. We’ve had the hero introduced (ish), we’ve had the use of the “villain and hero quite similar” trick that would only really go too far when Toby Stephens announced that he’d built his new persona out of Mr Brosman’s liposuction off-cuts or whatever it was, and here we have another staple – the abstract credits and the noisy song. That it’s all quite shocking – and forgive me for labouring a point here, but it’s only in concentrating on it for a minute that it’s dawned on me what a (in a good way) nasty, sleazy old song Goldfinger is. This wasn’t so much pushing the envelope as dipping it in tabasco and ramming it up the cultural GrandSlam. The visuals have wit, the sound is immense and it’s another perfect minute of instant Bond. Just add slaughter.

     

     

    What follows is a bit strange, really. Goldfinger is held up so frequently as the archetype that it’s hard to watch it on its own merits as a film. Is it really the archetype? I’m not sure. Bond is terribly languid in this, and obviously spends the majority of the film a captive who sits around observing and can’t actually stop the bomb himself. He’s not really a protagonist, nor an antagonist. Just an agonist. Once Bond and Pussy are safely entwined in the Pinewood Garden (still not a euphemism, and it will tease me so by steadfastly refusing to become one, perhaps I need to take it into a barn before it sees things my way), I’m not sure we really have witnessed anything much more than an exercise in how much they could actually get away with. Man with duck on head. Shouty song about a serial killer. Ejector seat. Laser table. Pussy Galore. Gert Frobe’s plus-fours. Perhaps that exercise is all it really needed to be. Perhaps that’s what Bond is, and it’s futile to look for meaning and plots and continuity, especially if it means liberating Continuity Girl from Her Jigaboo Hell. On that basis, as an exercise of art rather than science, this 007th minute of Goldfinger, this is about as 007 as one can get and the people named in this seventh minute, and those other names in the titles, they did this. They made Bond. For that I should be more grateful, I know.

     

     

    I am really.

     

     

    James Bond will return in the 007th minute of Thunderball. Jacques Stewart is appalled it’s September already.

     

     

     

    Helmut Schierer @ 2012-09-17
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