Friday, July 6, 2012


It's only fitting that the greatest James Bond film of all time, GOLDFINGER (1964), also have the greatest score of all of the Bond films. I should know. I'm listening to it right now.

I first met James Bond on the white-hot screen of the Paramount Theatre where he was beating the evil out of the heart of a fine Saturday afternoon. It was the spring of 1965. My father, who had read all of the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming up to that time, took me and down-the-street neighbor buddy John Rideout to see the film about a month before my dad passed away. Seeing GOLDFINGER that afternoon was one of the greatest moments in my budding life as a film goer. It truly was one of the films that changed my life. I thought then and now that it was one of the greatest adventure movies ever made and it remains to this day not only the best of all of the Bond films but one of my Top Ten personal favorite films of all time.

Not long after seeing the film, I purchased the soundtrack album (yes, on vinyl). I played the hell out of it over the years and when it finally wore out, I bought the soundtrack on cassette (remember those?). When that wore out, I made the switch to CD and it's this format that I'm enjoying listening to this morning. A few years ago, I scored a copy of the LP on eBay and I have it framed and hanging on the wall of my man-cave. I can't play it since I no longer own a turntable but just seeing it on the wall every day brings back very fond memories.

The title track, sung by Shirley Bassey, is of course a classic and even people who haven't seen the film know that song. It received a lot of airplay on top 40 radio stations back in the day. The rest of John Barry's magnificent score mixes soaring, brassy thrill notes with steady, rhythmic drumbeats of mounting doom and danger. It's sheer sonic bliss.

But Barry contributed nothing to one of the greatest sequences in the film, the duel to the death between Bond and Oddjob while the two are locked inside the Fort Knox vault with a doomsday bomb ticking away. The vault set is magnificent, a triumph of production designer Ken Adams imagination and vision. He contributed much to the look and feel of the early Bond films and his sets are as much a part of the Bond cinematic legacy as Barry's scores and Connery's quips.

The battle between Bond and Oddjob is skillfully orchestrated by director Guy Hamilton. He gives us the sounds of the battle, the physical exertions of Bond, the clang of the razor edged bowler, the spark and hiss of live electrical wires. No music is heard throughout the fight which is one of the greatest set pieces in all of the Bond films. At the end of the fight, the score kicks in again and carries us through the rest of the film. It's a brilliant piece of film making which adds another layer of greatness to an already terrific film.

So there you have it, the final film in which no music means more in at least one scene. I'll write about other films in which little or no music is used to drive the narrative in key scenes (or throughout the entire film) in future posts. Do any of my readers have specific examples they'd like to share? I'm open to suggestions and feedback.

Don't forget, I'll be introducing GOLDFINGER, along with ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE tonight at the Paramount Theatre at 7:00 p.m. Come on down and enjoy two classic Bond films.

Coming up: Andy Griffith, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and more.

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