We are so used to seeing the James Bond films on the television – the films have long been staples of holiday TV scheduling – that we can easily forget that the films were made for the big screen. Even the best TVs cannot do justice to the panoramic action, the locations, the plots and the inevitable explosions.
The Bond films rarely get the big screen outing they deserve, and so when the Nomad Cinema, in association with Chesterton, screened Goldfinger on 10th July as part of the Grosvenor Film Festival in London, with profits going to the charity, the Sustainable Institute, there was bound to be a lot of interest.
Goldfinger was a very fitting choice. The film is 50 years old this year and for many is the archetypal Bond film, containing as it does the gadgets, the cruel and unusual deaths, the genial villain, the Bond girls, the exchanges between Bond and Q, the effortlessly cool Bond…we could go on.
Given the predominantly American setting of the film, the location of the screening, Grosvenor Square, was also very appropriate, being the home of the US Embassy. I wonder if the Ambassador was watching and reflecting on the nature of the special relationship as portrayed in Ian Fleming’s world.
The outside venue made for the sort of atmosphere usually experienced at music festivals. People brought picnics and blankets and wine (I didn’t see any martinis), and there were food and drink stalls, an array of portable toilets, and someone doing a roaring trade selling inflatable, wedge-shaped back-rests. As the film began to play, the square had filled up nicely. Fifty years on, Goldfinger‘s still packing them in.
And what a spectacular film Goldfinger is on the big screen. The gunbarrel is huge (how I’ve missed it!), the aerial shots of Fontainebleau Miami Beach are glorious, and the gold bars in Fort Knox have never been more, well, golden.
Despite the film’s familiarity, its defining moments – the shocking pre-titles sequence, the sight of Jill Masterson painted gold, the demonstration of Oddjob’s hat, the deployment of the Aston Martin’s ejector seat, Bond’s close encounter with the laser beam – all still manage to induce a gasp or laugh. Not all elements have aged well, though; you can’t imagine Daniel Craig’s Bond dismissing Dink with the words “man talk” and a slap on the bottom.
Thanks to the big screen and the wifi headphones supplied on the night, I noticed certain things for the first time. I could hear the background chatter around the pool of the Fontainebleau Hotel. And was that a continuity error on the winding mountain roads of Switzerland?
I’m sure I saw the Aston Martin parked up on the side of the road ready for a later scene even though we were travelling with Bond in the car. And where has Solo gone when the car is being crushed?
The big screen does nothing to improve the illogicalities of the plot (does Goldfinger need to outline his plans so elaborately, if at all, to the hoods he’s just about to kill?). On the other hand, I’m now very happy to defend Bond against the usual charge of being passive in the film. After all, he got everyone to Fort Knox.
The film remains a fast-paced adventure with thrills and spills at every turn. As Cubby Broccoli often claimed, every penny of the budget can be seen on the screen (except maybe when Bond and Pussy Galore jump from the plummeting jet at the end of the film).
The Nomad Cinema put on a fantastic event, which breathed fresh life into a classic film. The staff, including those of Cubitt House who ran the food stalls, were friendly and helpful and made the experience so enjoyable. The picture was obscured to some extent by the projection of leaves from the nearby trees, but this is a minor quibble.
As with every Bond film, Goldfinger ended with a promise that James Bond will return. I hope that the Nomad Cinema will help fulfil that promise and return next year with more classic Bond.
Edward Biddulph is the author of Licence to Cook: Recipes Inspired by Ian Fleming’s James Bond. He also runs the blog James Bond Memes.
Thanks to The Nomad Cinema for inviting us to the Goldfinger screening.
If you live in or around the London area you may be interested in the screening of Casino Royale scheduled for Sunday 31st August at The Hippodrome Casino.
Tickets for Casino Royale are £20, with all profits donated to charity.