The eyeball gag that so beguiled Bresson sets up the famous opening credits, the modernist body as gilded screen for brutal projections. ("His lies can't disguise what you fear," thunders Shirley Bassey over a honeyed Dalì installation.) Guy Hamilton enjoys a swift spectacle, the tropical prelude moves to Miami in a luxurious helicopter shot that floats down to a trampoline diver and cuts on the plunge into the vast hotel pool, James Bond (Sean Connery) is there ready for his new assignment. There have been "miracles in every field of human endeavor except crime," Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) is just the nefarious jeweler to remedy that—his plan is to make Fort Knox radioactive, Pussy Galore the bodacious sapphic barnstormer (Honor Blackman) is by his side with a tank full of Beckett's "superfine chaos." A cross-theme from Becker's Touchez pas au Grisbi (Nazi gold in gangland warfare) gets the villain's attention, the secret agent's Aston Martin DB5 zips through a Swiss forest but back in Kentucky the uncooperative mafioso's Lincoln Continental gets crushed into a junkyard cube, a thoroughly metallic world. "You'd be surprised at the wear and tear that goes on out there in the field." The Bond formula means to dazzle and does so, here is the franchise's zenith as an amalgam of tropes and fantasies (noir antihero, Dick Tracy mobsters, atomic science-fiction, deluxe odalisques) streamlined into glittering, mischievous nihilism. The flow of iconic pop imagery is continuous: Bond's near-crash into a darkened mirror dissolves to his imminent laser castration ("le rayon de la mort" turns up in Alphaville), which dissolves to Pussy Galore's oneiric intro as a blonde Juno daring to be conquered. Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and his razor-tipped bowler are adjustments from Feuillade, Shirley Eaton coated in gold paint is the ultimate emblem of the series' Eros-Thanatos brand. "You like a close shave, don't you?" On Her Majesty's Secret Service uncloaks Bond's vulnerability at last, but for sheer Teflon insouciance there's no beating this coruscating joyride. Cinematography by Ted Moore. With Tania Mallet, Bernard Lee, Cec Linder, Martin Benson, Lois Maxwell, and Desmond Llewelyn.
--- Fernando F. Croce