Thursday, October 18, 2012

"The Man With the Midas Touch"


Goldfinger
He's the man, the man with the Midas touch
A spider's touch
Such a cold finger
Beckons you to enter his web of sin
But don't go in
 

- Shirley Bassey, "Goldfinger" (Capitol, 1964)



Bond producer Michael G. Wilson recently said, "The director Sam Mendes and Daniel are taking [Skyfall] back to a '60s feel - more Sean Connery" with "a magical Goldfinger feel surrounding it all." Given what I call "The Goldfinger Effect," this is inspiring news, as are the glowing reviews of the film.

As mentioned in my previous post, Adele's new song uses elements from the original Norman/Barry theme. The heavy brass and theme-laced tune (listen especially to the last forty seconds or so) of Shirley Bassey's song helped it reach #8 in the US (her first American hit) and #21 in the UK, while the score itself catapulted the Goldfinger soundtrack to the top of the Billboard chart in the spring of 1965 (displacing the Mary Poppins soundtrack and Beatles '65). Bassey provides a "hollering rendition of one of the oddest songs ever written," which cannot be matched by even the most talented vocalist (just listen to Celine Dion's concert version).[1] The song "combines the sinister with the melancholy" and "incorporates the menacing four-note opening figure from the James Bond Theme."[2] In short, it is the golden standard of James Bond themes. Shirley Bassey, described as "one of the most popular female vocalists in Britain during the last half of the 20th century," would go on to perform the songs for Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker (the only singer to do three Bond songs).[3]

Goldfinger was the first film to marry the theme song to the opening titles. The lyrics describing the evil nature of Mr. Goldfinger are made even more disturbing by the film scene projections on largely motionless (lifeless, perhaps, from "the kiss of death"?) golden girls.[4] Bassey's final, belting note really gets the blood flowing as the titles end and the adventure begins. Yet, how she hit that note is very fitting for a film franchise that constantly features naked women in its opening title sequences:




1. Sinclair McKay, The Man With the Golden Touch: How the Bond Films Conquered the World (New York: Overlook Press, 2008), 54. Co-lyricist Anthony Newley comes closest to doing the song justice with a jazzier, more restrained version.

2. Karl Madden, "The Melancholy Touch: Romantic Shades of John Barry's Bond," James Bond in World and Popular Culture: The Films Are Not Enough, eds. Robert G. Weiner, B. Lynn Whitfield, Jack Becker (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), 122.

3. There is also the very Bondian "The Living Tree."

4. It must be remembered that early in the film, the character Jill Masterson is murdered via asphyxiation. "She died of skin suffocation," Bond explains to M. "It's been known to happen to cabaret dancers. It's alright so long as you leave a small bare patch at the base of the spine to allow the skin to breathe." The skin suffocation theory is untrue, though being painted gold would most likely lead to heatstroke and death.

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