Thursday, June 08, 2006
SOME OF IT HILAROUS.
THE BOOK, I MEAN.
I had been informed that the James Bond novels From Russia With Love, Dr. No, and Goldfinger formed a high-quality trilogy, three consecutive adventures by Ian Fleming that transfixed readers in the late 1950s and created the buzz that made a film series inevitable.
Part of this may be true. From Russia With Love and Dr. No are certainly very good books, and the timing for the production of the films works out very well. (The first three films were Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. But note: Goldfinger was last.)
But Goldfinger – the novel – really isn't that great. Yes, I do love the first 150 pages or so. But the last part of it is ruined by some very lazy writing and some haphazard plotting. I read the first part quickly because I was on the edge of my seat. I read the last 100 pages quickly because I wanted it to be over.
The plot: Bond is in an airport, somewhere between Mexico and London, when he is recognized by a chap who witnessed his legendary bout with Le Chiffre at the baccarat tables, so well-described in Casino Royale. The chap asks Bond to help him out: he has been losing badly playing canasta with a fellow named Auric Goldfinger, and he suspects Goldfinger of cheating.
In a scene similar to the beginning of Moonraker, Bond figures out what is going on and embarrasses Goldfinger badly. Very nice.
Even better is the next major sequence. Bond finds out his next mission involves … Auric Goldfinger! (Again, just like Moonraker.) He will use his prior acquaintance with Goldfinger to get close to him and try to find out if there is anything to the suspicions that Goldfinger is a major smuggler. He meets Goldfinger at the Royal St Marks, a famous club with an impressive golf course. They play golf, and it is one of the best scenes in the Bond novels. The movie doesn't even begin to do justice to this scene. Goldfinger cheats, but Bond gets the better of him anyway. I really hate golf, but if I ever have to play golf, I will be able to get through the match by pretending Bond and Goldfinger are on the next green, or perhaps they are in the rough, looking for Goldfinger's ball.
Then, they drive around Europe for awhile, and the plot gets seriously dumb. Bond gets caught snooping around Goldfinger's factory in Switzerland (where the smuggling takes place), and Goldfinger inexplicably spares him to help him with paperwork in a scheme to plunder Fort Knox. Bond is supposed to be such a great secret agent, but he is pretty lame here, and Fleming is very lazy in much of the writing.
But you have to give Fleming credit with providing the reader with some very amusing racist nonsense. And, as an added bonus, we also find out that Bond is a homophobe with some very quaint notions about homosexuality.
First, here's Goldfinger on Koreans:
" ... it happens that I am a rich man, very rich man, and the richer the man the more he needs protection. The ordinary bodyguard or detective is usually a retired policeman. Such men are valueless Their reactions are slow, their methods old-fashioned, and they are open to bribery. Moreover, they have a respect for human life. That is no good if I wish to stay alive The Koreans have no such feelings. That is why the Japanese employed them as guards for their prison camps during the war. They are the cruelest, most ruthless people in the world. My own staff are hand-picked for these qualities. They have served me well. I have no complaints. Nor have they. They are well paid and well fed and housed. When they want women, street women are brought down from London, well remunerated for their services and sent back. The women are not much to look at, but they are white and that is all the Koreans ask – to submit the white race to the grossest indignities. There are sometimes accidents but -" the pale eyes gazed blankly down the table – "money is an effective winding-sheet."
"You like the aphorism? It is my own."
Somehow, this charming soliloquy didn’t make it into the film
Did you notice that he bragged about his "aphorism"?
What an asshole!
I might be willing to give Fleming a pass on this rant against the Koreans. He could just be trying to establish his antagonist Goldfinger as a total asshole.
But Fleming's history of "insensitive" comments is just a little too relentless.
And then he provides us with James Bond's observations on homosexuality:
Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterson was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up. He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and "sex equality." As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy, sexual misfits – barren and full of frustrations. He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them.
Homosexuality is caused by women voting. Um, thank you, James. Why don't you go back to exposing canasta cheats and leave the psychology to people who aren’t homophobic misogynists?
Tilly Masterson dies later because she rejects Bond's efforts to save her when the shooting starts. Tilly ignores Bond and runs off to find Pussy Galore. (I’d rather be saved by Pussy Galore as well. But Pussy wasn't even around at the moment.) So the moral is: Lesbians are stupid. I think that's the moral.
At the end, Pussy rejects lesbianism and sleeps with Bond.
"They told me you only liked women."
She said, "I never met a man before." The toughness came back into her voice. "I come from the South. You know the definition of a virgin down there? Well, it's a girl who can run faster than her brother. In my case I couldn't run as fast as my uncle. I was twelve. That's not so good, James. You ought to be able to guess that."
I guess her uncle got so mad that women could vote that he raped Pussy Galore.
Another life ruined by the women's rights movement and "sexual equality"!
When will liberals learn?
Author's note: To be fair to Ian Fleming, he seems to have been against the criminalization of drug use. This is from the first chapter, as Bond reflects on an earlier exploit:
It was an orderly commerce of no concern to anyone outside Mexico. Then, far away in England, the Government, urged on by the United Nations' drive against drug smuggling, announced that heroin would be banned in Britain. There was alarm in Soho and also among respectable doctors who wanted to save their patients agony. Prohibition is the trigger of crime.
Go, Ian! Testify!