Goldfinger! Mel is aware of his den of sin, but will she go in?
After successfully completing a mission, James Bond goes to see exotic dancer Bonita, who is enjoying a nice bath.
“Get out of the bath, woman, I want shagged!” Mel says on Bond’s behalf. “He’s such a smarmy bastard.”
Bond sees an assassin reflected in Bonita’s eyes as they kiss, and spins her round so that she takes a blow to the head.
Mel is not impressed, “He just threw her in front of that man!”
After a moment she asks, “Is he a violent man in real life?” I’ve been dreading this. The other night we were in the pub and our Best Man, Carey, (despite me shaking my head and making frantic throat-cutting gestures) told Mel that Connery is violent towards women in real life. “You’ve never told me about that” she says, accusingly. I say that I didn’t know anything about it. Mel says, “You know everything there is to know about him.” To be honest, I have heard things, but never actually looked it up or anything.
At this point we have to pause the DVD so that Mel can use her iPhone to Google ‘Sean Connery violence towards women.’ She clicks on this story, and reads out Miss Cilento’s account of allegedly being attacked by Connery and then, most damningly, this quote to me:
[Connery] sparked controversy when he told Playboy magazine: ‘I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman – although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man. ‘An open-handed slap is justified, if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it.’ In a 1993 interview with Vanity Fair, he said: ‘There are women who take it to the wire. That’s what they are looking for, the ultimate confrontation. They want a smack.’
She puts the phone down and sums up, “Absolute pig. I literally hate him now… I just think he’s a pig to say that about women.”
I ask if someone’s personal life should really affect your enjoyment of their work. Connery is a phenomenal actor, and should the world really be denied his incredible gift because of his personal opinions?
“Someone who hates women shouldn’t be so popular. If that was a footballer, everyone would hate him, but Sean Connery’s been knighted by the Queen. If he does those things to women, he hates women. If he was a paedophile would you think it was okay to enjoy his work? When is it okay to take an actor’s personal life into account? is it only sexual crime?”
I mention director Roman Polanksi, the Hollywood director who was accused of sleeping with a thirteen year-old girl in 1977 and fled America, never to return. I tell her she has enjoyed watching some of his movies, and would she feel differently about them now?
“Yes. I wouldn’t want to like it. That taints it. For me I can’t separate that, it just makes me feel sad. It’s like all the stuff with Chris Brown. Everyone said his career would be over and it’s not. Rihanna sent out a bad message too, by going back to him, that it’s acceptable.”
We press ‘play’ again and shortly Shirley Bassey’s amazing theme tune crashes in, along with Maurice Binders’s golden girls montage.
Mel points out the golden sheen on her own arms and legs. “I knew we were watching this, that’s why I put MAC Shimmer on,” says Mel.
“Did you?” I ask, surprised.
Back in 2006, when Mel and I first met, we did actually start to watch Goldfinger. This was by way of a cultural exchange and we both nominated our favourite ever movies. We got to the scene where Felix Leiter arrives by the pool in Miami, and Bond sends Dink away with a friendly pat on the rump saying, “Dink, say goodbye to Felix. Man talk.” At this point she got up and turned it off (Just over nine minutes into the films running time). I can’t help but feel that this one moment crystallised her opinion about the James Bond character and movies forever. In his memoir The Man Who Saved Britain (Picador, 2006) Simon Winder says of this scene, ‘Bond is also slapping the bottom and saying goodbye to any tenuous hope that a female audience might be watching. He is also slapping the bottom and saying goodbye to a whole framework of ideas and assumptions that had once seemed so cosily in place and which have rotted away around a once harmlessly stupid little line of script.’
She’s been expecting this, so she mutters, “Just awful. I know you think it’s funny.”
I deny this. “Yes you do… he’s such a pig.”
I ask Mel if she notices anything about Felix Leiter. She doesn’t.
As Bond makes his way to Goldfinger’s hotel room, Mel comments on his outfit, “That’s a weird towel hotpant playsuit he’s wearing. He looks like a right geek.”
007’s charm works quite quickly on Jill Masterson.
“She’s just met him. Literally just met him. He’s broken into her apartment and now she’s declaring her undying love for him! I really don’t like watching these; they’re just about casual sex… this is no better than Geordie Shore. No self-respect. They just meet him and sleep with him. It’s obviously a male fantasy, men think this is great. You want to be like him.”
I explain that this isn’t true. For me Bond’s appeal is not in his promiscuity, but in a character that is so suave and self-confident that knows what to do and say in any situation. For a bumbling nerd like me, that’s the attraction.
“Well I think that’s shit. I’d much rather be with someone like you.”
I begin to say, “Thanks, darlin-” when Mel interrupts, “Don’t write that in the blog!”
“People will think I’m an absolute prude-face who just hates sex and swears all the time. I’m not a prude, I just like niceness and mush. Sex is nice and lovely, just not with every —-er you meet!”
Meanwhile, Bond has discovered his Dom Perignon is above optimum temperature. “There are some things that just aren’t done,” he explains.
“Like sleeping with twenty-thousand women!” Mel says.
I ask Mel if she thinks she’ll feel differently when we watch other actors play James Bond.
“Yes, cos I won’t hate him. He’s thinks it’s acceptable to hit women. He’s a horrible James Bond; so selfish and self-indulgent.”
007 finds Jill dead and covered in gold paint. He picks up the phone and Mel speaks for him: “Quick, bring me another girl!”
Back in London Bond admits to M, “I’m aware of my short-comings.”
Mel says, “So am I!”
At Q Branch Bond is presented with his Aston Martin DB5.
“That is one thing I do like about James Bond. The cars.”
I remind Mel that Bond is not only the only tall, dark handsome man to have sat in this car, for I, too, have sat behind the wheel.
For a brief, glorious period there was a James Bond car museum in Keswick, which is near where we live. A gentleman called Peter Nelson had the largest privately-owned collection of vehicles from the Bond movies, including the ‘dragon’ from Dr. No, the Q-Boat from The World is Not Enough and the Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me. He also had a long-running Cars of the Stars museum with many other film and TV automobiles. The Bond musuem opened in 2009, and then the whole lot was sold to a museum in, appropriately enough, Miami in 2011.
Above: Some of the cars from the museum in Keswick being taken away (The DeLorean from Back of the Future, Herbie, Mr. Bean’s Mini, KITT from Night Rider, Starsky and Hutch’s Gran Turino, Bond’s DB5, a car from The Fast and the Furious and the flying car from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets).
As Q tells 007 about his gadgets Mel says, “When you think about it, everyone was up in arms about MP’s expenses, but he’s worse; he goes around shagging loads of women and we’re paying for it!”
I ask Mel if she doesn’t think it’s worth the tax-payer’s money if, as in this case, he might save the UK economy by putting a stop to Goldfinger’s gold smuggling.
“Yeah… but I don’t know how much he actually costs.”
I pause the DVD and locate an infographic on the internet which I remember having seen:
I show Mel the total, of just over three-and-a-half-million pounds, and she says, “I don’t know how much he’s going to save the economy, but I don’t think he’s worth that, no.”
I’m trying to avoid spoilers where possible on this project, but I tell her that we will go on to see Mr. Bond save the world, so I ask her if £3.5 million is worth that?
“Well, for the world, then… yeah.”
Bond spots Tilly Masterson while he tracks Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce. “Oh, here we go. He’s thinking, ‘She’s a woman. She must want to sleep with me.'”
As their encounter continues, I point out that Tilly isn’t falling for Bond’s charms.
“She’ll shag him-“
I go to write…
“-don’t put that word in… use ‘sleep with him.'”
Shortly she says, “Look at the way he’s eyeing her up. He’s quite rapey.” Mel goes on to sing, to the Goldfinger theme tune, “Beckons you into his ra-ape den, but don’t go innnn!”
“Does he sleep with the sister as well? seriously?!”
Wait and see, I counsel.
When Bond is captured and has to drive through the checkpoint, it is guarded by an elderly Swiss lady. Mel points out that she is the first woman Bond doesn’t pay attention to. A little while later she is firing a machine gun at his car. “Ha! He’s paying attention to her now!”
After crashing, 007 wakes up on a solid gold table with the big laser suspended above him. Mel recognises this scene from many clips and trailers and she shouts, “I EXPECT YOU TO DIE!”