I can’t hold it in any longer… Goldfinger was a TERRIBLE Villain
I haven’t posted for a while; that’s mostly because I’ve taken on an insane publishing schedule and I’ve been working WAY too hard. But it’s time I got something off my chest.
Auric Goldfinger was a TERRIBLE villain.
It’s not really topical, it’s kind of out of the blue, but every time I hear someone reference Goldfinger, it stabs me in the back of the brain.
The eponymous villain from the movie Goldfinger (I can’t speak to the novelization as I haven’t yet gotten to that part of my reading list yet) was supposedly a typical Bond super-genius. He had massive amounts of resources, a keen intellect, access to military-grade materials, and alliances with both organized crime and the Chinese government. In general, he had a plan with a huge scope.
That plan? To detonate a nuclear device in the middle of Fort Knox, rendering the entire U.S. Gold reserve radioactive and thereby vastly increasing the value of his own massive stocks of gold. If successful, it would have made him one of the most potent financial powers on the planet.
Which would have been a tragedy, because Goldfinger was HORRIBLE with money. Seriously.
I will point out, as my evidence, the single most wasteful bucket of spending that any super-villain has EVER gone to, in any medium, of all time.
Goldfinger has, at great expense, gathered the top bosses of all the crime families who have been helping him acquire resources; they meet in a massive room in his ranch house. Having gathered them, he shows them his plan.
He shows them with a scale model of Fort Knox (and a BIG scale, at that) complete with lights to display the flight paths of the aircraft carrying the nerve gas that will knock out all opposition. The model itself must be fifteen or twenty feet across… it’s HUGE. The practical effects for the assault on the Death Star used models smaller than this. There’s an elaborate control panel which manages all of the lights, sound-effects, the environmental controls of the room; everything. And how does he do the reveal? Is there a curtain or a sheet to pull aside, or is it just in the dark until he turns on the lights?
No. It’s on a HUGE hydraulic lift platform. Controlled from the control panel.
It’s all well-finished, lots of wood paneling and brass. The reveal platform for the model and lift must be made of steel, custom designed, properly ventilated (so Bond can overhear the plan, of course). The model itself, exquisite in detail, must have been made by a professional architect and a few electricians, none of whom would have worked cheap. Then there’s the control wiring, the hydraulics, the cabling for all of the power required, the extra lighting in the room, the speakers and sound system…
At the time Goldfinger was made, you could buy a lovely two-story house for what this “plan reveal” scheme must have cost… and had enough left over for a four-door sedan and all of the kitchen appliances. For TWO HOUSES.
So, Goldfinger pays the mobsters a huge amount, in gold, to show up to the meeting. Each of them. “Here, have a bucket of money, show up to my meeting.” These are the heads of crime families and organized syndicates; they’re not getting out of bed for less than seven figures.
He gathers them in his “plan reveal” room. He spends all of five minutes telling them his plan. And then?
He kills them all.
He doesn’t just kill them; he pushes a button and the room fills with nerve gas.
“But Scott,” my evil second voice says, “surely that was the most expedient way to make sure none of the gangsters revealed any details about their previous dealings with Goldfinger; he had to assure that they couldn’t talk!”
Granted. But… OK. Canisters of nerve gas – SUPER expensive, as he had to pay a lot of gangsters and officials to get a hold of it. A secondary ventilation system; ducting, outlets, a system of fans – expensive, but nothing compared to the system that would safely vent the gas OUT once everyone was dead. It could have been the same system with the fans reversed, but there had to be some ruthlessly efficient military scrubbers and decontamination in the system, because you can’t just pump the nerve gas outside to get rid of it. Expensive.
When you think of a super-villain making a plan to become a financial power, if not THE financial power, one would like to think of a transparent green sun-shade over their eyes while they work away at sums with a slide-rule and a mechanical calculator, drawing blueprints and quietly smiling to themselves as they achieve a perfection of strategy.
I’m sorry, but when I look at the “reveal my plan to the mobsters” scene in Goldfinger, I can only imagine him pleasuring himself using the boiled-down fat of an endangered species as lubricant saying “How… HOW can I make it cost MORE?”
“But Scott,” my evil voice says, “how else could he have made absolutely sure that the mobsters wouldn’t talk?”
Me? If I’m a Bond villain?
Auric Goldfinger fairly obviously spent more than a million dollars a head on his “mobster elimination” plan. Hell, he may have spent up to a million apiece just getting them there, before you even consider the Plan Reveal machinery and Nerve Gas delivery system.
I would have hired Scaramanga – the man with the golden gun – to hit each of the mobsters involved. One million dollars a head, delivery assured. It would have been cheaper to hire another Bond villain to kill the mobsters, probably by an order of magnitude, than it would have been to use Goldfinger’s method.
Every single moment of Goldfinger’s plan was oozing with excess. “We need to point the laser at the door of Fort Knox? Well, we COULD just open the back door of the truck that it’s in, OR we could have a massively complicated hydraulic lift bring the laser up through a hinged roof!”
I suppose that the idea was that Goldfinger had SO much money that he could throw it around without a thought for how much he was spending. “Oddjob, take the head off of that exquisite and unique marble statue to make a point to this guy that I just met. It’s my club, so I’ll just buy myself another exquisite and unique marble statue to replace it.”
It’s not that I demand that my villains be thrifty, exactly, but they should have SOME sort of self-control.
“But Scott,” says my evil back-y-head voice, “what about the whole ‘No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die,'” bit? Surely, that was the most bad-ass thing a villain ever said to Bond!
True. But his follow-through was TERRIBLE.
Goldfinger has Bond tied down to a table and decides to kill him by slowly cutting him from crotch to crown with a laser beam. Ok… laser beams are cool. Overly-elaborate deathtraps with ample time for countermeasures and escape are a Bond villain staple, can’t say much about that I suppose… except the situation itself is another exercise in Goldfinger’s excess.
“A bullet costs only a few cents, but the electricity to operate this laser will cost more than all of the ammunition in Montana! Plus which, I own a f*cking laser… what’s the point of owning a f*cking laser if I can’t cut secret agents in half with it!?”
So, Bond has time to yell out the one phrase he picked up from his rambling around Goldfinger’s ranch. Goldfinger, to his credit, suggests that it was a random phrase that Bond could have picked up from anywhere. Bond retorts with “can you really take that chance?”
Goldfinger goes to talk it over with the laser operator. The deathtrap is so slow that Goldfinger could have ordered a pizza or gone out to a movie or something, but he elects to stop the laser.
After which, he has Bond tied at the wrists and takes him EVERYWHERE HE NEEDED TO GO IN ORDER TO STOP GOLDFINGER’S PLAN.
“Oh, you might have told someone everything about my plan? Well, I’ll just carry on as though that possibility doesn’t exist, and bring you along in case you want to kill my henchman and turn off the bomb or something.”
What would I have done, as a Bond villain?
“No, I can’t afford to take that chance,” I would say. “So, I’m only going to cut your left testicle in half with this laser. No, no, don’t say anything yet. After I’ve lasered your left nut in two, I’ll give you a chance to tell me everything you actually know, and who you have actually talked to about this. If your answers are unsatisfactory, I will laser off other parts of your body until your answers are satisfactory. Did I mention I have a f*cking laser?”
I mean, what was Goldfinger’s deal, exactly? “I’ll give you the most tortuous, expensive death I can imagine, but I wouldn’t THINK to torture this key and vital information out of you with my very expensive equipment. Unless it was more expensive that way, maybe. Maybe I can find a more expensive way to torture you! Or, Sodium Pentothal. That’s expensive, right? But seriously, who have you told my plans to?”
The fact that he was ultimately defeated by a one-person internal security error (facilitated by letting Bond live and not restricting him from interacting with Goldfinger’s staff in any substantial way) shows how shaky the whole plan was from the start. Heck, it almost makes one wonder exactly what Goldfinger would have done with the power he’d have gotten if it all worked!
“Now that I am the greatest financial power in the world, you will do as I say! You will remove the government regulations on financial institutions and investments, you will permit money itself to be used as political speech, and permit the wealthiest individuals within society to mandate policy to increase their personal stores of wealth while negating any requirement that they return any wealth whatsoever to society!”
Well, Ok. I have to admit, even Goldfinger wouldn’t be THAT stupid.