One of my priorities upon my recent move to Atlanta has been to immerse myself in the classic film fan-friendly culture ’round these parts. There’s an abundance of things for the devoted classic fan to do about town–including, first and foremost, a frequent number of movie screenings at several fabulous venues.
On Sunday afternoon, I was able to take advantage of one such screening when I met up with Jill Blake, that classy dame behind the must-read blog Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence, for a big-screen showing of Goldfinger (1964) at the Plaza Theatre. After brunch at Atlanta staple Majestic Diner, we headed over to spend a couple of hours with everyone’s favorite suave spy.
The Plaza Theatre touts itself as “Atlanta’s oldest operating theater,” having opened in 1939. It was recently purchased by a new owner and remodeled, but the large downstairs theater (where Bond is being screened), complete with gold velvet curtains bracketing the screen, still screams “classic” and has a comfortable and inviting feel. This month, the Plaza is hosting a unique event called “50 Years of Bond”–it is the first theater in the country to screen all twenty-four James Bond films, in order by release date, during the course of a single month. A new film is screened every night, with popular titles repeating during weekend matinees, and the month will end with a series of encores.
I’ve seen Goldfinger once before on the big screen in 2009, thanks to Robert Osborne’s sadly now-defunct annual classic film festival. It’s a film that never disappoints, from Sean Connery’s first emergence onscreen (complete with stuffed duck on his head), through Shirley Bassey’s sultry, growly theme song, to the adventures beyond. Goldfinger combines every element that made these films so appealing (before the endless merry-go-round of casting changes, updates, and reboots, that is): cheeky humor, barely-believable intrigue, over-the-top villains, gadgets and gizmos a-plenty (obligatory True Classics Disney reference, holla!) … oh, and sex.
Yes, sex, sex, and more sex. I am tempted to start referring to this film as “James Bond and His Magical Dick,” because really, the sex is the only thing he seems to do right in the movie. He’s not very proactive once the action gets underway–he screws the ladies (causing two of them to die), gets caught, leverages a bit of overheard information into a reprieve from death by laser, and then spends most of the film a prisoner, unable to really do anything but watch and listen as Goldfinger’s (Gert Frobe) plot gets underway. And in the end, it’s Bond’s mystical penis powers that save the day, because in a scene that quickly goes from playful to uncomfortably skirting the line between seduction and rape, Bond is able to transform the heavily-coded lesbian Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) into a quivering kitty who immediately turns on her boss. (The character is blatantly lesbian in Ian Fleming’s source novel, but of course, that could hardly be depicted outright onscreen. Frankly, I’m surprised the censors allowed them to call her “Pussy” at all. And let us all praise the heavens that they did, because otherwise we would have missed Connery’s unforgettable pronunciation of her name, of which I must admit Jill does an excellent imitation.)
Goldfinger looks great on the screen at the Plaza–and ye gods, does the surround sound work (I literally jumped out of my seat when the MGM lion roared, it was so loud). I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope to return for a couple of encores later this month. If you’re in the Atlanta area at all in July, make sure to head to the Plaza and catch one (or more) of these screenings! Trust me when I say it’s well worth your time.
50 Years of Bond runs now through July 25th. General admission is $10/ticket per screening.