Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Object #10 - Goldfinger's Fort Knox model - Goldfinger (1964)

Dir. Guy Hamilton

There's a scene in the first Austin Powers (1997) where the villains discuss their expanding business, and Number Two (Evan Farmer) states that on top of all their new oil refineries and communication towers, they have "a factory in Chicago that makes miniature models of factories". It's hilarious, as is most of Austin Powers, and it brilliantly rips on the over-indulgence of Bond villains such as Mr.Goldfinger here. 

007 (Sean Connery), captured by Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in his personal U.S farm, manages to escape his cell and over-hear Goldfinger's nefarious plan for a massive raid of Fort Knox, the gold depository of the U.S. The beauty of the scene in Goldfinger's rumpus room is in design. Both the design of the room, and the design of the scene. The purpose of the scene is for Goldfinger to outline his plan to a bunch of gangsters, in exchange for their monetary support and assets needed for the raid itself, with a promise that they "could have the million today, or ten millions tomorrow". 

There are already plot holes appearing here. Why would Goldfinger plan this entire operation without having the money and assets to carry it out? We know he's rich. The scene plays out, with his outline of the plan balked at by some of the gangsters. 007 overhears the entire plan underneath the model of Fort Knox, literally. He is then recaptured. We the audience now fully understand Goldfinger's plan, as does 007 himself. This is the main purpose of the scene.

The rumpus room, already transformed into a war room, as can be seen here, is then transformed into a gas chamber. The gangsters are killed in this air-tight gas-chamber. Why? No real reason, their usefulness to the plot is complete, why else have them stick around? In-universe the justification is that Goldfinger humoured them with his plan, and then, by killing them, now has access to the materials they've brought. Now hold on just a second, what kind of mobsters bring the 'money' to a proposal, that's jumping the gun just a bit surely? Would a bunch of rival mobsters really all meet in the same room, shouldn't they hate each other? How does Goldfinger get away with murdering them and stealing the assets, don't they have bodyguards? 

Forgetting all that for a moment, why the hell does Goldfinger go to all the trouble of creating a pretty damn detailed model of Fort Knox, to use it once, knowing full well he'll kill the gangsters at the end of the proposal? It tells us that Goldfinger is a man of extravagance, as if we didn't know that already! Perhaps if he didn't spend so much money on miniature models he'd have some left over for the materials needed to complete his monumental raid, one that he's been planning his entire life! There are plot-holes a-plenty here but do we care, do we really? We have Ken Adam, production designer, firing on all cylinders here to make a scene that could have been full of this:

to a scene that's full of this:

Adam himself stated that briefing scenes such as in the picture above, with flat aerial photographs on wall, are dull. What if instead, we can see the target, physically? And so this scene was designed the way it is. It raises the question of why Goldfinger would build a bloody model, and more-so, build a room purposefully designed just to show it off. The billiard table turns into a control hub for goodness' sake!

How much do you think a custom room like this costs? In fact, the more time I spend thinking about this the more I think Goldfinger is so full of ego that he built this room for this exact purpose, custom models, control hubs, and moving floors and all. And let's not forget the fact that the entire room doubles as a gas chamber! Seriously this guy needs something to keep his mind occupied, he clearly has nothing better to do. How about planning a raid - oh wait.  

This whole train of thought has occurred only due to the production design of Ken Adam, with a script accommodating his changes. It's great, it's so great that a miniature model and an over-designed room can imply so much about the head-space of a person. The scene, as we know, is only here to enlighten 007, who oh so conveniently escapes at the right time to overhear Goldfinger's ENTIRE OPERATION, as well as us the audience as to Goldfinger's plan. Adam even makes it easier for us by making a model! It goes to show that details like this were only ever found in the Bond films, which from this point on continued this extravagance in set-design. It rightfully got the piss taken out of it in Austin Powers but isn't it just gorgeous to look at? Isn't it such an absurd idea? And yet...I like it, in fact, I love it. It's design for design's sake, and that's something that's rarely explored in film. Hats off, and not the Oddjob variety, to Ken Adam! 

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