Gold (1974)
R2 - Scandinavia - Another World Entertainment/Studio S Entertainment/Future Film
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (15th February 2008).
The Film

For a long time, South Africa has been the largest producer of gold in the whole world, only challenged by China in recent years. Platinum has also been one of the country´s major resources. Sadly, these rich mineral sources in the African continent have often caused more problems and conflicts than they have in improving the life of the common people. Poor and ignorant people have been exploited and the serious money has usually floated to the fat pockets of the rich corporations. Recently, the acclaimed “Blood Diamond (2006)” showed the dark side of the diamond business in Sierra Leone and there´s also a British film “Gold (1974)”. While the latter is less serious and informative, it´s still quite an interesting look at the gold mining in the 1970s and visually a real treat.

In Johannesburg, there´s a serious accident in the Sonderditch mine. In one of its sections, the whole roof caves in and there are several casualties. Among them is the experienced General Manager of the mining company. Underground manager Rod Slater (Sir Roger Moore) storms onto the scene and with the help of his trusted chief miner John “Big King” Nkulu (Simon Sabela) does what he can, but it´s already too late. They lose 12 men and the reason is the “same as always”; digging for gold. Slater has earned the respect among the black workers with his fair attitude, but that´s not the case with Managing Director Manfred Steyner (Bradford Dillman - e.g. “Piranha (1978)”). Steyner is the typical “company suit”, caring only for the stock markets and profits. Even his wife Terry (Susannah York - e.g. Oscar-nomination for “They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)”) is merely a tool for Steyner, since Terry´s grandfather Hurry “HH” Hirschfeld (Ray Milland - e,g, “Best Actor in a Leading Role” Oscar for “The Lost Weekend (1945)”) is the head boss of the whole company. This gives some additional power to Steyner, who now recruits Slater for the new GM. There´s a catch of course, since Steyner receives some very unofficial orders from London, where “The Syndicate” of shady shareholders - run by Farrell (Sir John Gielgud - e.g. “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” Oscar for “Arthur (1981)”) is planning to gain some serious profits with the help of Steyner and the gold mine. To make things even more complicated, Terry is about to fall for Slater…

“Gold” is a well-crafted and entertaining film, with the positive taste of the 1970s filmmaking. The film is like a “who´s who” of James Bond-fans, since alongside the lead star Roger Moore, there´s a director Peter R. Hunt (e.g. “On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)” ) and editor/second unit director John Glen (who directed 5 Bond-films later on). That being said, the mine sequences are very effective and quite realistic. The claustrophobic feel of the dark, underground mine is well achieved and the sequences are tightly edited. There´s also “action” in a positive sense of the word. Actors are mostly in good form, perhaps with the exception of John Gielgud, who gives a very stereotyped - even forgettable, performance (surprisingly so). Moore plays the usual, charismatic and handsome ladies man (it takes roughly 30 minutes before his character has a woman in bed and champagne at the bedside) and that he does always well. Moore is just Moore, and that´s why we like him. The actor did “Gold” in-between his first Bond-films (“Live and Let Die (1973)” and “The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)”).

The romance-aspect of the story is still the weakest link of the film and feels a bit like unnecessary in places. Like the mining-sequences, the love scenes are also “big”, but not always in a good way. Some of the scenes are just too long and are like they have been taken from a cheap novel (not that the original novel from co-writer Wilbur Smith is necessarily to blame, I haven´t read it). They just slow the film down. The last part of the film is also a bit unrealistic, involving most of the clichés from the action-adventure films (hero, his woman, the bad guy and the time that´s running out). This still doesn´t spoil any of the entertainment-values. I personally would´ve hoped for a bit more “message” in the story and more dramatic touches, but generally “Gold” is a film that simply “works”. It´s one of those films that you´re guaranteed to watch through if you catch it from the late night TV.

An interesting (and less admirable) tidbit is that the film was partly shot in the location of South Africa during a time when the country was under infamous apartheid. There were protests among the film community toward films that were shot in the country at that time (“Gold” wasn´t the only one). Composer Elmer Bernstein has made some catchy music for the film, including the superb “main title” song (sung by Jimmy Helms) and of course the Oscar-nominated “Wherever Love Takes Me” (sung by Maureen McGovern).

Video

Danish based “Another World Entertainment” has released the film in Anamorphic 2.35:1, which alone is very good news (there are several cheap “pan & scan”-releases available, particularly in the U.S.). Colours are vivid and the black levels quite deep. A minor problem is that the blacks are actually a bit “too deep”, since there´s a loss of details in the dark scenes and minor murkiness even. Skin tones also looked somewhat reddish and not fully natural, but I guess the film is located in sunny Africa after all. The transfer is quite clear, but some film artifacts occurred from time to time. There are some line shimmering and the whole image can be a bit “jerky” in places, so there´s some room for improvements. Still, quite a decent job.

IMDb lists some info about the two different opening credits sequences (a very memorable one, I might add) and for the record, the DVD includes the “correct one” (where the shot of a woman's hand is replaced by a slow zoom away from jewellery). Actors are also billed separately. “Dual Layer” disc is coded for “R2” and the film runs 119:03 minutes (PAL). It has 19 chapters.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (back cover falsely says “stereo”) is the only audio track and optional Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles are included. There´s minor hiss on the background, but the track is clear and quite pleasant. No major complaints, since what we have is a quite ordinary Mono-track.

Extras

Production notes (in English) consists of 4 pages and the cast & crew biographies and (selected) filmographies (in English) include the following sections: actors Roger Moore, Susannah York, Ray Milland, Bradford Dillman and John Gielgud, director Peter R. Hunt, co-writer/author Wilbur Smith and also the section called “The 007 Crew”, which introduces several people from the crew with some connection to the Bond-franchise.

The disc includes also the following bonus trailers: “Salon Kitty AKA Madam Kitty (1976)” (US, 3:55 min), “Obsession (1976)” (US, 1:29 min), “Miracle in Milan AKA Miracolo a Milano (1951)” (Italian, 4:53 min), “The Buddy Holly Story (1978)” (US, 2:38 min), “Re-Animator (1985)” (US, 1:57 min), and “Inglorious Bastards AKA Quel maledetto treno blindato (1977)” (US, 3:43 min).

Overall

Partly forgotten Roger Moore & Peter R. Hunt-collaboration gets a decent 2.35:1-transfer in Scandinavia and it comes recommended. Until (if?) the proper “Special Edition” arrives at some point, this is the best way to see the film. The film itself offers plenty of visual eye-candy and good fun, so the fans of the 1970s cinema take note.

This Scandinavian-release is distributed via “Another World Entertainment” in Denmark and Norway, “Studio S Entertainment” in Sweden, and “Future Film” in Finland.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Another World Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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