Gold [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (14th October 2018).
The Film

A cave-in at the Johannesburg's Sonderditch Mining Company turn that kills a handful of men raises the question of why general manager Lemmler (Kill or Be Killed's Norman Coombes), who is among the dead, ordered the unauthorized drilling so close to an underground lake capable of flooding the entire mine, and what he was doing there in the first place. While black miner "Big King" (Zulu Dawn's Simon Sabela) gets a commendation, solid gold monogramed miner's hat, and a boost in his pension for the lives he saved, company executive Dr. Manfred Steyner (The Swarm's Bradford Dillman) travels to New York to address a cabal of investors led by Farrell (Arthur's John Gielgud) about the plan to shake up the gold market by reducing the production of gold by thirty-percent with the destruction of the Sonderditch Mining Company by way of an engineered accident. With Lemmler dead, Steyner needs a new general manager who should prove more agreeable than president H.H. Hirschfield's (The Uninvited's Ray Milland) choice of senior company man Plummer (Marat/Sade's John Hussey). Steyner targets underground manager Rod Slater (The Wild Geese's Roger Moore) whose professional record is exemplary but whose messy personal life includes palimony, a paternity suit, gambling, and expensive tastes. Steyner is not above using his wife Terry (Images' Susannah York), granddaughter of Hirschfield, as an "enticement" when he notices the attraction between her and Slater. Said attraction is presumably what also leads to Hirschfield's change of mind and agreement to promote Slater when Terry tells him that he reminds her of her late father (whose death has led to Hirschfield staying on at the company despite declining health). Slater is aware of the underground lake and the danger it poses, but Steyner falsifies expert reports to suggest that beneath that lake is an untapped reserve of gold and tasks him with assembling a small team to blast their way through to it. The project is to remain top secret as a "Christmas present" to the investors. Slater assigns two teams to work day and night, lead respectively by racist Kowalski (On Her Majesty's Secret Service's Bernard Horsfall) and laid back Tex (Slaughter High's Marc Smith). While treacherous Kowalski keeps an eye on the drilling and disables Slater's security measures in case they tap the dike, Steyner's partner Marais (When a Stranger Calls' Tony Beckley) disposes of any investors who jump the gun in liquidating their stock, and Steyner orders Tex behind Slater's back to blow through the last barrier to the supposed gold while Slater is out of radio contact with Terry.

Producer Michael Klinger's follow-up to his hit Get Carter was an adaptation of the Wilbur Smith standalone property "Gold Mine" which pinned its success on being Bond series adjacent with Moore in between The Man with the Golden Gun and Live and Let Die with innovative series editor Peter Hunt at the helm in his second directorial effort after the odd man out Bond entry On Her Majesty's Secret Service. At just over two hours, the film has enough breadth to show the plan being presented and the machinations employed for people and events to fall into place but the script is thankfully stocked with characters who are underestimated by the traitors; that is, except for Moore's protagonist for whom the love story feels quite obligatory, almost in a Bondian sense, with his heroism ultimately relegated to the physical rather than his wits (it is ultimately the character who nobly sacrifices themselves who exposes Steyner). The climax is gripping but the wrap up feels a bit rushed and unsatisfactory with an assassin suddenly turning quite reckless and favoring a bemused "I love you" and a quip about an aversion to gold over just how many of the threatened one thousand workers survived and whether the conspirators did indeed profit from what fallout there was. This time around, Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters) teams up with Bond series lyricist Don Black (Thunderball) on the Jimmy Helms-voiced theme song underscoring the Maurice Binder (You Only Live Twice) title sequence (one of his less-inspired works), but it was Maureen McGovern's "Wherever Love Takes Me" that was nominated for an Academy Award. Other Bond series regulars include casting director Irene Lamb (Brazil), editor and future series director John Glen (Moonraker) - who also directed second unit - and production designer Syd Cain (Goldeneye). Klinger would exploit another Smith property later with Shout at the Devil.

Video

Released theatrically in the United States by Allied Artists and the U.K. by Hemdale, Gold was not been available legitimately on VHS or DVD due to Allied Artists' bankruptcy and had a CBS/Fox pre-cert release in the United States but was not reclassified uncut until 2001. While a panned-and-scanned VHS-sourced transfer popped up on a handful of public domain DVD sets from the likes of Echo Bridge, BCI, and Mill Creek in the United States, anamorphic widescreen versions showed up in Germany and Scandinavia, followed by UK DVD from Showbox. Pinewood's high definition restoration was first released on Blu-ray in the UK by Odeon, and rights owners Euro London have licensed the same master this year to SchröderMedia HandelsgmbH in Germany and Kino Lorber in the United States. Kino Lorber's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray looks quite good for the most part when one takes into account just how rough less-equipped South American productions of the period look, and some textural differences between the location work, the studio work, and second unit. Shadows are inconsistent with some deep blacks and some slightly grayer ones while the seventies color palette is occasionally spiked by some shocking reds (a floating corpse will elicit the same reaction in the audience as one of the onscreen characters).

Audio

The sole audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track – despite the film's pedigree, exhibition venues were probably too limited for the 70mm blow-up, six-track affair that other "disaster" movies might have pushed for – is also generally fine but inconsistent. Dialogue is clear but the theme song has a few rough bits on the high end and the various detonated blasts in the mines do not have quite the same umph as a bomb concealed inside a Christmas present. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Extras

While the UK disc had a vintage featurette on Moore, Kino Lorber has produced a new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson who emphasize that Gold actually has more in common with the disaster movie genre than a Bondian action film in spite of the gripping poster artwork. They note the 1971 source novel and that the screenplay had been making the rounds for a couple years, Klinger's producing career, and the various Bond connections while also drawing from Moore's two autobiographies in which he touches upon the film, as well as some amusing anecdotes about Gielgud and some raunchier ones about Milland. The theatrical trailer (3:55) is also included along with other trailers. The cover is reversible.

Overall

 


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