Monday 6 September 2010

Movie Review: Penny Gold (1973)

A British detective drama with a most awkward romance, Penny Gold manages to be clunky and clumsy in equal measures.

In a plot that gets progressively worse the closer it is examined, free-spirited model Diane (Francesca Annis) is bludgeoned to death. The investigation by detective Matthews (James Booth) leads him to Diane's twin sister Delphi (Annis again), a stamp collector seeking a most rare penny stamp. Matthews gets himself romantically entangled with Delphi and wades into the peculiar stamp collecting world to uncover the motive for the killing and the identity of the murderer.

James Booth and Francesca Annis both hovered on the extreme fringes of movie stardom, without ever stepping into the limelight. Booth stumbles through Penny Gold as a stiff and unconvincing detective, jumping to major conclusions on the flimsiest of evidence, while quickly and unprofessionally drooling over Delphi. Annis gets to play two roles, and displays little emotion or range as either Delphi or Diane. The supporting actors read their lines off the nearest wall with solemn seriousness.

Jack Cardiff is much better known as a cinematographer, and his unimaginative work as a director here is a long way away from his contributions to classics such as The African Queen (1951).

Penny Gold captures some atmosphere from England of the early 1970's, but is otherwise only enjoyable for the general sense of low-budget incompetence.

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