Saturday 15 January 2022

Movie Review: Gold (1974)

A thriller set in the high-stakes mining industry, Gold is ambitious but uneven. 

The setting is South Africa, where an explosion at the Sonderditch gold mine results in multiple fatalities despite the best rescue efforts of underground manager Rod Slater (Roger Moore). The explosion was caused during an unsanctioned dig towards an underground dike ordered by the mine's director Manfred Steyner (Bradford Dillman), who is married to Terry (Susannah York), the granddaughter of the mine's owner Hurry Hirschfeld (Ray Milland).

Manfred is part of an evil international syndicate led by London-based gold investor Farrell (John Gielgud). By breaching the dike and flooding Sonderditch and adjacent mines, the syndicate aims to profit on the markets. The unsuspecting Slater is promoted to general manager, and also starts an affair with Terry. Manfred orders Slater and his crews to dig towards the dike, and potential disaster. 

With Roger Moore enjoying international fame after his first 007 outing, producer Michael Klinger assembles a Bond-like crew featuring director Peter Hunt, editor John Glen, production designer Syd Cain, and titles designer Maurice Binder. Gold is a not-bad adaptation of a Wilbur Smith book, the Stanley Price script not lacking in scope, characters, locations, and effort.

The film starts and ends strongly. The opening is literally a bang, the dangerous world of mining introduced through an explosion and breathless rescue operation. The climax is a similarly thrilling race to avert a complete catastrophe. In between, the narrative chugs along but the pace slows as the conspiracy unfolds and plenty of screen time is occupied by a rather tepid romance between Slater and Terry.

Mostly filmed in apartheid-era South Africa, Gold features plenty of travelogue material and sometimes cringey attempts to avoid the obvious. Only one character is overtly racist, and Black culture is represented through tribal dances and soccer matches. Black miner King (Simon Sabela) has a prominent and heroic role, but it's a whites-only affair at the cocktail parties and serious meetings.

John Gielgud's ruthless market manipulator and Bradford Dillman's slimy germophobe combine for a potent duo of antagonists lined up against Moore's unbuttoned-shirt heroics. The production values are adequate, and the film enjoys a reasonable layer of gloss. Gold may not bedazzle, but neither is it dull.

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