Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Movie review - "Gold" (1974) **1/2

The novels of Wilbur Smith would seem a natural for the movies, with their tough heroes, abundance of sex and action packed plots, but Hollywood hasn't really gone for them in a big way, in part because most of them are set in South Africa, a hot topic in the 60s through to 90s. Michael Klinger made two starring Roger Moore in the mid 70s, this and Shout at the Devil.

This one is a contemporary tale but avoids tackling politics directly - it's a thriller about mischievious business people who want to raise the price of gold by flooding a mine. The person out to stop them is heroic engineer Roger Moore.

There are two main dramatic problems with the film. Firstly, Moore has an affair with Susannah York, who is married to Bradford Dillman and is the daughter of Ray Milland. I think it's meant to be alright because Dillman is evil, but if he's so bad then why does York hang around? I don't much like her, and I don't much like Moore for having a fling with her. Fall in love, fine - but do it out in the open, not like little cowards.

Secondly, Moore is ignorant of the plot to flood the mine until it actually happens - about 100 minutes into the film. That means he spends a lot of time walking around looking handsome, speaking in that cultured voice, but he doesn't get to do that much heroic: he worries about a job, has sex with a floozy, has a fling with York - while the baddies (Dillman, etc) push the action. Passive heroes are never a good idea in action films.

Another problem is the casting of Moore - he does his best but isn't that convincing as a tough mine engineer; too posh, too cultured. The film needed a Connery or Caine or Harris or Richard Burton (who I'm sure were approached but were too expensive).

There is some indirect politics in a way with its picture of whites lazying by the pool and playing bowls while the blacks (who are generally all sympathetic characters) toil and suffer.

There is some decent location work in South Africa. Mines actually aren't that interesting but at least this one looks authentic. There is a de rigeur wildlife trip complete with ostriches and faithful black servant. The action of the final mine flood is very good (with an interestingly shot assassination of Dillman thrown in - being driven at by a car) but there's too little of it. Some camp value lies in the theme son and the fashion.

No comments: