Tuesday, 28 August 2018

GOLD

CONTAINS SPOILERS AND ROGERING

I love Gold. Not the Matthew McConaughey one, which I haven't seen yet but possibly might get round to at some point if there's not much else going on that day (it's really not high on my priority list), but the Roger Moore one from back in the 70s. I'll absolutely accept that it's not the greatest film ever made, it's probably not in anyone's Top Hundred... but for all the things wrong with it it will always be a film I have an entirely unreasonable soft spot for.

Well, maybe not entirely unreasonable. Having spent some childhood years in Malawi in the 1970s, and having enjoyed brief stops in coastal South Africa itself, I suppose such fondness is perfectly logical and only to be expected. At the time Gold played (censored) in Malawi cinemas I wasn't allowed to see it as I was only ten years old, and the film was obviously compromised on its later British VHS video release (the cut UK cinema version, cropped to 4:3 and atrociously pan-and-scanned) and screenings on ITV, where it was also cut. So it wasn't until recently, when an uncut widescreen DVD turned up (given away free on the front of the Daily Mail, of all things), that Gold could be properly appreciated.

There's a lot to enjoy, certainly: the magnificent Sir Roger Moore at his "how much more Roger Moore could he be?" peak, the gorgeous South African locations (including a flight through Oribi Gorge which always brings back memories of having been there and having stood on the Overhanging Rock), excellent villainy from the great Bradford Dillman, a rousing score by Elmer Bernstein that for me at least easily surpasses his more popular soundtracks such as The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape and is probably my favourite of his scores, the architecture of 1970s downtown Jo'burg, and love scenes between Rog and Susannah York that are slightly raunchier than those from his Bond films (and as much the reason for the 12 certificate as the slightly more grisly level of violence). There are Bond connections to enjoy beyond Moore: credits by Maurice Binder, three sets of song lyrics from Don Black, direction by Peter Hunt, 2nd Unit and editing from John Glen.

Okay, you can perhaps set against all that the controversy surrounding the film's production, openly shot in apartheid South Africa against the accepted standards of the time, but frankly it's too long ago to stay angry about it. It's mostly about the white guys but apart from just one full-on bellowing racist maniac character the colour issue is pretty much ignored (though it's odd to note that the one signifncantly featured black character gets a special annual pension for heroism that's less than Moore's character's monthly paternity bill). There's also some nastiness to the plotting, in which John Gielgud's international syndicate of bastards engineers a mine disaster to boost their shares in rival gold suppliers, and he casually arranges a parcel-bomb for a family Christmas breakfast because one of the members had offloaded his shares early (thus blowing up an uncredited Patsy Kensit) which leaves a sour taste, and beyond his scheme failing he doesn't get his comeuppance. Yes, but you know what? I don't care. There's so much good stuff I like about it, even if a lot of it is down to the location and period and personal nostalgia, that I can put up with the dodgy bits. Moore was always worth watching even in rubbish films, and for me Gold is one of his better ones.

****

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