[Originally published in Movietone News 37, November 1974]
Gold joins On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in support of the thesis that Peter Hunt is going to make one hell of a fine picture some day. The property itself is distinguished only in its preposterous anachronism and the fact that some bestseller by Arthur Hailey or Irving Wallace hasn’t provided the impetus for bringing it to the screen in this day and age. There’s this crusty, cigar-puffing old mineowner in South Africa (Ray Milland) whose grandson-in-law, a Doctor of Economics (Bradford Dillman), is getting set to knife him in the back by creating a natural disaster that will put his and all the neighboring gold mines out of business, thereby trebling the value of the world’s remaining goldfields. In this Dillman is the agent of an international financial syndicate (headed by Sir John Gielgud) who don’t mind drowning a thousand mineworkers, or even blowing up each other, if it will have a favorable effect on the stock exchange. The general manager who’s been in on the plan gets himself killed in an accident, fercrineoutloud, and so Dillman decides he must (1) promote the greatest threat to his endeavor, the supervisor of Underground Operations (Roger Moore), to the general managership and (2) divert said greatest threat’s attention during the key phase of the plan by throwing his own scrumptious wife (Susannah York) at him.
Fantastic! Multi-multi-million-dollar chicanery, adultery, terrific South African locations, towering (albeit inferno-less) skyscrapers and mine shafts that drop halfway to Hades, true love and sexual fulfillment, a black giant nicknamed Big King (Simon Sabela) beloved of his fellow workers and the management alike, and a spiffy cataclysm to wind things up … That almost all of this comes off enjoyably, and a healthy share of it excitingly, is entirely to the director’s credit. Hunt deploys the narrative elements with the sweeping self-assurance of a field marshal, cutting with breathless efficiency from a sunlit seduction to the simultaneous sunset arrival of a jet plane a third of the way around the globe, mingling the various characters’ trajectories with an editorial finesse that both elucidates and validates the film’s sexual transactions far beyond the requirements of the script. Not that Hunt, who trained as second-unit director and film editor on the early Bond films, possesses only technical expertise: the relationship between Moore—Roger MOORE!—and York, by turns casual, hesitant, playful, tender, ribald and pensive, confirms that the power of the Bond-Tracy liaison in O.H.M.S.S. grew out of something besides the casting of Diana Rigg and the novelty of letting 007 actually fall in love; York is equally marvelous in implying, in her frank, affectionate byplay with grandfather Milland, reasons why husband Dillman should particularly and personally interested in settling Milland’s hash; and very adroit mise-en-scène creates tensions among Moore, York, Dillman, and Dillman’s male secretary (Tony Beckley) that the screenwriters may not even have planned for. All in all, Gold is a particularly auspicious event at this moment in film history when there’ve been precious few examples of really good filmmaking in that special territory, the big dumb movie. And the genuineness of the principal love affair is valuable enough to lift the movie out of that category altogether.
Direction: Peter Hunt. Screenplay: Wilbur Smith and Stanley Price, after the novel Gold Mine by Wilbur Smith. Cinematography: Ousama Rawi. Second Unit Direction and Editing: John Glen. Music: Elmer Bernstein. Production: Michael Klinger.
The Players: Roger Moore, Susannah York, Bradford Dillman, Ray Milland, Tony Beckley, Simon Sabela, John Gielgud.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard T. Jameson