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Ray Milland

Review: Gold

[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.

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Review: Gold

[Originally published in Movietone News 39, February 1975]

Gold is a big potboiler of a movie, filled with action, violence, gore, and adultery. It’s a genre piece, fraught with convention and predictability. It has no characters, only cartoon people whose actions are as unsurprising as their motivations are unlikely. And I enjoyed the hell out of it. The credit is due largely to Peter Hunt who, on the basis of only two films, may already lay claim to being one of the finest action directors around. Hunt had his apprenticeship as editor of several of the James Bond movies, and he has brought a skilled action-editor’s grasp of pace to the director’s chair. During the whole of Gold he gave me one minute out of 115 to sit back, temporarily bored, and say to myself, “This really isn’t very good.” And I’m not one to argue with 99.13 percent success.

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Videophiled: Two by Roger Corman with Ray Milland

PrematureBVincent Price starred in all of Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations but one. Ray Milland took the lead in The Premature Burial (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD), playing Guy Carrell, an aristocrat with crippling fear that he will be buried alive due to a family history of catalepsy. Corman brings the fear home in the opening scene: an exhumation of an ancestor who shows every sign of having awoken in his casket. The obsession overtakes his life until the rather elderly newlywed moves into the family crypt, which he outfits as a Batcave of escape hatches, much to the horror of his neglected bride (Hazel Court), who observes that he has already “buried himself alive” and makes him chose the crypt or life with her.

Like most of Corman’s Poe films, the script (this one by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell) borrows little more than the central idea and the title from Poe. This one owes a debt to Gaslight and Diabolique, and of course leans on the art direction of Daniel Haller (who created a sense of grandeur on a budget) and the widescreen color cinematography of the great Floyd Crosby, who photographed Tabu (1931) and High Noon (1952) and here gives Corman his atmosphere. While Hammer was reviving the classic movies monsters as gothic horrors with lurid edges and color, Corman was creating his own Gothic horror revival with ideas influenced by Freud and Jung. Corman creates his world completely in the studio, including the grounds outside the manor, a veritable haunted forest of dead trees, ever-present mist hugging the boggy ground, and a pair of creepy gravediggers (John Dierkes and Dick Miller) constantly lurking and whistling the folk song “Molly Malone” as a dirge-like threat.

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DVD: ‘Something to Live For’

Ray Milland earned an Oscar playing an alcoholic desperately seeking a drink while facing a very bad night of the DTs in Billy Wilder’s 1945 The Lost Weekend, one of the first Hollywood films to seriously confront alcoholism as a disease. George Stevens’ 1952 Something to Live For is in no way a sequel but The Lost Weekend can’t help but inform Ray Milland’s character Alan Taylor, an advertising copywriter and recovering alcoholic who, at 18 months sober, has volunteered to go on calls for problem drinkers.

Joan Fontaine looking 'disheveled'

Joan Fontaine takes top billing as Jenny Carey, a no-longer-fresh young actress whose career is finally gaining traction, or at least was until she started lubricating her anxieties and emotion wounds in alcohol. She’s almost unrecognizable in her first scenes, sprawled across her hotel bed in slacks and blouse, more Katherine Hepburn modern woman than the usual Fontaine shy beauty or vulnerable sophisticate, and she doesn’t overwork the drunk act. She’s more wary and suspicious of Alan, who was called by the hotel’s worried elevator operator (Harry Bellaver) and proceeds to use the wily tricks of a veteran drunk to steer her clear of another drink (the inevitable echoes of The Lost Weekend reverberate through this scene). It looks like the beginning of a possible romance, until Alan returns home to his wife and children.

“Only a drunk can stop a drunk,” he explains to his supportive wife Edna (Teresa Wright) the next morning, but he came home with more than duty on his mind. Alan and Jenny continue to see one another, meetings that are as ecstatic as they are painful when reminders of his marriage and family responsibilities never fail to intrude on every reunion. Between their mostly chaste trysts, we follow their struggles in their respective worlds of corporate advertising (where Alan loses faith in his talent as a young hotshot takes the prime accounts) and New York theater (where Jenny’s confidence is undercut by the subtly cruel gestures of a jealous ex-lover). Even when they are apart, however, director George Stevens unites them in the many long, slow lap dissolves that connect them through their thoughts.

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