For years, finding a copy of Gold in its original unaltered form was about as rare as the eponymous mineral itself. Thankfully for a wide array of vintage offbeat film enthusiasts, Peter Hunt's unsung mashup has been refined for a new High-Definition release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. And boy, oh boy, what a strange little "dig" this one makes for!
Set (and mostly filmed) in South Africa during its infamous apartheid regime, Gold stars the late great Sir Roger Moore (who had only inherited the role of James Bond from Sean Connery the year before) as the very manly named Rod Slater, who serves as a foreman for the Sonderditch mine in Johannesburg. Following a fatal mining cave-in at the beginning of the two-hour-plus film, Slater is unwittingly tapped to become the new General Manager of the risky operation by his supervisor, Steyner (as brought to effeminately ineffective life by '70s TV/B-movie actor extraordinaire Bradford Dillman).
Alas, what Slater doesn't know is that his newly-appointed position has slated him to be the fall guy in a diabolical international conspiracy to inflate the price of the precious ore for the benefit of the world's ultra-rich elite, as presided over by none other than John Gielgud in what amounts to little more than an extended, glorified cameo! And while that part of the plot may seem perfectly normal today (especially to Americans), it's just one tiny nugget of strangeness to be found in this (entirely) British production from James Bond editor/director Peter Hunt (On Her Majesty's Secret Service).
There are also several shockingly violent moments for a film that received a PG rating in the U.S., where it was only shown as the second half of a double-billing. Among these jaw-droppers are a man having his orbs gouged out by gushing water, an entire family being blown to smithereens, a man being chased down by a car over an unforgiving field of gravel shards, hands and legs being crushed in mining accidents, and ‒ most horrifically of all ‒ the sight of Ray Milland casually playing lawn bowls. Naturally, there's also a bit of nudity and sex between Moore and co-star Susannah York tossed into the fray in order to cash-in on the former's recent 007 status.
Also appearing in this bizarre adaptation of Wilbur Smith's Gold Mine are the likes of English camp villain maestro Tony Beckley (Get Carter, When a Stranger Calls), South African actor/director Simon Sabela (Zulu Dawn) as one of the few characters you actually feel something for, character actors Bernard Horsfall, John Hussey, Marc Smith, and uncredited bits from Pink Panther regular André Maranne and A Clockwork Orange co-star Carl Duering. There's even a tiny part by a very young Patsy Kensit (which results in lots of other tiny bits once you realize which scene she's in).
A great portion of cast and crew alike worked on several James Bond movies, including future The Living Daylights director John Glen and legendary Goldfinger title designer Maurice Bender. Between these connections and Elmer Bernstein's grandiose job of mimicking the average John Barry 007 score, Gold boasts a strangely familiar feeling throughout, even if the movie itself is nothing like what it sounds or looks like. Ultimately, however, not even the film itself fully knows just what the heck it's supposed to be, resulting in a long-winded and ambivalent excursion as easy to get lost in as an abandoned mineshaft.
Fortunately, Kino Lorber has included an informative audio commentary with Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, both of whom have been huge fans of the film since being traumatized by it in cinemas as children. Replete with hilarious anecdotes and quotes culled from Sir Roger Moore's memoirs as well as their own observations and references, this commentary is well worth its weight in Gold, and comes highly recommended unto itself. A/V-wise, Kino Lorber's Blu-ray sports a stellar 2.35:1 MPEG AVC-4 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 sound. English (SDH) subtitles are included, as are trailers for the feature film and other Kino Lorber Studio Classics titles.