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  Gold Precious Mettle
Year: 1974
Director: Peter Hunt
Stars: Roger Moore, Susannah York, Ray Milland, Bradford Dillman, John Gielgud, Tony Beckley, Simon Sabela, Marc Smith, John Hussey, Bernard Horsfall, Bill Brewer, Norman Coombes, George Jackson, Ken Hare, Ralph Loubser, André Maranne, Patsy Kensit
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Near Johannesburg is a gold mine that is owned by an international company that has big plans for its product, and not legal ones either. Today one of their employees has taken it upon himself to mine where it is inadvisable to do so, leading to a cave in and loss of life. A boss there is Rodney Slater (Roger Moore) who is outraged and baffled at this turn of events, and takes a team of medics and mineworkers down as far as they can go to the scene of the accident to do what they can to help. After dealing with some racial tension, Slater manages to free the employee whose idea this was, but cannot get him to explain himself before he expires...

Wasn't Rodney Slater in the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band? Anyway, this Slater is in the dark about what is really going on for much of this movie, although for us watching a more advantageous position is available in that the bad guys' boardroom, headed by a scheming Sir John Gielgud as the chief executive, is depicted for us all to see. What they have in mind is to drill through one of the tunnels in the gold mine to let in a flood of water from an underground lake, thereby making the place inaccessible for more mining and pushing up the price of the metal to astronomical heights. If this is starting to sound like the plot of a James Bond film, it's not, although there were some Bond connections.

The star being Moore was one of them, as he was new to that role but finding it doing very well for him, and it had certainly raised his profile for big screen work. But there was also the director's chair being occupied by Peter Hunt, the expert Bond editor of the sixties who had graduated to some excellent second unit work on the series and finally the reward of helming his own instalment with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which had been both his directorial debut and the film that he had made before this one. As if that were not enough, the second unit and editing here was taken care of by another Bond director, John Glen, whose opportunities to make his own 007 adventures were in the future.

But in spite of those connections to the famous franchise, Gold didn't ally itself to that, as it was hoped to make its fortune by bringing a popular author to the world's cinemas. He was Wilbur Smith, who wrote the original novel and co-scripted this, and had made a fortune of his own with his internationally successful potboilers for men, although here you could see what might have been a pageturner didn't quite jump up and demand to be noticed on the screen. It was also curious that while Hunt was acclaimed for his action sequences, most of this film took up a lot of space with chitchat, sure, chitchat in exotic locations, but natter all the same, so that you had to wait till the very end before the muscular excitements of that planned flood came to fruition.

Before that, we have to mull over whose side the film was on as it was shot in South Africa at the height of Apartheid; now, plenty of films took advantage of that particular government welcoming them to produce their movies there, and did so way up to the end of the regime, but it's hard to consolidate that with the possibility that the companies making the films or television series were in some way supporting it. Fortunately, in this case the storyline presents by no means a cut and dried approach to the fact that the oppressed black Africans were being sent down mines run by wealthy white Africans, and actor Simon Sabela ends up playing the hero as a companion to Slater in the grand finale. Although however well-intentioned that might have been, his fate still rankles a little. So there is a class, as well as a race issue that is prominent in what is really a run of the mill man's man adventure plot, in that we do spend a lot of time with the filthy rich and it doesn't get exciting till the climax, but for what it was it was adequate, with a few digs at the self-satisfaction of the truly privileged. Music by Elmer Bernstein.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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