Gold (1974 film)
Gold is a 1974 thriller film starring Roger Moore and Susannah York and directed by Peter R. Hunt. It was based on the 1970 novel Gold Mine by Wilbur Smith. Moore plays Rodney "Rod" Slater, General Manager of a South African gold mine, who is instructed by his boss Steyner (Bradford Dillman) to break through an underground dike into what he is told is a rich seam of gold. Meanwhile, he falls in love with Steyner's wife Terry, played by York. In the United States, the film was only released as part of a double bill.
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
|Directed by||Peter R. Hunt|
|Produced by||Michael Klinger|
by Wilbur Smith
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Distributed by||Allied Artists (USA)|
|5 September 1974|
|Country||United Kingdom / Republic of South Africa|
|Budget||GB£1,000,000 or $2 million|
|Box office||£454,538 (UK by 1975)|
The film begins with a tunnel collapse at the world-famous (but fictitious) Sonderditch gold mine outside Johannesburg, in a scene that establishes the courage of Slater and his chief miner, 'Big King', and the bond of trust between them. This is contrasted with the contempt with which some other white racist managers treat the black miners. It is soon revealed that the collapse was no accident, but part of a plan by a London-based criminal syndicate, which includes the previous general manager who is killed in the abortive first attempt and the mine-owner's son-in-law and director manager Manfred Steyner, to destroy the mine so that the foreign syndicate members can profit from share-dealing and raising the price of gold on world markets. This will be done by drilling through a deep underground greenstone wall or 'dyke' which is all that prevents an adjacent reservoir of water from flooding the mine.
The mine's General Manager, an accomplice in the plot, was killed in the tunnel collapse. Steyner then interviews Slater, who at this stage is Underground Manager, for the now vacant post of General Manager, although the mine owner / chairman of the board Harry Hirschfeld (Ray Milland) has the next regular man in seniority in mind as another candidate. At this point during his initial interview, Slater first meets Steyner's wife Terry at their luxurious mansion home and is attracted to her, but she does not at first return his interest. However, Steyner arranges for them to meet again, in the hope that Terry will influence her grandfather an old curmudgeon, whom she lovingly calls "Poppsie", the mine owner/ board chairman, in Slater's favour. The plan works, with two consequences: Slater becomes General Manager, and he and Terry start a love affair. Slater, unaware of the criminal plan, agrees to carry out the drilling but is cautious enough to plant a safety charge that will block the tunnel in case of a water leak. Steyner soon finds out that Slater is having an affair with his wife, but allows it to continue because it will keep Slater away from the mine, so that the safety charge can be disabled without his knowledge.
While Slater and Terry are holidaying together over a warm Christmas, the final breach is made in the underground dyke and a wall of an ocean of water roars into the interconnected mazes of tunnels and shafts and the mine begins to flood, trapping a thousand workers. Slater hears of the disaster on the radio news, and flies with Terry in her small private plane back to the mine making a hair-raising emergency landing on the mine access road. There is a tense scene in which Slater and Big King descend the mine, amidst rising flood waters, to repair and reconnect the electrical line to the explosive safety charge that will seal the 'dyke' hole. They succeed, but only because Big King sacrifices his own life to detonate the charge, letting Slater fall injured into a rubber boat in the flooded tunnel and escape. Meanwhile, Steyner is murdered by Marais, one of his accomplices, running him down with his Rolls-Royce limousine while they are observing the mine rescue operations from a nearby towering rubble slag debris hill after they hear on the radio station news reports of Slater's set explosive charge sealing the dyke hole and saving the mine, that their plan has unravelled. Marais then also goes over the steep hill's edge after hitting his boss, tumbling down, crashing as the car explodes, killing himself. This conveniently leaves Terry free to continue her relationship with Slater, as grandfather Chairman Hirschfeld tells him again as he is loaded into an ambulance - "Slater, you're a maniac"!! with a smile of accepted satisfaction within a wreath of cigar smoke as the film ends.
- Roger Moore ... Rodney "Rod" Slater
- Susannah York ... Terry Steyner
- Ray Milland ... Harry Hirschfeld
- Bradford Dillman ... Manfred Steyner
- John Gielgud ... Farrell - syndicate head
- Tony Beckley ... Stephen Marais
- Simon Sabela ... 'Big King'
- Bernard Horsfall ... Dave Kowalski
- Marc Smith ... Tex Kiernan
- John Hussey ... Plummer
- Bill Brewer ... Aristide
- George Jackson ... Mine Doctor
- Ken Hare ... Jackson
- Ralph Loubser ... Mine Captain
The story was based on a real-life flooding of a gold mine near Johannesburg in 1968. Smith researched the book by working in a gold mine for a few weeks. "I was a sort of privileged member of the team, I could ask questions and not be told to shut up", he says.
The New York Times said "Mr Smith, an adventure writer disdainful of subtleties, blasts his way to a finale strewn with broken bodies and orange blossoms."
Producer Michael Klinger bought the rights to it and Shout at the Devil as his follow up to Get Carter. "Actually they're both just as tough as Carter" said Klinger of the projects. The South African government promised to co operate in filming at the mines.
The film Klinger most wanted to make was Shout at the Devil. However, because it was a period film it needed a large budget. Gold was cheaper because it told a contemporary story and he ended up filming that instead.
Klinger tried to set up the film with MGM, for whom he had made Get Carter. The studio bought out Klinger's option for Gold Mine for £25,000, but insisted that Klinger hire an experienced writer, Stanley Price, to work on the script along with Wilbur Smith. MGM later withdrew from the project - they were pulling out of all production in Britain - and Klinger bought back rights to the novel and script. The budget of over ₤1 million was raised mostly from South African businessmen.
Roger Moore was cast in the lead. It was his first film since making his debut as James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973). He was paid $200,000 plus a percentage of the profits. Producer Michael Klinger used a number of other people associated with James Bond films, including editor John Glen, production designer Syd Cain, titles designer Maurice Binder and director Peter Hunt.
Tony Klinger, assistant to the producer, said he tried to get Steven Spielberg to direct the movie after having been impressed by Duel. However Roger Moore vetoed the choice on the basis of Spielberg's youth. "Roger was, I think, a little insecure about his acting ability, and as a consequence was always protective of his image, like most movie stars that are less actor and more star. I guess that's why we got the message loud and clear that he turned down our first choice for the director for Gold," he said.
The film was controversially filmed in South Africa under the apartheid regime, with scenes shot at two large mines, Buffelfontein and West Rand. "We had to drop down two miles, which was horrendous," said Moore. "It was great to start with, and I got tremendously enthusiastic about the mine, but after ten days down there it got very claustrophobic."
Some scenes were filmed at Pinewood Studios in London.
The British film union, ACTT, put a black ban on the movie because its members were forbidden to work in South Africa. The Union suggested the film be shot in a mine in Wales instead but the filmmakers refused, claiming Wales looked nothing like South Africa. Some members defied the ban.
Bradford Dillman later recalled "Susannah York, a militant liberal, used every publicity opportunity to deplore the conditions of the black miners, despite pleas from the producers to cool it."
The complexity of filming the final flood scenes resulted in the movie going over budget.
The Los Angeles Times said the film "is everything people have in mind when they talk about a movie movie. Its hero is heroic, its heroine is beautiful and kittenishly sexy, its villains are outrageously villainous, its characters crustily colorful. It has scope, scale, surprise. It has more punch than a 15 round fight and more corn than Kansas. It is a travelogue of South Africa and a fascinating audiovisual essay on gold mining."
- Will 'Gold' bite the dust?: HUGH HEBERT on the ACTT's attempts to black a film Hebert, Hugh. The Guardian (1959-2003) 24 Nov 1973: 13.
- British Culture and Society in the 1970s: The Lost Decade edited by Laurel Forster, Sue Harper
- Gold Mine at Wilbur Smith's website
- "GOOD GOD!" Casey, Kevin. The Irish Times 7 Mar 1970: 10.
- "'GOLD'". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 23 October 1974. p. 33. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Gold mine adventure filmed in South Africa: Movie fan's travelguide" Jim; Shirley Rose Higgins. Chicago Tribune 17 Nov 1974: c19.
- "Wilbur Smith interview for Desert God: 'My life is as good as it's ever been'" by Jake Kerridge Daily Telegraph 14 Sep 2014 accessed 27 Dec 2014
- Reader's Report By MARTIN LEVIN. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 25 Oct 1970: BR30
- "Judas as Hero?: Will Judas Be the Hero?" by A. H. WEILER. New York Times 21 Feb 1971: D11
- Andrew Spicer, 'Rethinking Authorship in Film: The Struggle for Creative Control between Michael Klinger (Producer) and Wilbur Smith (Writer)'Smith
- Roy Moseley, Roger Moore: A Biography, 1985 p 211-213
- Chartrand, Harvey. "Bradford Dillman: A Compulsively Watchable Actor". Cinema Retro.
- Harper, Sue (2011). British Film Culture in the 1970s: The Boundaries of Pleasure: The Boundaries of Pleasure. Edinburgh University Press. p. 211.
- News of the Screen: Radnitz Making Schoolboy Story 6 Composers' Lives Subjects of Films Newman to Study Pershing Career 'Gold' Team Sets New Adventure By A. H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Oct 1974: 65.
- Seething Mix in Plot of 'Gold': PLOT OF 'GOLD' Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 8 Nov 1974: