GOLD (UK, 1974) ***½
Distributor: Hemdale Film Distribution (UK), Allied Artists Pictures (USA); Production Company: Killarney Film Studios; Release Date: 5 September 1974 (UK), 16 October 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: October 1973; Running Time: 120m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Wilbur Smith, Stanley Price (based on the novel “Gold Mine” by Wilbur Smith); Producer: Michael Klinger; Director of Photography: Ousama Rawi; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: John Glen; Casting Director: Irene Lamb; Production Designer: Syd Cain, Alex Vetchinsky; Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Costumes: Marjory Cornelius; Make-up: Paul Engelen; Sound: John W. Mitchell; Special Effects: Cliff Richardson, Bill Warrington.
Cast: Roger Moore (Rod Slater), Susannah York (Terry Steyner), Ray Milland (Hurry H. ‘Pops’ Hirschfeld), Bradford Dillman (Manfred Steyner), John Gielgud (Farrell), Tony Beckley (Stephen Marais), Simon Sabela (Big King), Marc Smith (Tex Kiernan), John Hussey (Plummer), Bernard Horsfall (Dave Kowalski), Bill Brewer (Aristide), Norman Coombes (Frank Lemmer), George Jackson (Gus, Mine Doctor), Ken Hare (Jackson), Ralph Loubser (Mine Captain), Denis Smith (Radio Commentator), Paddy Norval (Daniele, Girl in Bar), Garth Tuckett (Miner), Albert Raphael (Miner), Lloyd Lilford (Miner), Alan S. Craig (Miner), John Kingley (Miner), Carl Duering (Syndicate Member), Paul Hansard (Syndicate Member), André Maranne (Syndicate Member), Nadim Sawalha (Syndicate Member), Gideon Kolb (Syndicate Member), John Bay (Syndicate Member).
Synopsis: Rod Slater is the newly appointed General Manager of the Sonderditch gold mine, but he stumbles across an ingenious plot to flood the mine, by drilling into an underground lake, so the unscrupulous owners to make a killing in the international gold market.
Comment: Whilst the basic plot may be a little far-fetched, the grippingly authentic and well-filmed mining action scenes are tremendous. Hunt directs these set-pieces with a visceral intensity, which is helped by superb stunt work and whole-hearted performances, from Moore and Sabela in particular. Glen’s slick editing helps to heighten the suspense during these scenes. Dillman makes for a suitably eccentric and cold-hearted villain and Milland enjoys himself as the grumpy rich mine owner. York plays Dillman’s bored and unfaithful wife who falls for Moore’s charms and Gielgud leads the remote investors whose plot to make a killing on the stock market is the catalyst. A rousing final act makes up for some slow spots when the action moves above ground, where tighter editing could have made for a more efficient end-product. Overall, despite the reservations concerning pacing and plot, this is an entertaining thriller that deserves a re-appraisal.
Notes: Many members of the production crew had connections to the James Bond film franchise.
TWILIGHT (USA, 1998) ***
Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Production Company: Cinehaus / Paramount Pictures / Scott Rudin Productions; Release Date: 6 March 1998 (USA), 4 December 1998 (UK); Filming Dates: 11 November 1996 – March 1997; Running Time: 95m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong language.
Director: Robert Benton; Writer: Robert Benton, Richard Russo; Executive Producer: Michael Hausman; Producer: Arlene Donovan, Scott Rudin; Associate Producer: Scott Ferguson, David McGiffert; Director of Photography: Piotr Sobocinski; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: Carol Littleton; Casting Director: Ilene Starger; Production Designer: David Gropman; Art Director: David J. Bomba; Set Decorator: Beth A. Rubino; Costumes: Joseph G. Aulisi; Make-up: Bron Roylance; Sound: Maurice Schell; Special Effects: Larry Fioritto, Ric San Nicholas.
Cast: Paul Newman (Harry Ross), Susan Sarandon (Catherine Ames), Gene Hackman (Jack Ames), Reese Witherspoon (Mel Ames), Stockard Channing (Lt. Verna Hollander), James Garner (Raymond Hope), Giancarlo Esposito (Reuben Escobar), Liev Schreiber (Jeff Willis), Margo Martindale (Gloria Lamar), John Spencer (Capt. Phil Egan), M. Emmet Walsh (Lester Ivar), Peter Gregory (Verna’s Partner), Rene Mujica (Mexican Bartender), Jason Clarke (Young Cop #1), Patrick Malone (Younger Cop), Lewis Arquette (Water Pistol Man), Michael Brockman (Garvey’s Bartender), April Grace (Police Stenographer), Clint Howard (EMS Worker), John Cappon (Paramedic), Neil Mather (Young Cop #2), Ron Sanchez (Crime Scene Detective), Jack Wallace (Interrogation Officer), Jeff Joy (Carl), Jonathan Scarfe (Cop). Uncredited: Stephanie Beaton (Beth Koski), Jennifer Tolkachev (Sunbather), Ron von Gober (Man Walking Down the Street with Boy).
Synopsis: Private eye Harry Ross lives in the garage of his movie-star, cancer-ridden friend Jack and is attracted to Jack’s wife Catherine. After elderly Lester Ivar shoots at Harry and then dies, Harry learns that Ivar was investigating the disappearance of Catherine’s first husband.
Comment: Modern neo-film noir tries too hard to create the atmosphere of the 1940s in 1990s LA. The result feels a little incongruous. The strength of the story is with its cast. Newman is as good as ever as the private eye who is torn between his loyalties and doing the right thing. Hackman, Garner and Sarandon all deliver quality performances. Martindale also scores as a chancer with an incompetent accomplice. Bernstein delivers a moody but derivative score. Benton’s script tries hard to be convoluted, but underneath is a straight-forward story of blackmail and murder. The character interaction keeps the plot interesting, but the ultimate solution to the mystery is a little underwhelming.
Notes: The Ames residence is actually the former Cedric Gibbons-Delores Del Rio home, and a never-completed Frank Lloyd Wright house near Malibu served as the Ames’ ranch house.
Shootist, The (1976; USA; Technicolor; 100m) ****½ d. Don Siegel; w. Miles Hood Swarthout, Scott Hale; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, James Stewart, Ron Howard, Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian, Harry Morgan, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers, Bill McKinney, Rick Lenz, Sheree North, Gregg Palmer, Alfred Dennis, Dick Winslow. A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity. Wayne’s last film is a poignant and fitting tribute to his screen persona and one of his very best. Siegel directs with sensitivity and draws an astonishing final performance from his star. Wayne is supported by a superbly talented cast of veterans including Bacall and Stewart. Echoes of SHANE can be seen in Howard’s hero-worshipping youth. The 1901 setting, with its early automobiles, telephones and electricity, acts as a metaphor for the passing of an era where the west was ruled by the gun and Wayne’s gunfighter character is now an anachronism. Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout. [PG]
McQ (1974; USA; Technicolor; 111m) *** d. John Sturges; w. Lawrence Roman; ph. Harry Stradling Jr.; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Eddie Albert, Diana Muldaur, Colleen Dewhurst, Julie Adams, Clu Gulager, David Huddleston, Al Lettieri, Jim Watkins, Roger E. Mosley. A Police Lieutenant investigates the killing of his best friend and uncovers corrupt elements. Wayne tries his hand at the urban crime thriller genre in this DIRTY HARRY surrogate. Sturges’ direction is lacking in flair and a feel for the genre whilst the script is a little flabby. The result is a routine plot enlivened by a neat finale and Wayne’s presence. Jazzy Bernstein score is also a plus. Good use of Seattle locations. 
Cahill: United States Marshal (1973; USA; Technicolor; 103m) *** d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink; ph. Joseph F. Biroc; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Gary Grimes, George Kennedy, Neville Brand, Marie Windsor, Denver Pyle, Jackie Coogan, Harry Carey Jr., Pepper Martin, Paul Fix, Clay O’Brien, Morgan Paull, Royal Dano, Dan Vadis, Hank Worden. J.D. Cahill is the toughest U.S. Marshal they’ve got, just the sound of his name makes bad guys stop in their tracks, so when his two young boys want to get his attention, they decide to rob a bank. Late Wayne Western is middling story that has overly-preachy elements to it. Wayne is in good form though, despite his lack of screen time, delivering a typically tough performance. Kennedy is as reliable as ever as chief heavy and Bernstein’s score attempts to lift the tale out from its routine origins. Script, like BIG JAKE, is by DIRTY HARRY scribes the Finks but lacks dramatic punch. Based on a story by Barney Slater. 
Big Jake (1971; USA; Technicolor; 110m) *** d. George Sherman; w. Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Richard Boone, Patrick Wayne, Christopher Mitchum, Bruce Cabot, Bobby Vinton, Glenn Corbett, John Doucette, Maureen O’Hara, Jim Davis, John Agar, Harry Carey Jr. In 1909, when John Fain’s gang kidnaps Jacob McCandles’ grandson and holds him for ransom, Big Jake sets out to rescue the boy. Latter-day Western has heightened violence, being based on a script by DIRTY HARRY screenplay writers the Finks, that sometimes jars with often lighter tone. Interesting twist in setting this tale in the early 1900s creates neat counter-balance of the old West and the new West. Wayne representing the old west is in good form with a support cast of familiar faces including Boone as chief villain. O’Hara is under-utilised however. Director Sherman’s final film. 
True Grit (1969; USA; Technicolor; 128m) **** d. Henry Hathaway; w. Marguerite Roberts; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Glen Campbell, Strother Martin, Jeremy Slate, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey, Donald Woods, Alfred Ryder, Ron Soble, John Fiedler, James Westerfield, John Doucette, Edith Atwater. A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer in Indian territory. Scenic western with Wayne enjoying himself immensely in one of his best-remembered performances as Rooster Cogburn and Darby also excellent as young Mattie Ross. Hathaway paces the story just right and Duvall impresses as Wayne’s outlaw nemesis. Superbly photographed utilising stunning Colorado locations aided by a rousing Bernstein score. The only film for which Wayne ever won an Oscar. Based on the novel by Charles Portis. Followed by ROOSTER COGBURN (1975) and a TV pilot in 1978. Remade in 2010. [PG]
Sons of Katie Elder, The (1965; USA; Technicolor; 122m) ***½ d. Henry Hathaway; w. William H. Wright, Allan Weiss, Harry Essex, Talbot Jennings; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman, Michael Anderson Jr., Martha Hyer, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin, George Kennedy, James Gregory, Paul Fix, Jeremy Slate, John Litel, John Doucette, James Westerfield, Rhys Williams. Ranch owner Katie Elder’s four sons determine to avenge the murder of their father and the swindling of their mother. Enjoyable, if slightly overlong, Western with Wayne in fine form supported by a strong cast including Martin, Holliman and Anderson Jr. as his brothers. Kennedy also good as a hired heavy. Rousing score by Bernstein. Filming was delayed after Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. [U]
Comancheros, The (1961; USA; DeLuxe; 107m) *** d. Michael Curtiz; w. James Edward Grant, Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Stuart Whitman, Lee Marvin, Bruce Cabot, Nehemiah Persoff, Ina Balin, Michael Ansara, Patrick Wayne, Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, Joan O’Brien, Henry Daniell, Richard Devon, Bob Steele, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams. Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros. Interplay between Wayne and Whitman drives this otherwise routine story. Curtiz adds directorial style and the action scenes are well shot, but other aspects of the story never really get off the ground. Rousing score by Bernstein. The final film directed by Curtiz. On the days when Curtiz was too ill to work, Wayne took over direction of the film. Based on the novel by Paul Wellman. [PG]