The Film (4/5)
“Gold is the joy and the curse of this world”, is the title card that starts this rare 1934 German sci-fi movie. Made during the reign of the Nazis, GOLD is unusual in the scope of the production and surprising in the fact it doesn’t try to push heavy pro-Nazi propaganda. The movie shows Germany as the most sensible nation, but other than that it never feels like a message movie. Instead it’s a carefully disguised revenge story with a wild performance by the most popular actor during the National Socialist Germany era, Hans Albers.
Professor Holk (Hans Albers) and his mentor Professor Achenbach (Friedrich Kaybler) are working on a way to transform lead into Gold. Their super lab is prepared with all the necessary materials, and super machine that at the right voltage to make gold. But the operation is secretly sabotaged. Holk is distracted as the machine explodes and kills professor Achenbach. Feeling responsible for the loss of his mentor, Holk steps away from the project. Holk is suckered back in when he discovers that a British businessman named John Wills (Michael Bohnen) is making the exact same machine as Achenbach and discovers he sabotaged the first machine. Holk agrees to help the experiment while secretly trying to get his revenge against Wills. But things are shaken up when Holk meets Wills’ daughter Florence (Brigitte Helm). Can Holk get revenge for his dead mentor and stop Wills from taking over the economy with newly made gold?
GOLD was a surprising experience for me. I went in expecting a Nazi funded nightmare, but instead got a thoughtful revenge movie with plenty of movie serial thrills and large 1930s sci-fi spectacle. The movie plays with the journey for revenge that evolves into an anti-corporate tale. Now to get the Nazi element out of the way. GOLD does start to moralize the dangers of mass producing gold and the effect on the world’s economy, where at first everyone is afraid that Germany will take over, to another great depression. Through all of this, Germany is viewed as the wisest. But this is just a message movie, at no point did I feel the Nazi agenda being forced on anyone. Subtext may be read differently but this movie is interested in other things.
As a sci-fi film, GOLD is impressive on many levels. The scope of the film is breathtaking, with huge sets and matte paintings that set this film in the same league as THINGS TO COME and METROPOLIS. The design of the gold machine is massive and looks like alien ships from any number of high budget Universal sci-fi films like THIS ISLAND EARTH (1954). The art deco steps and realist mines give this movie a handsome design. The lighting and laser effects are a great mix of animation and light that give the machine an eerily effect. The mansion sets have polish and glamour making them look right at home in a MGM romance of the time.
The cast is also solid. Many of the performers are new to me. Hans Albers is intense in every scene and you can see himself slowly losing out to his blind rage. Michael Bohnen makes a good villain that the audience can easily dislike. Ernst Karchow gives a good performance as one of Holk’s friends. And speaking of METROPOLIS, Brigitte Helm who is best remembered as Maria in that film, plays Will’s daughter. She is glamorizing enough to be stunning to the eye, but the film doesn’t quite know what to do with her.
GOLD is a quick two hours and shows an impressive production for 1934. I don’t know if there’s, many more of these German 30’s sci-fi movies, but if they’re out there I would like to see more especially if there as big concept with movie serial thrills as this one.
GOLD is presented in its original German language track in a 2.0 Channel LPCM with easy to read white English subtitles. The track is pretty smooth with no pops and no sudden drops in sound quality. Everything is crystal clear. The soundtrack by Hans- Otto Borgmann is a little over bearing at points in the film, but the sound never peaks or makes iffy sounds on the speakers.
The film is in 1080p and has natural looking film grain. The grain is barely noticeable. Due to the age of the film, quality shifts throughout. There’s a cloudy black effect in some scenes that the transfer almost completely cleans up. Other than some print damage here and there, the transfer doesn’t show any digital noise.
There’s no extras for this release.
GOLD was a surprising sci-fi mini epic. It is stunning to look at and thrilling to watch. Kino’s Blu-ray may lack extras, but the transfer makes this an essential purchase for classic sci-fi fans. Highly Recommended.