Gold (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 19, 2016 by Dennis Amith
It is rare to find any films, especially science fiction films released during the Third Reich era to be released in the U.S. And for cineaste that are passionate about German cinema, it is wonderful to see Kino Lorber releasing Karl Hartl’s 1934 sci-fi film, “Gold” on Blu-ray. An entertaining film worth recommending!
© 2014 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. All Rights Reserved.
FILM RELEASE: 1934
DURATION: 117 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1), German Monaural with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Kino Classics
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Directed by Karl Hartl
Written by Rolf E. Vanloo
Produced by Alfred Zeisler
Music by Hans-Otto Borgmann
Cinematography by Otto Baecker, Werner Bohne, Gunther Rittau
Edited by Wolfgang Becker
Art Direction by Otto Hunte
Hans Albers as Werner Holk
Friedrich Kaybler as Prof. Achenbach
Brigitte Helm as Florence Wills
Michael Bohnen as John Wills
Ernst Karchow as Willi Luders, alias Charlie Jenkins
Lien Deyers as Margin Moller
Eberhard Leithoff as Harris, a Technician
Rudolf Platte as Schwarz
Walter Steinbeck as Braun
Heinz Wemper as Vesitsch
Hansjoachim Buttner as Becker, the Murderer
Erich Haubmann as Secretary
A rare science fiction film made in National Socialist Germany, Karl Hartl’s GOLD is a high-tech thriller dramatizing the ongoing war between scientific progress and corporate greed (resurrecting some of the themes and spectacle of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). Hans Albers stars as Professor Holk, an idealistic scientist developing the process of atomic fracturing, constructing an enormous electrical device to transform common lead into gold. When the operation is sabotaged by corporate rivals, resulting in the death of Holk’s mentor (Friedrich Kayssler), Holk must accept the backing of a ruthless English businessman, John Wills (Michael Bohnen), whose interest in atomic fracturing is purely economic. Though he makes a deal with the devil, in order to continue his research, Holk recognizes it as a golden opportunity not for a paycheck, but for payback and plots to destroy Wills’s titanic gold-making machinery. While Holk enacts his revenge, he captures the interest of the millionaire’s rebellious daughter (Brigitte Helm, Metropolis), who is enthralled by the scientist’s vision and integrity. GOLD is not only a handsomely-produced drama of corporate espionage, it also reveals the ways in which English and American culture was subtly condemned in films made under the Third Reich.
Best known for films such as “The Life and Loves of Mozard”(1955), “The Angel with the Trumpet” (1948) and “Two Merry Adventurers” (1934), filmmaker Karl Hartl was known earlier in his career for his science fiction work.
Which began with “Der Tunnel”, in 1934, Hartl would work on his next sci-fi film, “Gold” which took about 14 months to shoot.
The film would star Hans Albers (“The Blue Angel”, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”, “Two Merry Adventurers”), Friedrich Kaybler (“Der Zerbrochene Krug”, “Frisions in Distress”), Brigitte Helm (“Metropolis”, “L’Argent”, “L’Atlantide”) and Lien Deyers (“Spies”, “Captain Fracasse”, “Laughing Heirs”).
While the film was made in Germany in 1934, a French version (“L’or”) was made the same year but the only actor that would work on both films was actress Brigitte Helm for her role as Florence Wills.
And now Karl Hartl’s “Gold” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.
The film begins with a written introduction of how for hundreds of years, men have tried to create gold artificially as it is the joy and curse of the world. How clans, tribes and nations have been in war with each other for the sake of gold. Men cheat, persecute and have killed for gold.
In the United Kingdom, a British scientist is convinced that he can turn base materials into gold by using a giant underwater atomic reactor.
Prof. Achenbach (portrayed by Friedrich Kaybler) is a German scientist working on a similar experiment of trying to turn lead into gold, meanwhile earlier before the experiment, the professor’s technician, Becker (portrayed by Hans-Joachim Buttner) has been given something by a group of men in order to sabotage the experiment.
While Prof. Achenbach (portrayed by Friedrich Kaybler) and his assistant Professor Werner Holk (portrayed by Hans Albers) is working on the experiment, an explosion takes place killing the professor, while Holk is seriously injured.
With the help of the blood donation by Margit Moller (portrayed by Lien Deyers), Holk is able to heal and immediately and when he goes to check the area of the explosion, finds the lead components and feel they have been tampered with.
Offered to work with Scotch mining magnate John Wills (portrayed by Michael Bohnent), Holk wonders if Wills may be responsible for sabotaging Prof. Achenbach’s experiment. So, Holk offers to meet with Wills in order to find out if he is responsible for Achenbach’s death.
Holk agrees to work on Wills project, but Wills knows that Holk is trying to establish a connection with him and Achenbach’s death.
How far will Holk go to get his revenge?
“Gold” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio), black and white. It’s important to note that Kino Lorber does not do any film restoration with their films, they simply present them in HD as the films are in their current format (so, if films are restored, then they will receive the latest restoration on Blu-ray and DVD).
With that being said, “Gold” does feature some damage and at times some frames have more scratches, flickering and even missing frames at times. But by no means is the film’s picture quality terrible. Picture quality is good and offers better clarity and sharpness over the IHF DVD.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Gold” is presented in German monaural with English subtitles. I personally didn’t notice any major hissing or crackle during my viewing of the film. Dialogue including the shrieking of the atomic reactor is crystal clear.
Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.
“Gold” does not come with any special features.
With the collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933, cinema would change in Germany as many filmmakers and performers would leave the country as the Nazis came to power and the establishment of the Third Reich and its Reichsfilmkammer (Reich Chamber of Film).
All those employed in the film industry must be members for the Reichsfachschaft film and those whose politics or personal life were unacceptable by the Nazis were excluded and denied employment.
Needless to say, the artful cinema of the Wiemar Republic had ended but UFA would create an expensive film that would take 14-15 months to create and it was Karl Hartl’s science fiction film, “Gold”.
A film that took so long to make that even actor Hans Albers tried to sue for almost double his salary. But because two versions of the film were created, one in German and one in French (with a different cast, except Brigitte Helm who starred in both productions), the film took long to make.
Back in 1934, even Americans were enamored by the production quality of its film and mechanical designs.
“New York Times” reviewer H.T.S. wrote, “This time the dream of many ancient, and some modern, would-be gold manufacturers is realized on the screen by the UFA, with a remarkable display of thrilling scenes involving excellent views of some fearful and wonderful machinery.”
The film is primarily a revenge-driven film that showcases the competition of scientific progress and corporate greed, as countries try to find a way to create gold using atomic reactors.
In the film, the Germans are close to making a discovery and with their experiment, was sabotaged and the leading scientist is killed and the assistant is badly injured.
Saved by a woman who donated blood, the assistant, Professor Holk wants to find out who was responsible of sabotaging their experiment. And what best way but to infiltrate the organization who he suspects are responsible, the evil Scotch mining magnate, John Wills.
But Wills knows that Holk is trying to establish a connection to him and Professor Achenbach’s death and audiences watch to find out if Professor Holk can get his revenge.
For those who have watched Friz Lang’s 1927 silent film masterpiece “Metropolis”, will love that the film stars the beautiful Brigitte Helm as the daughter of John Wills, who has fallen for Professor Holk.
But for German cinema fans, it is not very often to get any film (aside from Leni Riefenstahl films) made during the Third Reich era to be released in North America on Blu-ray. Especially UFA films of that era, before all film companies were seized and formed one corporation, UFA-Film GBMN (UFI) in 1942.
So, “Gold” is a rare gem to see and for its era, was considered a high-tech thriller, so much that Allied Censorship boards after World War II made viewers wonder if German scientists had been able to build a nuclear reactor long before it was originally thought that they did.
As for the Blu-ray release, the Blu-ray is no doubt better than the previously released IHF DVD’s. Because of the upscale to HD, the black and whites are well-contrast but because Kino Lorber does not do any restoration work, any dust, scratches that were on the film can be seen on this Blu-ray release. Any flickering or missing frames can be seen on this Blu-ray release. But by no means is there any damage that makes the film unviewable, in fact, “Gold” looks very good in HD. And cineaste should be thrilled that this rare gem was released on Blu-ray.
Unfortunately, there are no special features included, and I was hoping that either the French version of the film or featurettes with film scholars discussing the making of the film were included.
Overall, it is rare to find any films, especially science fiction films released during the Third Reich era to be released in the U.S. And for cineaste that are passionate about German cinema, it is wonderful to see Kino Lorber releasing Karl Hartl’s 1934 sci-fi film, “Gold” on Blu-ray.
An entertaining film worth recommending!
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