The quick answer is: “No.” The longer answer is that it depends on your expectations. If you feel certain you are about to watch an execrable film, you will be pleasantly surprised: Gold is a perfectly serviceable thriller, with some tense moments and a genuinely exciting climax in the flooded mine at Pinewood.
One of the reasons the film isn’t as shit as it should be is that it was made, in no small part, by members of the James Bond team. Peter Hunt directs – he was editor of the early Bonds and directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. John Glen, later to direct five Bonds, edits and directs the second unit. The production designer is Syd Cain, who did From Russia With Love, OHMSS and Live and Let Die. Those guys are responsible for making two men and a dinghy floating around at Pinewood seem an exciting climax.
Then there’s Roger’s character, Rod Slater, a maverick, woman-chasing commitment-phobe ultimately prepared to die to save the mine (and its miners), which he almost does. There’s a suggestion a genuine relationship may be on the cards with Terry Steyner (York), whose evil husband has conveniently died a few minutes earlier and who is on hand to look after Rod in an ambulance.
It’s definitely one of Roger’s best non-007 performances. This was 1974, so he hadn’t established his Bond persona. Hunt pushes him to be as serious as possible. I certainly believe he’s a miner. And that he’s younger than his 46 years – he’s in good shape, the hair’s more tousled than usual and there’s a bit more sweat than Bond. And he gets quite badly injured at the end. Or at least his arms do.
My sense is that York fought hard to be more than just another Bond girl, making her character as strong as possible. There’s a great scene where she flies Moore back to the stricken mine in her plane (she’s rich) and he accuses her of being involved in the conspiracy. She’s outraged: she won’t take any shit from Roger. As it happens, she is involved in the conspiracy, but she doesn’t know that yet.
And the villain? We’re very much in the “speak quickly with a slight smile” stage of Sir John Gielgud’s film career but there’s a wonderful moment where one of the sub-villains tells him they’ve commissioned a survey that shows just how close the mine is to water but have cleverly replaced every mention of the word “water” with the word “gold”.
“Ingenious”, says Gielgud, without the smile.
There’s also the brilliantly intrusive score by Elmer Bernstein, a crucial reason the action sequences are so tense and exciting. The song Jimmy Helms belts at the start and the end is magnificently absurd too.
I truly think this is Roger’s best non-Bond. Others tout The Man Who Haunted Himself (1971), in which Roger does actually have to do a fair bit of acting, playing a good guy and his evil doppelganger. That probably is his best performance. At the end of his life, knighted, Sir Roger certainly thought so. But I think Gold is the better film. The bar isn’t high, but Gold is a perfectly enjoyable romp one could happily sit through, some warm self-isolated evening.