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Kino // Unrated // June 14, 2016
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted June 15, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Kino Lorber has been releasing a number of very cool niche titles on Blu-ray recently. From some solid 50's SF like The Magnetic Monster to gritty 70's movies like The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three and excellent film noir titles such as 99 River Street the company has really been doing a great job of finding interesting titles to put out in high definition. One of their latest releases is Gold, a rather unique science fiction film made in Nazi Germany in 1934 that has more elements melodrama than SF. While it is definitely a flawed film, it's also an interesting look at what the state-owned Ufa studio was putting out in the early years of the National Socialist government.

Professor Holk (Hans Albers) is assisting the brilliant Dr. Achenbach (Friedrich Kayssler) in a scientific attempt to turn base lead into gold. While the doctor's theories are solid, the experiment has tragic results after a lab tech is bribed to sabotage the first trial. There is a great explosion, Achenbach is killed and Holk is put into the hospital where his girlfriend Margit (Lien Deyers who is 20 years younger than the middle aged scientist) donates her blood for a transfusion that saves his life.

After he recovers, Holk is still tormented by the accident. He's sure the process would have worked and is convinced that someone tampered with the equipment. When a pair of dubious men approach Holk and offer him a job working for the rich, Scottish industrialist John Wills (Michael Hohnen) perfecting his transmutation process that is nearly identical to Dr. Achenbach's the scientist knows not only that his experiment was sabotaged, but who did it too.

Holk travels to the UK and meets with the villainous Wills with the intention of wrecking his lead-to-gold process that is situated in a cave deep under the North Sea. Things get a little complicated when he meets Wills' daughter, Florence (Brigitte Helm of Metropolis fame). Though Florence is also many years younger than the aging Holk, she's drawn to his German stoicism and total lack of energy and emotion. She falls for him, and he for her, but what of his plans to ruin her father's work, and what would happen if Wills and Holk succeed in creating gold?

This movie has a lot going for it, but the large sets and fairly interesting premise have a hard time overcoming the leaden (pun intended) pace, wooden acting by Albers, and a script that seems to have trouble figuring out just what story it wants to tell. If it had been edited down (it runs just shy of two-hours in length) to tighten up the pacing and removed the more melodramatic moments it could have been a very effective film.

One of the biggest problems is that the plot seems to meander and things that seem to be important when they're introduced are shuffled off screen soon after. A good example is when Holk is in the hospital at the beginning. There's a good amount of screen time devoted to the fact that he needs a transfusion and that his girlfriend has volunteered. Later, when he leaves her to work for Wills, Holk hugs the love of his life and says that she will always be with him, since her blood flows through his veins. Pretty romantic stuff, but he seems to forget her in the next scene and she's not mentioned for nearly all the film after that. Later Holk meets an old friend on Wills yacht who pretends not to recognize him. It turns out he's changed his name after wrecking a ship while having a tryst with a woman when he was supposed to be on watch, and doesn't want anyone to know of his past. He's Holk's man on the inside of Wills organization... except that plot line never goes anywhere.

Albers acting is very stiff too, which caused me to scratch my head several times. Why was he interested in Florence if he was in love with Margit? What did these young, attractive, women see in the middle aged man who seems so dull? He was apparently supposed to be conflicted over perfecting the process for Wills, torn between getting revenge on the man who killed his friend and proving that same friend's theories, but that never came across in the performance.  It was hard to suspend my disbelief that young, beautiful women would be falling in love with him too, especially for someone who came across as wooden and dull.

That's not to say that the film is all bad. The narrative takes an unexpected turn in the third act that breathes more life into the movie and makes it a bit more exciting. I won't give away the twist, but it's well done and piqued my interest.

The sets are also well done, especially the underground cavern that's filled with a giant machine. It is not as impressive as Metropolis by any means, but they definitely moved the movie up a notch or two.

 The Blu-ray:


The 1.33:1 B&W, 1080p image is fair, and probably the best we can expect for an under-the-radar German film from 1934. The definition is generally fine, but the contrast leaves a little to be desired. The blacks are more of a dark grey and the whites are too bright. There are some slight scratches through a good portion of the running time but they never distract. A very watchable print, just don't expect a pristine restoration.


The mono soundtrack (in German with optional English subtitles) really shows the limitations of early sound. The dialog and music has a very narrow dynamic range and the voices sound tinny. There are some interesting technical errors that crept in during the filming of this movie, like one scene where the footsteps are nearly as loud as the dialog, that serve to remind viewers just how far sound has come since this was made.


Unfortunately, there are none. I would love to see the French-language version that was filmed at the same time with a largely different cast. The movie might have been better with another actor in the lead.

Final Thoughts:

This film is a mix of melodrama and science fiction, and unfortunately the drama over powers the SF elements, which are more engaging. It is very interesting from a historical standpoint though, especially the end which shows just what the official German party line was on unbridled capitalism. Gold is a movie that fans of SF and students of Germany during the Nazi era should watch at some point, but it doesn't have to be at the top of the list. This gets a very mild recommendation.

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