Gold: Before Woodstock. Beyond
is an odd little curio from the late 60s. Even the coming attractions
trailer does not seem to know what to make of the film. “It’s a western.
It’s a comedy. It’s a nudie. It’s a drama. It’s a musical. It’s a
revolution. It’s a manifesto. It’s a movement. It’s a happening. It’s a
Actually, it’s kind of all of those things and yet not really good at being
any of them. There seems to be no real idea what is going on here. At
different points, the story seems to be taking place in the old West, the
20s dust bowl and the then-current late 60s – and sometimes all three at the
it is really is a film improvised by a whole bunch of stoned (and often
naked) hippies. There is sort of a storyline here, but it is mostly a very,
very heavy-handed political allegory about standing up to the man.
what the hell is the deal with the clown on the motorbike?
stars early improv comics Del Close (his name is misspelled Del Clos in the
opening credits) and Garry Goodrow (also misspelled as
Gary) who went on to form the comic troupe
The Upright Citizen’s Brigade. This group really didn’t become big until
the 90s and members like
Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Adam McKay and
Horatio Sanz came to prominence – though Close
was a mentor to these comics and had a long and respected career as a
comedian and writer/producer for Saturday Night Live.
Goodrow plays (very broadly) the figure of authority. He comes upon a small
town where gold has been found and sets about taking over all the power over
the locals – eventually stealing the gold and imprisoning or killing anyone
who did not follow his strong-arm rules.
least, I think that was what was happening.
Close plays an apparently mental hobo who travels the backwoods, constantly
jabbering on as he stumbles upon naked hippies and official injustices.
Eventually he dresses up as Che Guevara and tries to start a people’s
what exactly was the revolution looking to achieve? Well, it seems the
hippies were passionate about all men (and women-folk) sharing the land
equally and most importantly having the God-given freedom to skinny-dip.
Believe me, I’m all for public nudity, but after the opening credits pay
photographic tribute to such then fresh hot-button topics as the Kennedy
assassinations, Vietnam, Martin Luther King and Kent State you expect the
political discourse to be a little deeper than a treatise for streaking.
Besides, this film – released just as the Hays commission ban on film nudity
was ending – is rather explicit sexually for its time, but the nudity is
mostly of the common people, so you have lots of hair and cellulite and
wrinkles on display.
in this time, X-Rated adult films (which I assume was the rating Gold
must have received during its very short theatrical run) were actually able
to tell interesting, nuanced stories – such as the next year’s Best
Picture Midnight Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange and The Last Tango in
Paris. Gold does not really fit into that company.
why is it getting a release on video after all these years when so many
better-known films from its era are long forgotten?
(And why is it being released as a special 40th Anniversary Edition when it
is 42 years old?)
Well, one reason it is getting the chance to be seen
again after all these years of obscurity probably has to do with the
music. There are a few never-released songs by the legendary cult rock band
The MC5 (though they are referred to by their more formal moniker The Motor
City Five in the opening credits) as well as some music by Ramblin’ Jack
Elliot and also the group Sailcat, soon to be a one-hit-wonder for the early-70s
However, the commentary tracks (and believe it or not, there are two sets of
commentary by four people) sort of put Gold into perspective.
Apparently on the heels of popular psychedelic films like Easy Rider
and Yellow Submarine, director Bob Levis was able to get a studio
give him money to spend a month in the woods with a bunch of friends, get
high, make music, have sex and occasionally, when they got around to it,
work on making a film.
It was almost completely improvised and only had a vague plot – and they
just hoped they’d get enough footage of interest to sustain a movie.
probably a whole hell of a lot of fun to make. Too bad it’s not nearly as
much fun to watch.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: July 26, 2010.