The success of Easy Rider spawned all sorts of indulgent, wonky and mostly terrible “free love,” anti-establishment knock-offs, but one of the more notable arrives on home video for the first time in any format in Gold: Before Woodstock, Beyond Reality. A goofy, loose-limbed, nudity-filled western musical dramedy, the movie stars improvisational godhead Del Close, who would populate only bit roles and cameos in TV series and movies (mostly those that came through Chicago, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Untouchables), but through his teachings come to influence some of the biggest names in comedy over the past 30-plus years.
In the summer of 1968, filmmaker Bob Levis led a rag-tag band of drop-outs and drug-happy darlings (some with professional acting experience, some not) into the California wilderness to make a movie loosely centered around the notion of a killjoy police captain, Harold Jinks (Garry Goodrow), and his battles with a crippled eccentric, Hawk (Close), in bringing an end to all the debauchery in his community. The result is Gold, a bizarre journey into the mind and madness of the late 1960s — a project overflowing with fantasies of revolution, recreation and sexual experimentation, and fueled by a groovy, funky soundtrack that includes MC5 and more.
In all honesty, while the movie itself is a profound potpourri — and thus holds some interesting standalone lessons from a certain academic and anthropological point-of-view, mostly for the manner in which it sets out to systematically shatter various filmmaking rules — it doesn’t hold up that well, narratively speaking. Close’s performance is a cracked, wily thing, though, and the disc itself holds such an abundance of colorful reminiscences that aging boomers –even those who missed out on all the partying the first go-round — may want to give this title a spin.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case with snap-shut hinges, Gold comes to DVD presented in 1.33:1 full screen, divided into 18 chapters, with a main menu screen music loop that repeats every eight seconds or so, and will infiltrate your brain if you get pulled away to a string of emails upon start-up, and leave it playing in the background. The movie boasts two superlative feature-length audio commentary tracks. The first, with director Levis and star Goodrow, contains plenty of warm production anecdotes and other behind-the-scenes stories (Levis used to date star Caroline Parr), and tangentially provides an intriguing sort of time capsule snapshot of DIY production from that era.
There’s also a special
commentary track from Upright Citizens Brigade founding members Matt Walsh and
Ian Roberts, each of whom studied under Close. While this chat takes a while to warm up, the nature of the duo’s recollections is broad-ranging and fascinating, especially when they get into Close’s battles with addiction (he kicked alcohol through aversion therapy, gave up speed and other drugs, but kept smoking weed and cigarettes, and would also lecture passersby on the so-called “hobo code” of not rubbing out a butt with the heel of one’s shoe) and depression (he would attempt suicide a number of times). Close was a fascinating character, full of contradictions, and this presentation of Gold hearteningly allows him one final curtain call.
The other supplemental material is just as engaging, starting with a wide-ranging hour-long 2008 interview chat with Levis by Harold Channer from a New York City public access cable show. There’s also 10 minutes of material from a good-natured roast of Goodrow, plus trailers for Gold and a half dozen other films, and a self-scrolling presentation of lobby card art from the movie’s original release. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C- (Movie) A- (Disc)