"The Golden Gong" is a British documentary, produced in 1987, about Britain's top film studio for many years, J. Arthur Rank. It is hosted in a wonderfully relaxed and witty style by Michael Caine.
To a great extent, the history of the J. Arthur Rank studios is the history of the British film industry--period. Apparently, Mr. Rank made his millions in the flour-milling business, and in the thirties decided to finance some short, and by all accounts rather dull, "message films". Someone convinced him to start making full-length features that might actually make money. As more films were made, the studio expanded and developed its own stable of British stars.
"The Golden Gong", of course, is the symbol that introduced each Rank film--a muscular young man, striking a huge gong. In Britain, it is as famous as the MGM lion, the Warner Bros. shield and so on. This program has three major ingredients--clips from many of the movies that were produced under the Rank banner--interviews with a number of the stars, directors and others who worked at the studio--and a thoroughly engaging host in Michael Caine.
As you review the Rank output, you are struck by the variety of films produced--from highly-respected classics like " In Which We Serve ", " Henry V ", "The Lady Vanishes " and " Genevieve ", to more wide-appeal, commercial successes like the "Doctor" series, Norman Wisdom comedies and, of course, the Carry On gang.
Since this program was produced in 1987, a number of the key participants have since passed on--we can be thankful that this was completed before some interviews would have been impossible.
Some highlights--Sir David Lean recalling his early years as a film editor before directing "Great Expectations" ( with Alec Guinness' debut ) and "Oliver Twist"--Stewart Granger freely admitting that some of the costume melodramas that he appeared in during the 40s were awful films--Norman Wisdom recalling his early success in film, expecting that the studio would not keep him for more than five minutes. Finally, there are comments and anecdotes from the actor who, for many of us, was THE British star of the 50s and 60s, Sir Dirk Bogarde. Like Mr. Lean and Mr. Granger, Dirk Bogarde is no longer with us, so these interviews are "golden" indeed !
The story concludes with the guy who basically "saved" British cinema, and made these studios--called Pinewood--still one of the most respected and sought-after in the world. The guy ? Bond--James Bond. As Michael Caine explains though, today ( be it 1987 or 2004 ) movies are international. British films are still being made, but with a world-wide audience in mind.
The quality of the picture on this DVD varies greatly, depending on the film clip that you are watching--none of it is poor enough to spoil your enjoyment though.
I would have given this disc 5 stars, except I would have liked even more films represented, and there are no extras at all. However, if you have a particular interest or affection for classic British cinema, "The Golden Gong" is still a fascinating history.