Friday, July 27, 2012

Goldengirl (1979)

          If nothing else, the sports drama Goldengirl delivers on its title—the film is crammed with adoring shots of leading lady Susan Anton, a gleaming Amazon with a lustrous blonde mane. Yet Anton, while not exactly horrible, is the picture’s weakest link. The fault is not entirely hers, since screenwriter John Kohn and director Joseph Sargent failed to provide her with a fleshed-out role—but because Anton is in nearly every scene, her superficiality defines the movie.
          Story-wise, Goldengirl is a cautionary tale with a touch of sci-fi. During the run-up to the 1980 Moscow Olympics, top sports agent Jack Dryden (James Coburn) is asked to join the team preparing Goldine (Anton) for an unprecedented feat—winning three gold medals in sprinting events. As Jack is shown around a remote mountaintop training facility, we learn that Goldine—nicknamed “Goldengirl”—has been conditioned from childhood for Olympic victory. Her adoptive father, Serafin (Curt Jurgens), is an obsessed Germanic scientist whose work may or may not have begun during the Third Reich’s grotesque eugenics experiments.
          Jack is considered crucial to the Goldengirl team because he’s got the connections to line up millions in endorsement deals if she wins all three medals, thus recouping the money that’s been invested in her. The more the story progresses, however, the more apparent it becomes that Serafin is a lunatic who’s been pumping Goldine full of dangerous hormones for years, simply to gain an international spotlight with which to showcase his crackpot theories about human evolution.
          Based on a novel by Peter Lear, Goldengirl could (and should) have been a provocative conspiracy movie, with the innocent Goldine caught in the machinations of commerce and megalomania. Unfortunately, the film is diffuse and passive, so no real tension develops until the last 30 minutes, when it’s revealed that running is dangerous to Goldine’s health. It’s also incredibly distracting that Anton looks nothing like an athlete—she’s lean but soft, and she wears dense mascara even during major races. Furthermore, the name actors surrounding Anton—in addition to those mentioned, Leslie Caron plays a shrink and Robert Culp plays a journalist—perform their paycheck gigs indifferently. Compounding Goldengirl’s second-rate status is the fact that America didn’t actually participate in the 1980 Olympics—after this picture was filmed, the U.S. pulled out of the Moscow games in response to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Goldengirl: FUNKY


FilmFather said...

Do you know of a DVD or streaming option for Goldengirl? All I can find are used (and in some occasions, ridiculously overpriced) VHS tapes.

By Peter Hanson said...

I couldn't find it anywhere except VHS. Seems to be one of those lost titles for the time being. FYI, you may wish to contact Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee, a video store located near LA, since I believe they do mail-order rentals of esoteric VHS titles...