Thursday, February 15, 2018

This Bud's for You: WE ARE ANGELS: LUCK IS RAINING FROM THE SKY (1997)

We are over the halfway mark with the WE ARE ANGELS series and things are going pretty good. To bring readers up to speed, the series follows Father Orso (Bud Spencer) and Father Zach (Philip Michael Thomas), two escaped convicts who are posing as monks in Costa Rica. So far we’ve had the “jailbreak/set up” episode, the “rags to riches to rags” episode, and the “search for ancient treasure” episode. And all three were pretty damn entertaining. Nothing can break this streak outside of a “precocious kid” episode and we won’t be having one of...oh, what’s that? This episode centers on a kid? Argh!

Episode 4 opens with our counterfeit clergy penniless once again. They figure to earn a quick $500 by playing ship captain McQuade and a group of his fellow Scotsmen in a game of baseball. Of course, he shows up with a team so Central American that it looks like a modern MLB roster. Orso and Zach’s team is getting whomped until Orso decides to beat up the entire opposing team with each knockout seemingly counting as a score (final score: 24-20!). You know, I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I’m pretty sure knockouts only count when the ball leaves the park; however, after the game McQuade hands them the $500 and says they won it “fair and square.” Jesus, I guess I really don’t know much about baseball. Just so you know this is all supposed to be funny, director Ruggero Deodato fills this opening ten minutes with whistles, drum thumps and even Father Torment trying to make a catch hitting a wall and falling through leaving a human cutout. How do you say Looney Tunes in Italian?

The plot proper for this episode begins with the new village shaman praying for rain. He succeeds instead in bringing down a private plane with one Wolfgang Galveston III (Andrew Taft), the young son of the richest man in Central America, on board. As the captain calls out a mayday, it is overheard in the prison by warden Delgado (David Hess), who figures this is an ample opportunity to extort some cash out of the businessman. Naturally, the kid and his manservant Edward are found by the monks and given care back at San Rolando. Sensing the heat is going to come down on this place, Orso and Zach look to split but find the kid makes them an offer they can’t refuse - a lot of money from his dad for his safe return. So soon Orso, Zach, Wolfgang, Edward and a couple of guides are trudging through the jungle.

As evidenced by the previous three episodes, Deodato and his scriptwriters want as many things going on at once and the events here are no exception. Delgado and a group of his men raid the village, but find the child gone. Meanwhile, our leads are captured by a group of cannibal headhunters in the jungle and placed in giant cauldrons to be cooked. Well, that is until it is revealed the cannibals are actors as part of a “holiday tour” booking for a nearby resort. Jeez, I never knew Sandals offered a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST package. Back in their element of pretty ladies and colorful drinks, Orso and Zach take a shine to the kid, even with a heartwarming scene of Orso teaching the kid how to swim. It is apparently a task so laborious that it causes Orso’s outfit to change mid-scene.


Of course, Delgado and his men aren’t too far behind. After a rather drunken night, Orso and Zach get one upped and Delgado puts the kid in kidnapped. His plan is to extort Galveston by saying that outlaw revolutionary leader Napoleon Duarte (Kabir Bedi) has the kid and is demanding a $2 million dollar ransom for the revolution. BUT WAIT! What he doesn’t realize is that Napoleon and his right hand man just happen to be eavesdropping in the same hotel lobby when is trying to con Galveston’s men. In the meantime, Delgado is keeping the kid at a local whorehouse. This leads to an awkward scene where the kid hustles the ladies of the night with some magic dice and they all sulk when told to get to work. Also, Delgado’s watchman offers Wolfgang the following life lesson: “Wine, tobacco, and women make a hombre their slave. He quickly ends up in the grave.” It should be noted he delivers this sage advice while holding a beer. Orso and Zach decide to enlist the help of their friend Sagreste (Max Herbrechter) to save the kid and hopefully get some of the ransom criss crossing town in a briefcase. As you can guess, this involves lots of twists and turns as money slips in and out of their fingers.

Well, they can’t all be winners. I think VJ head honcho Tom summed it up best when he wrote in an email, “I woke up this morning and I barely remember anything about the movie that I watched last night! I don't know whether I'm going senile or it just wasn't very memorable.” To paraphrase A GUY NAMED JOE (1943), “You’re not senile.” The fourth episode isn’t bad by any means, but it definitely isn’t memorable and mostly by the numbers. But let’s keep things positive and focus on the good and fun aspects. We do get the return of David Hess as the villainous prison warden and get a nice wrap up for his character. There is also a bit where he threatens to slice up the kid, resulting in a perhaps unplanned LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) homage. I also liked how the story culminated with our leads finally having some money, only to have Napoleon, the revolutionary thorn in their sides, show up to claim “his” money. It is a recurring gag over the series, so you start to anticipate it. I also appreciated the full circle ending. Orso and Zach finally have enough money for their plane and are making their long-delayed getaway. Unfortunately for them, Edward has become the new shaman of San Rolando and his first prayer for rain leads to their plane crashing right back in the village they are trying to escape. In keeping with the over-the-top comedic tone, they stumble up into the village covered in black soot. Hell, I’m shocked Deodato didn’t have them blow smoke out of their mouths.

The one big takeaway from this episode is it finally solves the “Bud Spencer and Philip Michael Thomas in dreadlocks” mystery. Back in the day the series was advertised in Variety with a full page ad of Spencer and Thomas in dreadlock wigs. WTF? Turns out it is a scene where they try to blend in during a local carnival parade. Yes, because nothing blends in more than a white guy Bud’s size in dreadlocks. So Tom gets Erik Estrada and Richard Liberty and I get Bud Spencer in dreadlocks. I’ll take it.

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