Monday, September 13, 2010

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: THE MINES OF KILIMANJARO (1986)

Once in a lifetime, comes a motion picture that changes the face of literary adaptations... Wait, let me rephrase that: Once in a while you come across a low-rent corker that was banged out so fast and furious that the phrase “giant plot holes” demands to be replaced with “wtf?!” Here, I think it would be far easier to talk about the things in this movie that actually make sense. Well, maybe not easier, but definitely quicker!

I have to give credit to writer-director Mino Guerrini, who’s career never really made it out of Europe. Guerrini goes all out with his rip-off of a rip-off of a movie that was inspired by the original source material for the film that they are plagiarizing. Man, I need a Ross Perot chart to track this tangled web of “inspiration”. Guerrini rushed out this rip-off of Cannon’s KING SOLOMON’S MINES so fast and dirty that I’m not sure if even he knew what the hell was going on in the film!

The bare essence of the plot concerns a search for an African diamond mine located in the shadows of Mount Kilimajaro. Oh, but there is so much more…

As we learn from flashbacks, in 1917 a group of German soldiers took off to find the legendary mines and were massacred by the Zetwan tribe who guard the mines. The only survivor, Schmidt (Chris Connelly), now 10 years later, is professor Tom Smith at Cal Berkeley (go Bears!). A mysterious man with forged introduction papers that tells him of a flood of diamonds into Amsterdam, and that he knows that Smith knows the truth about their origins, his origins and, oh yeah, people are going to try and kill him. Smith promptly calls up his assistant, Professor Ed Barclay (Tobias Hoesl), and tells him that he must go to Africa in his place because of the fact that people are trying to kill him (ummm, thanks boss!). No sooner than the sucker – err, I mean, Ed, agrees to the trip, Professor Smith is killed by a hyper-blond assassin with yellow glasses and a cane-gun, who simply walks into Smith’s office and shoots him. Apparently Arian assassins do not require letters of introduction, forged or otherwise. As Smith dies he scribbles the word “Zetwan” in chalk. The plot thins…

Immediately following this, the mystery man falls for the old “broken down car filled with assassins” ploy and is machine gunned down as the Arian assassin looks on. Wait, he was just at the college and the mystery man had something like a half an hour head-start! How the hell did the assassin get from the college to some back road to cut off the mystery man? Wtf? Of course in the grand scheme of this movie, that “wtf?” moment is a mere trifle.

Enter the Dutchman Rolf (Gordon Mitchell). Who is he? Beats the shit outta me, but he and his bitchy assistant are after the diamonds too, so they head off to Africa! Good, so now you think you know who the villains are. But wait, there's more! Enter the Chinese! Tai-Ling, a rotund white-guy in bad “chinaman” make up and even worse “engrish” (Franco Diogene) and his skinny sycophant are after the diamonds too! Now the hunt can begin in earnest.

After fighting off a couple of random goons in his hotel while the Arian assassin looks on, Ed is kidnapped by the only Chinese henchmen to not know any martial arts. This fact could be because they are white guys with fake “manchu” mustaches and eye-liner! When the “Chinese” wiseguys smugly bring in a laundry basket that is supposed to contain Ed, they are shocked to find only “raundry” and Ed strolls into the room cool as a cucumber claiming it was a bit too cramped in there. What is he freakin’ Houdini now? Who knows? Who cares, we gotta keep this train moving! After threatening Ed with torture (a slave is force-fed live mice who will allegedly eat out his stomach), he refuses to talk, so Tai-Ling exclaims he will get the “number twelve” to which his henchman replies “goodie!” After the ridiculous, but rather nasty sounding death by mice, number twelve it turns out is simply tying Ed to a chair and releasing a poisonous snake into the room. Does that really even deserve a number? I suppose if you are the type to catalog all of the atrocities that you could possibly visit upon someone, I guess that would have to be in there somewhere, but not at number 12, that's all I'm saying.

After Ed is rescued (what kinda hero is this guy anyway?), he joins Lord Kilbrook’s expedition (via instructions from an eye-patch clad Al Cliver) which is apparently off to the only point in Africa where you can see a total eclipse of the sun, and get in a few rounds of golf. I know, I know, but there’s so much crazy shit coming up in this film, don’t even bother to stop and question this, just go with it. Here is where Ed meets Kilbrook’s daughter Eva (Elena Pompei), the strings swell and while gazing fondly in her eyes tells her of his good luck charm that he keeps on him at all times… a baling hook left over from his days as a dockworker! What? First off, who keeps a sharp, heavy piece of steel  as a good-luck charm, second, who mentions that during romantic banter and third, this guy weighs 98 pounds soaking wet and could make Kate Moss want to join Jenny Craig! The only work this guy would be doing on the dock is picking up sailors.

Anyway, Ed and Eva are captured by a hostile native tribe (are there any other kind?) and watch in horror as a victim is drawn and quartered. Well, sorta. The US video release on the Imperial label has some pretty heavy edits. It’s kind of hard to say what scenes are just sloppy editing in a rush to get this into theaters, but it’s pretty obvious when scenes of graphic violence begin and are cut away from and never seen again. Particularly here as there is a fair amount of bloodletting left intact. Hands are lopped off (though the actual chopping has the gore cropped off screen), shootings are bloody and there are plenty of nasty moments that are cut away from abruptly. There are some other moments that are abruptly cut away from as well which makes me wonder if the US distributors didn’t do a little pruning to bring down the running time.

But wait! We aren’t finished yet! Cue LAW rocket attacks (yes, in 1927), African Greek orthodox monks (who actually have a picture of Professor Smith from his 1917 expedition), drama in the depths of darkest Africa (with a modern highway visible in the background), a white native queen in glamour make-up who runs an all female tribe and needs Ed’s “services”, a truck that contains a time bomb for no reason whatsoever, threats of inter-racial rape, and oh, yeah, a diamond mine run by the very same German army guys that we saw massacred in the flashback! Wtf?!

I’ve always gotten a kick out of this movie because of its completely off the wall attempt to shovel so much shit on the viewer that it might even take extra viewings to pick out all of the inconsistencies, inaccuracies, plot holes, screw-ups, and just plain boneheaded moments. Plus, Elena Pompei (last seen in Luigi Cozzi’s 1989 classic PAGANINI HORROR) is easy on the eyes and runs around in a button-up shirt and white panties for most of the movie. Unfortunately the US version leaves a lot to be desired. In addition to the aforementioned edits, the movie desperately needs to be presented widescreen. One scene in particular has the actor completely cropped out of the frame while the image focuses on an inanimate object. If these issues are ever corrected, this movie would be a classic of prosaic adventure. And maybe we’d find out who the hell the guy is on the poster and why he is not in the movie!

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