Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


After the success of Cannon’s adaptation-cum-rip-off KING SOLOMON’S MINES (1985) it took a surprising amount of time for Golan and Globus to get their act together and do what they do… well, maybe it wasn’t exactly what they did best, but sequels they did! They didn’t even need a reason! They were crazy, you couldn’t stop them! Though many of their awful sequels are getting lavished with praise for being the cinematic equivalent of a mullet, let’s be honest, a lot of ‘em really sucked. You can talk up the merits of Cannon’s exploitation efforts and I’m with ya until you start bringing up those roman numerals. No amount of alcohol can put THE EXTERMINATOR II (1984) anywhere near on par with the original. SUPERMAN IV (1987), I don’t think so, and this is coming from someone who finds SUPERMAN III (1983) to be a misunderstood classic. Don’t even get me started on the DELTA FORCE or MISSING IN ACTION sequels. I gots me some strong love for da Cannon, but a man’s gotta know their limitations.

Where KING SOLOMON’S MINES was a fun, fast-paced, and totally ridiculous puree of Indiana Jones and Allan Quatermain, ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD is a blue streak of insanity that gleefully plunges into the sun after discovering that you can’t make wings out of crap.

The huge deficits in the film’s fun factor start early on. We find a soft-focus shot Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) living a cloying life of an almost married couple with Jesse (Sharon Stone). Quatermain idles away the time by having African boys set up a see-saw that they jump on to launch fruit and vegetables into the air for Quatermain to shoot. Jesse is all excited about a package she just got via the train and is bubbling with excitement as it is a suit for Quatermain. They are to be married in the states and it just won’t do to have him dressed up in his safari gear. Is your enthusiasm starting to wilt yet? Not to worry, the “Little House in the Bush” thing ends soon. A white man, being pursued by black men in hoods with lots of gold jewelry (how do they go to the bathroom with all that stuff on?), collapses on Quatermain’s front porch. Quatermain runs after the attackers, fights them and comes back with an ornate kukri knife and a ruined suit. The man is an adventurer named Dumont who is a friend of Quatermain’s brother (when did Quatermain get a brother?!) with whom he went searching for the fabled city of gold that is supposedly home to the lost white African race. Ummm… What?

Quatermain embarks on his new adventure much to the dismay of Jesse who actually takes off to America without him, then half way to the train has a change of head, flips out and starts throwing off her travelling clothes in the back of the convertible and throwing them over a cliff. Quatermain, meanwhile follows up on some leads that Dumont gave him before being killed by the white hooded dudes who managed to sneak into Quatermain’s house, grapple with a screaming Dumont, strangle him to death and sneak out again without anyone being the wiser. On the way to following Dumont’s clues, Quatermain is hounded by a street peddler who insists that he has some silver shirts that will repel daggers, Quatermain finally buys some just to shut they guy up. You don’t think they’ll factor into the plot later, do you? This brings Quatermain in contact with his new travelling companions: Swarma (Robert Donner) a phony swami who claims to be the holiest of men but is actually a greedy coward, and yes, his character is the *ahem* comic relief, and Umslopogaas (James Earl Jones), an axe and platitude-wielding barbarian warrior who seems much more suited to be a character in a sequel to CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984). James, buddy, what was it? A new swimming pool? A pony for your daughter? What?

After some serious slogging Quatermain and company find The Walls of Jaupura (aren’t those in India?), which has a path leading right down the middle. The thunder peals through the sky and Umslopogaas gravely intones “it is the wrath of angry souls”. Or just the foley guys trying to distract you from the fact that they are on a tiny foam set. Of course it is a trap and Quatermain and Jesse come face to face with the rotting corpse of his brother’s travelling companion. The episodic nature of this film really kicks in at this point with an angry native tribe who refuse to accept a teapot instead of Jesse, an encounter with a super-scary (at least to Swarma) whirlpool, the Magic Mountain log ride done via a painfully unexciting blue-screen with a giant pillar of fire erupting from the whirlpool as rubber river monsters belch giant toothy worms. This is the part where I stared down the neck of an empty bottle of likker and muttered “what do they put in this stuff?”
As they paddle closer to… whatever… they start sweating from the heat.
Swarma: “You are entering the devil’s heart!”
Jesse: “Are we entering a volcano?”
Quatermain: “No, just the devil’s heart.”

Once out of the boat, screenwriter Gene Quintano suddenly seems to run out of crazy to throw at us and decides to turn a scene where the group must leap across a five-foot chasm into an epic affair. Seriously, it goes on for eeeever with the increasingly grating Swarma babbling in terror. Once across they are attacked by a lion who leaps into the scene, is promptly shot dead by Quatermain, exit stage left! Cue rubber bat attack! Or well, actually rubber bat fly-by. If it weren’t for all the not-terribly-special effects and the single animal wrangling, I’d say someone just made this stuff up on the day of shooting.

Quatermain finds the lost city! Yay! A lion attacks a small white child! Boo! Quartermain shoots! Lion dead... again. From here we discover that like keys on my piano the legendary “white race” are living here in harmony with the black race. They eat fruit and worship lions… Uh oh. What did Quatermain shoot dead twice? This can’t be good. Even if they are a bunch of fruit eatin’ hippies. The queen of the city is a passive hottie (Aileen Marson) that’s hooked up with Quatermain’s rather foppish looking brother, but the real ruler of the city is the high priest Agon (Henry Silva) who is running a slave mine and dipping his subjects into a pit of molten gold. Oh, and laughing maniacally. I’d accuse Henry Silva of chewing the scenery, but it’s more like he’s in a pissing contest with it. With a massive frizzy wig that makes him look like a taller version of Dio, Silva acts as if the colossal marble and gold sets are trying to horn in on his limelight and by christ he ain’t havin’ none of it!

As it turns out, the Queen isn’t really fond of Agon anyway and is getting tired of him dipping people in his giant pool of molten gold that lies at the bottom of his gold mine of doom. The queen gives the thumbs up for Quatermain and company to mount an epic battle against Agon’s army and kill them all by melting a giant gold statue with lightning bolts. Did I stutter? You heard me. Lightning bolts. Melting gold statue. Dead army.

Yes, H. Rider Haggard did write a sequel to “King Solomon’s Mines” titled “Allan Quatermain”. This movie could be considered an adaptation of it only for the fact that the names of some of the characters are actually in the film and that it takes place in Africa. Oh and Quatermain stumbles across a white tribe of extremely bloodthirsty warriors, except here the tribe has been changed to a lost city of crackers living in utopian peace and a nutty priest that dips people in molten gold. Yeah, I guess you could make the case that the first one didn’t exactly hold true to the book either, but this one just runs completely loony with the premise. Of course, if it didn’t, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to watch. The movie ends with Quatermain telling Jesse, “I’ve been thinking, it’s time for something else.” To which Jesse replies, “some other great adventure?” The mind boggles at what a third entry could hold. Maybe someday fellow Junkie Will (hoarder of a Variety of ads) will stumble across that trade ad. One can only hope.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg, meet Mr. Mattei

Bruno Mattei is an exploitation God! If you agree with that statement (and you damn well better), you are more than welcome here at Video Junkie. Entering the Italian film industry in the 1950s as an apprentice editor, Mattei eventually began directing films in the 1970s. He succeeded in the Naziploitation genre in the 70s before really hitting his stride in the 1980s with his unique brand of exploitation cinema. The Italians were always doing imitations, but Mattei specialized in doing nearly carbon copies that were as off the wall as they were entertaining. During this prolific period, he copied tons of blockbusters including DAWN OF THE DEAD, EMANUELLE, RAMBO, ALIENS, TERMINATOR 2, JAWS, ROBOCOP and PREDATOR. He never met a movie he didn't like to rip off. In the land of Xerox cinema, Mattei was king and while he never did a full blown RAIDERS rip-off, he did manage to mimic the film twice in his own unique way.

Mattei’s first foray into Jonesploitation came through the oddest of vehicles. His earlier STRIKE COMMANDO (1987) starring Reb Brown was standard ‘Namsploitation and proved to be a big enough hit to warrant a sequel. So when Bruno decided to explore the further adventures of Mike Ransom in STRIKE COMMANDO 2 (1988), he opted to think outside the box. In this entry, Ransom (recast with Brent Huff) tries to locate his in trouble former superior, Vic Jenkins (Richard Harris…yes, THAT Richard Harris). Ransom finds him, only to discover he has led kidnappers to Jenkins’ hiding place. Strike Commando, you dumbass! As a U.S. Government agent informs Ransom, Jenkins was also a “frozen agent” and is now being held hostage in Burma by Huan To (Vic Diaz). Ransom is ordered to pay a ransom (ha!) of $10 million dollars in diamonds. The rendezvous point is a bar in the middle of nowhere called the Moulin Rouge, where Ransom finds owner Rosanna Boom (Mary Stavin) engaging in a drinking contest with a burly patron. Sound familiar? K.G.B. agent Kramet (Mel Davidson) arrives to pick up the diamonds and brings along some ninjas for good measure. Naturally, the place burns down and Ransom suddenly finds himself with a partner. Together he and Rosanna trek to Huan To’s base and quickly free Jenkins. But all isn’t as it appears to be as Jenkins is actually in on the whole thing and a double crossing agent. Strike Commando, you double dumbass!

Mattei is really getting his rip off groove on here, and the film should be called RAIDERS ROMANCING THE LOST STONE ARK: FIRST BLOOD pt. II. Obviously John Rambo gets the biggest rip-off percentage (nearly everything from the second Stallone sequel is in here), so the RAIDERS riffs are the delicious icing on this bootleg cake. The RAIDERS-esque drinking scene is hilarious with Mattei spicing up the rules as the “first to belch loses.” The ensuing fight is exactly the same, but Bruno had the foresight to throw in freakin’ ninjas. Kramet is a merging of Belloq and Tot. He is supposed to be Russian but talks with a German accent the whole time. The other big lift is the truck chase from RAIDERS. Mattei recreates it here, even going so far as to have the bit where the grill bars break on the guy hanging from the front. Oh, and freakin’ ninjas instead of Nazi soldiers crawling on the sides! On a completely unrelated to Indiana Jones note, it is a hoot seeing Richard Harris in this. We’re not talking some small cameo either. Dude is in a huge portion of the movie and shares the screen with Filipino exploitation legend Vic Diaz. He must have felt honored (Harris, not Diaz). Rumor has it the Philippines bars haven’t been the same since Typhoon Harris hit.

Mattei returned to the Indiana Jones well over 15 years later for THE TOMB (2004). The Italian film landscape had changed dramatically since Bruno began pumping out his knock offs, so much so that Mattei ended his career shooting on digital video. THE TOMB was one of his early forays into this medium and shows the man still had the mimicking mindset, even if he didn’t have the budget. The film opens with an Aztec ceremony where …well, I’ll let the narrator explain… “on the night of the 21rst day under the sign of the eagle, the stars aligned themselves and Tatamaki (Hugo Barret), disobeying the king's orders, began the sacrificial ceremony that would enable Cohacli (sp?) to arise from the dark world of the hereafter wither she had been exiled by the wraith of Kokokhan, the Supreme God.” Got all that? So he sacrifices some AVATAR looking blue folk before the locals show up to stop it. The priest is killed but his female assistant performs an embalming ritual on him that involves poking out his eyes so she can resurrect him in the future.

Cut the present as Professor Tom Langley (Robert Madison) arrives with a bunch of students in Mexico (actually the Philippines) for an archeological dig. The night before they are scheduled to go out their guide goes to a bar (totally cribbing the dance bit from FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) and is killed in a graveyard (Mattei boldly steals footage from Sam Raimi’s ARMY OF DARKNESS here). In need of a guide, the group settles on Bruha (Anna Marcello), a local witchdoctor who they meet mid-exorcism (not a good sign).  Everyone traipses though the jungle before they find the ancient Aztec soundstage, er, temple from the film’s opening. What no one in the group knows is Bruha is the reincarnation of the evil priest’s assistant and that she plans to bring her mummified boss back. And, even better, group member Liz (Kasia Zurakowska) is the reincarnation of the final victim who never got sacrificed.

This one is pretty terrible, but I think trash fans will appreciate it. Mattei’s movies are like a guessing game where you try to figure out what he stole from. Here the main influence is Universal’s 1999 redux THE MUMMY. How do I know? Well, he cribs stuff scene for scene and even uses ACTUAL footage from that movie. But we’re talking Indiana Jones rip-offs here and I’ll inform you this does apply. Outside of the requisite spiders, snakes, booby trapped tunnels and jungle stuff, Mattei does one special thing to let you know he is ripping off RAIDERS. For two brief shots he actually STEALS footage from the film. How do you say “that takes balls” in Italian? During the exorcism scene, the evil spirit is released and Mattei superimposes the ghost girl/skeleton from ark opening from the end of RAIDERS. Genius! During the film’s finale, he uses a shot from the Well of Souls where the skeletons pop off the wall. Double genius! Don’t believe me? Check out the frame grabs below. While blatantly illegal, this is a true hero move. I’d love to think this is Bruno thumbing his nose at the entire film industry while saying, “Take your big budgets, studios, politics and shove ‘em!” Rest in peace, Mr. Mattei, ya copycat!

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition

During the Lucasfilm and Disney partnership of the '80s, there were plans to build a massive Indiana Jones attraction taking up, and reconstructing most of Adventureland.

This sort of runs OT when it comes to Indiana Jones movie rip-offs, but hey, it's still some really interesting reading for Indy buffs and theme park freaks alike. Even better if you are both!

These two blogs do a great job covering the plans, concept art and why it was never built. Though that last part is an easy one... Money talks and Indy walks.

The Neverland Files: Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition

JHM: Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition... Found!

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: Brainstorming an Icon

For those who are really obsessive about interesting info and trivia on the genesis of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), this is probably the ultimate in uber-nerd cool.

An overview of the marathon brainstorming meetings between George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan who developed the film over a series of meetings. This overview also contains links to the actual transcripts of those meetings.

Amazing stuff.

The Indiana Jones Story Conference

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: JEWEL OF THE GODS (1988)

I’m sure there have been good films made in South Africa. I mean, it’s a law of averages thing. Science doesn’t lie, right?

After the international success of THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY (1980) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and subsequently Cannon’s KING SOLOMON’S MINES (1985), if you were a South African film mogul and were sitting around for three years waiting for the fluorescent bulb above your head to flicker to life, what would you come up with? Well it’s obvious, get the cast from THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY and put them in a ramshackle knock-off of KING SOLOMON’S MINES and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK! This forehead slapper was so ingenious that it could only be foiled by one thing: bad production and bad script. Ok, two things: bad production, bad script and lack of budget. Ok, three things! Bad production, bad script, lack of budget and horrible acting. Four things! Oh, never mind…

Set during an unspecified point during WWII, JEWEL OF THE GODS starts out with a bang, literally! A white guy in a safari getup clandestinely takes pictures of a native sacrifice (bizarrely set to cheery steel drum music) in which a witchdoctor perched atop a boulder wields a jerry-rigged bat-head crucifix with a purple gem set in the middle. The witchdoctor holds it up and a purple laserbeam shoots out of the gem and causes the sacrificial victim to explode! Dude, this totally has to rule, right?

The basic cruxt of the plot is the hunt for the fabled “Purple Diamonds” (yes, that’s the best name they could come up with) which are purported to be in the fabled Mines of King Solomon. The Nazis figure they would be invincible with an army wielding the gems, the British send their… ummm, not-so best, agent out to foil the German ambition and then there’s our Aussie Indy-wannabe, Snowy Grinder (Marius Weyers). Yes, someone thought that was a good heroic name.

Snowy has written a book on the subject and apparently this has led to several disappearances, this time of one Dr. Jim Hartwell. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking where’s the comic sidekick, man? Not to worry, we have one in the form of Archie (Taylor Negron’s long lost twin Joseph Ribeiro), a Calcutta-born, Texas-bred mechanical engineer who squeals like a girl while in danger and has moments of implied homosexuality. And wears an '80s foam baseball cap with a silk-screened picture of Texas... in the '40s. One character, three groups offended and time period anachronisms be dammed! That’s got to be a record. Anyway, Archie finds Snowy attempting to mine gold in a desert and when Snowy asks if he’s looking to get his copy of Snowy’s book autographed, Archie says “I don’t give a cow’s fuck for your autograph!” and explains that he wants Snowy’s help to find the lost Dr. Jim and shows him a purple diamond to prove that they exist. Of course Snowy is on this info like ugly on an ape.

Meanwhile, the Nazis discover Snowy’s book and hear tell that Archie knows someone who has a map to the fabled mines and it doesn’t take them too long to figure the pair can lead them to the purple diamonds. The running joke here is that Nazis bump their heads on things and commit painfully unfunny mixed-metaphors, such as “ze rolling stone catches ze early worm!” Oh, make it stop!

One Mr. Crow (Richard Cox) of special branch is also set out to find Snowy with the advice “chin up, don’t drink too much and don’t rape anyone important”. Yikes! Just like the warnings “do not drink” on windex bottles, if you have to say it, that means someone has done it. Moments like these pop-up every now and then and seem rather jarring against what is obviously trying to be an amiable, family-friendly adventure romp with bumbling Nazi stereotypes pulled straight out of “Hogan’s Heroes”. Matter of fact the movie is loaded with condescending stereotypes such as brothel owner Abdul (who looks like Roger E. Mosley in a fez) who is mad when the Nazis open fire on his boat because “this is costing me money!” Not to mention the fact that all the black characters are either loin-cloth clad spear-chuckers or are pigeon-English talking, wide-eyed, common clay of South Africa… you know… morons. In one scene where Snowy is at the Red Cross camp, he asks a patient where Dr. Hartwell’s room is. The patient looks confused so Snowy translates into coherent gibberish, “great white med’cine man, where he do dreaming?”, and is promptly pointed in the right direction.

As it turns out Mr. Crow is a mercenary and a black market dealer who wants to get the purple diamonds so he can sell them to the Nazis. He may wear a white suit, but Belloque he ain’t. He does however provide a rather uninteresting villain to chase around Snowy and Archie for a while, giving more opportunity for Archie to do his bug-eyed girly-screaming thing some more. By the time this is over you will be ready to club Archie like a baby seal, and that is long before the “hilarious” scenes where he falls asleep in a tree and dreams that the snake that is crawling on his arm is his lover’s caress only to awaken, screaming his head off to fall out of the tree into a pit filled with tarantulas… which he is scared of too, leading to more screaming. Seriously? Someone thought this would be funny? I wonder what the screenwriter was thinking when hammering out the script?

Snowy meets up with Dr. Hartwell only to find out that the doctor is *gasp* Ally Hartwell (Sandra Prinsloo)… a woman! What is the world coming to? Sheesh! They now let women play “doctor” with real people! God forbid we let them drive automobiles! Ally lets Snowy spend the night in her house, on the sofa, and clearly she has been in the bush too long as her attempt to seduce him consists of pretending to sleepwalk into the living room where she opens a book and the map to the mines falls out. Naturally Snowy, buying into Ally’s cheesy sleepwalking routine, ignores her silky negligee, jumps on the map and heads out to the mines in the morning with Archie and Ally in tow. Of course this is not before Ally gets gussied up in a gown to keep the commandant “busy” while Snowy sneaks around to get the lay of the land, so to speak (ummm... why didn't she try the evening gown and champagne trick on Snowy?). The Nazis now have the witchdoctor and his purple diamond crucifix and demonstrate its powers on an insolent Afrikaner (whose acting is so stunning that he is either a random farmer or a member of the crew). At this point our group decides to perform the raid at night as the purple diamonds are powerless in the dark as their lasers are created by sunlight!

As it turns out the “mine” is actually a high-tech, trap-laden installation ala OPERATION CONDOR (1991) and there is some musings that it might be of alien origin, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s simply the old favorite of cheap producers everywhere: an abandoned refinery. In an attempt to work in more “King Solomon’s Mines” plot devices, the witchdoctor gets in a slow, poorly choreographed fight with the presumed lost Dr. Jim causing the whole place to start exploding with purple lasers shooting everywhere. Wait, I thought the diamonds needed sunlight? Wtf? The group make their escape from the mine in a scene where they clearly wanted to do the mine car sequence from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984), except that their mine car is freakin’ tiny, made of wood and you could easily catch up with it by simply walking. What follows is a scene in which some Nazis in a motorcycle and sidecar chase the truck containing our heroes at breakneck speeds of up to 10 miles an hour! Seriously, I really don’t like seeing chase sequences undercranked, but this is pretty embarrassing. The film ends with a direct rip-off of the train sequence from Cannon’s KING SOLOMON’S MINES right down to the dialogue “The train will stop”, “it’s not stopping”, “it has to stop!” Of course once on the train, the mimicry ends as presumably they didn’t have the funds to stage another action sequence.

There are a couple of interesting things about the film, not the least of which is the name of the gaffer, Fuzzy Skinner. One is that the cast is well versed stage actors. Sandra Prinsloo has the distinction of causing a political uproar in 1985 during a stageplay titled “Miss Julie” in which she caused the audience to walk-out on the production because she kissed a black man (yes, I said 1985 not 1895). Joseph Ribeiro is a Fulbright scholar who has won awards for his stagework in Northern California where he teaches theater. Marius Weyers has been in everything from GHANDI (1982) to DEEP STAR SIX (1989) and while he’s no Harrison Ford, he is plenty competent when given something slightly better conceived to do. Also, there are a few moments in the film that make you wonder if Lucasburg saw it. The truck/motorcycle-sidecar chase from INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) is extremely reminiscent of the one found here, except here they shoot a purple laser at the sidecar and it detaches from the motorcycle and slides across the ground into a river where the irate Nazi is humorously deluged with water. Also, they mention that the artifact that they are after could be of alien origin and what was the last idea Lucasburg had for Indy? Yeah, that last sequel was so bad that I could totally believe that they stole the idea for it from this bastard child of a movie.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


David Keith has had an odd career. The Tennessee native made a name for himself in the late 70s/early 80s with memorable supporting bits in films like THE GREAT SANTINI (1979), BRUBAKER (1980), TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT (1981) and AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (1982). Lead roles in THE LORDS OF DISCIPLE (1983) and FIRESTATER (1984) had him poised for stardom. But it never happened and – be it personal choice or the Hollywood system – Keith never became the leading man he was positioned for. Maybe casting agents always thought he was Keith David? A dumbass goof like that is expected from Hollywood knownuthings. I’d like to think an individualistic streak kept him honest (check out his amazing lead performance in Donald Cammell’s serial killer flick WHITE OF THE EYE [1987]; definitely not a “safe” role) and his decision to direct in the late 80s backs that up. We are unapologetic fans of his Lovecraft adaptation THE CURSE here at VJ, so it is with sad news we report that his sophomore feature isn’t as gooey, goofy or good.

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TENNESSE BUCK tells the story of young yuppies Kenneth and Barbara Manchester (Brant von Hoffman and Playboy playmate Kathy Shower) taking a safari “somewhere in Borneo” (yes, that is what the title card says). Ken and Barbie (haha, get it?) find their plans in disarray after their guide is killed by a rampaging elephant minutes after they arrive at the village. What to do? Well, you hire Buck Malone (Keith), a local croc hunter who Ken just happened to see give a lecture at college (!) once. Buck is – of course – a drunken womanizer who’s initially resistant to the idea of taking them tiger hunting because the location is close to an area populated by cannibals. And Buck should know since he spent time with the flesh-eaters years ago (his plane crashed and they considered him a God who fell from the sky) and wears a protective amulet they gave him. But the allure of having free booze proves too much for our lush hero and off they go in his seaplane.

Cue the scenes of Buck telling Barb she can bring only one Gucci trunk (heathen!) and Buck mocking Ken’s ridiculously expensive firepower. The group finally spots their tiger prey, but Buck calls off the hunt because it seems the cannibals have expanded their territory. How does he know this? His assistant Sinaga smells a pile of crap on a log and says it smells of human flesh. Oh, and they find two guides strung up and beheaded. Before they can escape, the cannibals are upon them and the group is captured. Buck says that they eat their enemies but consider white meat evil. Of course, not too evil as all the men become entranced by the white woman (apparently their subscription to Playboy ran out in 1984) and they take her off to a hut to be oiled up (which she seems to enjoy). Buck tells Ken they have decided not to eat him. Yay, good news! They have decided to hunt him instead. Bummer. As Ken and Sinaga are released into the woods, an elder tribeswoman informs her chief son about how Buck saved them all back in the day and his dad gave him that medallion. He refuses to listen and, while everyone is asleep, the old woman releases Buck from his cage. He gets Barbara and they head off into the jungle to escape.

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TENNESSE BUCK is Jonesploitation alright. Hell, just read that title and look at the poster. The filmmakers obviously enjoy the wisecracking aspect of the Indiana Jones character and mimic it here. Keith is good in the role and comes off a little like Jack Burton too. Unfortunately, this is the film’s big problem because director Keith subverts actor Keith’s jovial efforts about an hour in with the biggest tone switch I’ve seen in a while. How big? This amusing adventure grinds to a shocking halt when a fully nude Shower has a tribesman come into her hut, throw her husband’s decapitated head at her and then proceed to graphically rape her! Wow. Later, Keith even has the gall to insert a Buck/Barb make out session mid-escape (which is brought on by a fire ant attack!). Just too many WTF? moments going on and the movie never fully recovers from moments like these.

Not that there was much movie there anyway. Screenwriters Barry and Stuart Jacobs offer such a thin plot that I’m surprised this could fill a 88 minute movie. There is also a truly awful 80s synthesizer score that is heavy on the drum machine. It is a shame because Keith was shooting in some beautiful places in Sri Lanka. I guess he did the best he could. Keith certainly knows the target audience well enough as he offers bloody deaths and plenty of nudity from Shower. As an actress, Shower is decent, certainly better than other Playboy progeny like Anna Nicole Smith. But TENNESSEE BUCK is not the best of movies to be showcasing her, uh, talents. The film is like the traveling montage in RAIDERS – it is all over the map! The final scene really sums up the movie’s schizophrenic nature perfectly. As Buck, Barb and Sinaga safely fly away, they bring up her now deceased husband, which Buck dismisses with basically an “oh well” and shrugs of his shoulders. “Now let’s get the hell out of here,” he says as the plane flies off into the horizon and the shot runs on long after the plane is out of view. My sentiments exactly! But since you stuck around to read this review, here is photo of Shower topless with a parrot to show my appreciation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1951)

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!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: Parody, thy name is Indiana

Outside of knock offs, the other true measure of success is the parody. Dr. Jones and his adventures quickly became known worldwide and so that meant the character was ripe for the parody picking. Here we look at a few of the flicks that looked to exploit the good archeologist through humor.

CROCODILE JONES: THE SON OF INDIANA DUNDEE (1990) – Wow, this Filipino action-comedy looked to kill two 80s staples with one (big rolling) stone. Very little is known about this Vic Sotto vehicle and I can’t even find art for it. But I did manage to find this clip online and, if this is any indication, this is the greatest movie ever made!

HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE (1987) – Robert Townsend became a critical darling with this comedy about the experience of a black actor in Hollywood. One segment called “Sneakin’ into the Movies” offered a Siskel & Ebert style show by two black dudes who, duh, snuck into the movies. The Indiana Jones offering is CHICAGO JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM with our two reviewers arguing over his ability to survive a jump off a cliff. “I know he’s a bad mutherfucker and all, but jumping off mountains with his mother and all? That’s bullshit,” argues negative reviewer Tyrone (Jimmy Woodward). Speed (Townsend) disagrees and retorts that Tyrone doesn’t know anything about how Jones survived because the hero knows something about the “levels of gravitivity and polarity.”

Sadly, this movie introduced us to co-writer Keenan Ivory Wayans. Or, more appropriately, unleashed him onto the cinematic world. Now he is not a bad guy and I like his early flicks, but his 90s SCARY MOVIE output directly led to the crap parody movies like DATE MOVIE, EPIC MOVIE, WHATEVER MOVIE clogging up the movie going publics arteries. And we come full circle as DISASTER MOVIE (2008) featured Tony Cox as a pint-sized Indiana Jones who I’m sure gets thrown into a wall or kicked in the nuts (no, I haven’t seen it as even I have standards).

HYSTERICAL (1983) – Ah, boy, start sharpening those knives because I will totally bag on the terrible current parody trend but then stick up for the Hudson brothers HYSTERICAL. This was SCARY MOVIE before semen jokes! Think AIRPLANE but with a horror slant. This gets a mention because 2 of the 3 Hudsons, Mark and Brett, essay the roles of Indiana Jones clones Dr. Paul Batton and Fritz through out the movie. Their intro scene has them spelunking in a tomb and confronting Dracula, who proceeds to turn into a bat and hump Fritz. See, dick jokes are alright and this film has plenty of them. It was the best movie ever for a 7-year-old kid obsessed with horror movie and is, well, hysterical. Don't take my word for it, watch the hysterical HYSTERICAL clip below:

Interestingly, lead Bill Hudson was married to Goldie Hawn for three years in the 1970s and is the father of Kate Hudson. After he divorced Goldie, Bill married Cindy Williams (got a thing for funny chicks, Bill?) and the Hudson brothers planned to do another flick spoofing the Indiana Jones image called BOOMERANG with Williams in the lead. This trade ad ran in 1983, but the flick never got made. Deep down I am truly saddened.

NIGHT PATROL (1984) – This raunchy parody doesn’t actually have any Indiana Jones riffs in it, but the filmmakers did see fit to mention the film in a trade ad that spoof various hits at the time ("Even more action packed than RAIDERS OF THE LOST PATROL").

UHF (1989) – This is probably the defining send up of Dr. Jones to anyone from my generation. As a master of pop parody, “Weird” Al Yankovic made a career off of mimicking music culture. So the promise of a Weird Al movie made fans giddy with anticipation of what films he would skewer. Well, he delivered by opening with a pitch perfect satire of the opening of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. From the Oscar statue idol to the endlessly chasing boulder, it is as fine scene as anything the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker guys gave us. Revisit this classic bit below: