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!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dr. Jones I Presume: BLOODSTONE (1988)

I’ve always had this weird loyalty thing with directors who cut their teeth in the horror genre. Not sure why, but it just makes them more endearing to me. Such is the case with Dwight Little, a helmer who first caught my eye with the serviceable sequel HALLOWEEN 4 (1988) and the Robert Englund version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1989). A good one-two punch that showed Little had a good visual eye. He quickly transitioned to action pics with MARKED FOR DEATH (1990) - unofficially Steven Seagal’s best film - and RAPID FIRE (1992). He even endeared himself to Tom by shooting the live-action footage for the video game GROUND ZERO TEXAS (1993). (“Where my damn re-release of that?” shouts Tom.) Now I’ll admit I got off the Little train by the time he was making FREE WILLY 2 (1995), but it was cool to see the guy rise up the ranks. I’m not so sure I would have been as enthused if BLOODSTONE was the first film I saw from him.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, BLOODSTONE is about a giant ruby and not an adaptation of the Judas Priest song (many thanks to Tom for the info there). The film opens in India in 1221 with some onscreen text about a Princess dying in an accident. At her funeral her father points a clear sword at the titular gem in her crown and says, “May your blood bring fortune to those who have good in their hearts. May your blood bring death and destruction to those who have evil in their minds.” This causes a lot of wind, so we know it must be magic.

Anyway, cut to the present day and the film proper begins as we are introduced to a myriad of characters. First, newlyweds Stephanie (Anna Nicholas) and Sandy McVey (Brett Stimely), who are on a train bound to Bangalore. On the train they meet Paul Lorre (Jack Kehler), a thief who has stolen the priceless bloodstone (sadly, the heist occurs offscreen). Lorre has planned to sell it the evil Ludwig Van Hoeven (Christopher Neame), whose evilness is established by sneaking up on a guard and threatening to slice his throat. And by being named Ludwig Van Hoeven and having a haughty accent. LVH dispatches some thugs to meet Lorre at the train station. Also waiting for him is Inspector Ramesh (Charlie Brill) and his deputy. When Lorre spots the cops, he slides the bloodstone into Stephanie’s tennis bag. Not a wise move as we find out Sandy’s job in the US is being a street smart cop who can spot trouble anywhere...except when it is stuffing a big ass jewel in his wife’s luggage. Also entering into this fracture plot is taxi driver Shyam Sabu (Rajinikanth), who unwittingly ends up having the bloodstone in his possession when it slips of of the tennis bag in the trunk of his taxi.

Thanks to this modification of the old satchel switcheroo trope we now have a group of bad guy folks chasing after a group of newlywed folks being followed by one dude who is being followed by a group of cop folks. Got all that? Before you can scream THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1914), Stephanie is kidnapped and Sandy must team up with Shyam to locate her. The streetwise Shyam says he is looking for the bloodstone ruby, which is really weird as he has already found it in his trunk. “A man of all things, I am,” he says in his Yoda. All things except recognizing you don’t need to be involved in this danger. Van Hoeven gives them a call and arranges a prisoner-for-bloodstone exchange at a waterfall. So at the 50 minute mark we finally start to get some Indiana Jones-ing going on as we head into the jungle.

An American-Indian co-production, BLOODSTONE should have been better than it turned out to be. For example, look at the cover at the beginning of this review. There is truth in that advertising as everything depicted on there happens in this film, yet it never seems as cool as the poster implies. While it gives a distinct Indiana Jones flair (hell, that art is why we grabbed it for this theme week), this is actually more of a ROMANCING THE STONE (1984) clone than anything. Perhaps the most surprising thing for me as a Little fan is how poorly he stages the action. Very much along the “over the shoulder, punch, cut” line and shows he definitely improved over time. There is one impressive sequence though on rickety bridge over a waterfall, which benefits from the India locations. Even more unforgivable is a definite emphasis on comedy and that might be the film’s downfall. It is rough. How rough? We get one shot where a guy gets pigeon poop falling on his face and instead of a drum rim shot, we get a sting of sitar strings. Most of this comedy comes from Brill as Inspector Ramesh, which might be the most stereotyped portrayal of Indians since Fisher Stevens in the SHORT CIRCUIT films. Nothing says Indian more than a guy from Brooklyn.

Such casting also is also dubious when one finds out that co-star Rajinikanth -given top billing in the end credits, but relegated to small dude on the poster - is actually one of India’s biggest cinema stars. As one of five films he had in released in 1988, this is sort of Rajinikanth’s THE BIG BRAWL (1980) or THE PROTECTOR (1985), the first two films to try to introduce Jackie Chan to the American market. (The Chan analogy is also apt as, according to Wikipedia, Rajinikanth was the second highest paid actor in Asia at one point in time.) A veteran of over 150 films by this point, Rajinikanth has a natural on screen charisma so you can understand why he was so popular. Interestingly, it was after BLOODSTONE that his career became huge, but there were no more crossovers with American cinema. He is still working to this day and his hit KABALI (2016) even made it to US screens in July 2016.

There is one really odd thing I learned from BLOODSTONE though. It is the second film I’ve seen where Christopher Neame quotes Shakespeare to someone and gets a modern quote thrown back at him.

Christopher Neame: “What’s in a name. William Shakespeare.” 
Brett Stimely: “Fuck you. David Mamet.” 

 A few years later he was the baddie in STREET KNIGHT (1993) and we got this exchange: 

Christopher Neame: "Good night, sweet Prince, may flights of angels wing you to thy rest. Shakespeare." 
Jeff Speakman (shooting Neame): “Hasta la vista, baby. Schwarzenegger." 

That’s about all I got out of BLOODSTONE. Well, that and the fact that Rajinikanth has some mad cigarette-to-mouth catching skills.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dr. Jones I Presume: THE SECRET OF THE INCA'S EMPIRE (1987)

In the annals of the INDY rip-off, there have been some bastardizations of classic literature. Well, two, anyway. That would be Cannon's 1985 epic KING SOLOMON'S MINES and its sequel, which take broad liberties with H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel and its 1887 sequel. Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan were visionaries after all (yeah, I said it), but at the time few other films had the genius to use a highly respected book as an inspiration for their faux Indy efforts. Case in point, Gianfranco Parolini's THE SECRET OF THE INCA'S EMPIRE. Based on a novel titled THE SEARCH FOR THE BURIED CITY, author Gualberto Sanchez Alvino also helped pen the script, although that seems to be the bulk of his work at the time and while I admit I've never read the book, I seriously doubt you could call it "classic literature". In recent years Akvino has written a few books about writers, but I'm guessing his foray into adventure fiction was not very successful. Much like this movie.

Opening in a professor's classroom, Professor Alexis Xristopoulos (played by Parolini himself) is teaching a very appreciative class about a pre-Incan civilization that was founded by red-haired, fair skinned humanoids from space who came from "the cortadeiras" and have co-mingled with humans for centuries. He uses a drawing on a chalkboard showing what appears to be a submarine in an ocean trench to make his point about as clear as a blind man's glasses. His very brief speech is said to be the theories of two professors, one La Fuente and one Rivera, aaaand class dismissed! I know I learned a lot, how about you? If I was one of the poor saps in this guy's class, I'd be demanding my tuition back.

In the jungles of Columbia, which are strangely populated almost entirely by Filipinos, a rugged, fedora wearing "ethnologist" (why not just an anthropologist?) improbably named Professor Clifton Bradbury III (Bruno Minniti) is being stalked by what appears to be a member of a Doobie Brother's cover band in a loincloth (Kenneth Peerless). Why is he being stalked? Why does this guy want to kill him? This is never made clear in the entirety of the film's running time. Apparently someone realized this and in one of a few attempts to explain many inscrutable things in this film via a voice-over track, we get somebody presumably saying something in the "native's" mind: "Don't kill, Inca, don't kill. The man must get there before us, it is the will of Inty, the will of your god". Thank goodness for that voice-over. That explains everything!

Suddenly out of the jungles and back in civilization, a reporter asks Clifton at a news conference what he thinks of a book by fellow ethnologist Linda Logan (Kelly London). Without hesitation, he brutally slams the book and Linda personally, who as luck would have it was sitting by the radio preparing to eat what appears to be the world's largest hot dog when she hears this. Unfortunately we never get to see the hot dog being eaten. What are the chances that these two are going to meat, I mean meet? That's a sucker bet for sure.

Suddenly back in the jungle (although the plaque on the hacienda says "Los Angeles"!), Linda stops a man from trying to get in the door to speak to her boss, professor La Fuente, causing him to be shot by the men that are chasing him. The dying man instructs her to give his hat to the professor immediately, to which the professor exclaims "Straw hat! Call the police!" I understand that some head-wear can be alarming, but this is ridiculous. Of course the hat contained a map to the secret, buried city to which everyone is looking for. The killers get inside the house and with his dying breath La Fuente charges Linda with getting the map to professor Rivera, who apparently is also somewhere in this very jungle... or Los Angeles... I don't know. Linda finds the RLF (Rivera La Fuente) camp, but is cornered by the thugs who killed her boss. Clifton just happens to be there driving a giant drill into a large stone artifact (wtf?!) and fights off the killers. Since Rivera is not at the camp, the pair set out to find the professor or plunder the alien treasure. Which ever comes first. I mean, what's the point of being an ethnologist if you can't score some sweet loots, amiright?

As it turns out professor Evans was responsible for professor La Fuente's execution and has an army of thugs looking for that map and killing everyone in their way, including professor Rivera. Professor Evans (who is also Professor Xristopoulos!) has an encampment filled with people wearing ERS logos (not to be confused with RLF) and has made it his priority to loot the buried city by fair means or foul. Mostly foul. Although we only see Evans once or twice, we hear his voice from a loudspeaker on a helicopter as he tells his thugs not to harm Clifton and Linda and that he just wants to be partners! This doesn't stop main henchman, Angel (Vassili Karis), from shooting bullets and grenades at them and at least twice threatening to rape Linda! I guess you can't get good help these days.

If you are thinking that there are an awful lot of professors in this movie, brother, you are not wrong. The professors are rarely on screen and are sometimes referred to as "professor", which turns following what should be a fairly simple plot into a labyrinthine nightmare of Who's on First. Not that all of the characters being clearly identified in the movie or even in the credits would make the script completely straight forward. The film jumps around without warning or explanation and has characters pop in and out of the film with even less. Quite honestly, I have no idea what Kenneth Peerless' character is supposed to be doing. He pops up every now and then to glower meaningfully into the distance or put an arrow in someone who is trying to harm our romantically stoned duo.

The bulk of the film has Clifton and Linda on the run from Angel and his gang, leading them into pitfalls with piranha (which are not shown other than a small fish that seems to be glued to one of Clifton's pant legs), papier-mache crocodiles, inclement weather, indigenous primitives who cannot throw a spear, and a bunch of head hunter cultists who worship a fertility idol that's perched on top of a rock by decapitating woman and hauling their heads on a rope up to said rock. Yeah, I have no idea what that's all about. Probably my favorite bit involves a scene where an arrow grazes Linda's lovely backside. Clifton is one smooth dude, as he tells her that the wound could get infected and there is only one thing to do! Yep, gotta suck out the poison. I have to remember that one for the next time I'm stuck out in the jungles of Columbia/Philippines/Los Angeles with a hot British ethnologist girl.

As it turns out the much ballyhooed buried city is merely a couple of water-logged caves that look like left-over sets from one of Parolini's 1960s sword and sandal flicks. Well, except for one room that has a church organ installed next to an alter so that The Golden Condor, a cat pawed, gossamer winged, laser-eye shooting deity can play ominous music. No, really, I'm not making this up. Why someone would want to hang out in a small, wet cave playing the organ until someone finally shows up a this secret location is beyond me. There is a twist ending here that not only clears up nothing that came before, but doesn't make any fucking sense whatsoever! Highlight for spoilers: The Golden Condor is actually professor Rivera in the Inty god outfit. So he is not dead, was at the city all along and told the Inca not to kill Clifton so that Clifton could find him playing the organ and - WHAT?! I am so confused.

I guess it's not surprising that some of the people involved never did anything after this. London clearly had so much fun being rained on, sliding down muddy hills and falling into pools of water every day of the shoot, that she must have reconsidered her career options. I don't know how she would have fared in other films, but she's easy on the eyes and is far less annoying than the usual Kate Capshaw wannabe. Hell, she's far less annoying than Kate Capshaw and could have easily gone on to make other low-rent genre films. Bruno Minniti's rather short film career dried up after this, but he made most of his career on soap operas and as a singer. Kenneth Peerless, on the other hand, had a nice little career following this film working in a few Cirio H. Santiago films (he started with the 1986 classic FUTURE HUNTERS) and a few Italian efforts. He may be best remembered as Hal in the original BLOODFIST (1989).

Gianfranco Parolini (aka Frank Kramer) is an interesting director as his work is very hit and miss, particularly in his later days. Most folks would probably say miss, but I think IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH (1968), SABATA (1969) and ADIOS SABATA (1970) are damn fine spaghetti westerns that, while they may not be the cream of the crop, are a long way from scraping the bottom. Parolini also directed the first four films in the very popular German/Italian James Bond knock-offs, the KOMMISSAR X films, that started off with KISS KISS KILL KILL (1965). Then came THE RETURN OF SABATA (1971) and everything goes to hell. Well, with the exception of the Michael Colby, Paul L. Smith Hill and Spencer knock-off WE'RE NO ANGELS (1975) and the stunningly inept, but hugely entertaining, King Kong knock-off YETI - GIANT OF THE 20TH CENTURY (1977), which is really required viewing for fans of Italian schlock.

SECRET was Parolini's last film and it came after a ten year gap following YETI, though he was only 57 when SECRET was made. While many of his films are ramshackle, inscrutable messes, that's hardly stopped people like Ulli Lommel from continuing to pummel unsuspecting audiences into submission with gawd-awful movies for decades. I think if Parolini had been a little less conservative and indulged in some gore effects and nudity, as was demanded of Italian genre films at the time, he would be fondly remembered today. Err, by degenerates who like that sort of thing, I mean.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dr. Jones I Presume: TREASURE OF THE MOON GODDESS (1987)

With the Jack Hunter trilogy scratched off our scroll, we are now in what they would call uncharted waters. This is where I allow my muse to take over and lead me to whatever suits me best. Sometimes it can be something like a title. Sometimes it can be an actor. And sometimes it can be a poster that catches my eye. In this case it was a little bit of all three of those. Seriously, how could not love something called TREASURE OF THE MOON GODDESS? And it reunites Don Calfa and Linnea Quigley after RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)! Plus, look at that gorgeous poster on the side there. How could this movie not rule? How? Let me show you.

In an ominous sign, TREASURE opens with a voice over in the very first shot as Don Calfa says, “Okay, so here’s the picture…” We then see a treasure hunter (co-writer Eric Weston) running across a muddy field while being attacked by some natives. After some fisticuffs and the guy getting blown away in a hotel room, we get bad sign number two as we cut to “real time” as Harold Grand (Calfa), Hollywood agent to the non-stars, is explaining to his bikini clad secretary all about his adventures down in Central America with his top client, Lu De Belle (Quigley). Harold is apparently a really bad agent because as we jump back to the story proper he has Lu singing in a Central American dive where pigs and chickens are roaming freely. Man, I can’t wait until Jon Taffer gets to this place. To make matters worse, Harold is beaten up by some henchmen of Mr. Diaz (Danny Addis). Seems Diaz wants Harold to deliver Lu to a place called Cantana with the vague instructions of “you must get her there.”

The right thing to do would be to split, but then we wouldn’t have a movie so some threatening knuckle-cracking, neck-grabbing and angry-stancing has Harold chartering the boat of Brandy (Jo Ann Ayers) and Sam Kidd (Asher Brauner) to the required location. Things don’t initially go well as Sam, our Indiana Jones-clone, throws Harold off his boat into the water. What could convince Sam to help them out? Money and booze, of course! After Harold offers to buy him a drink later that night at a bar, Sam gladly accepts the job of taking them down river to Cantana. The power of alcohol. Well, that and Brandy reminding him they are flat broke a few minutes earlier. They are about to be broker as some thugs catch up to them on their own boat the next day and their leader screams, “You give us the blonde woman and I give you your life.” Jeez, these dudes really liked Quigley’s nude scenes in ROTLD and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984), didn’t they? Sam ain’t about to hand over the ‘80s top scream queen, so naturally his boat is blown up. The foursome escape though and keep heading down toward Cantana. Why? Because some random baddie said so.

It is all soon explained but not soon enough. As they slog through the jungle, we get “funny” dialogue like this -

Harold: “Hey, look at that lizard.”
Lu: “That’s an alligator, Harold!”

Naturally, this dialogue is laid over some random shot of an alligator (more on that later) We also get hijinxs like Calfa riding in a bus with a cow and being bitten on on the ass by a tarantula (more on that later too). Our mysterious plot is finally unveiled when our group reaches a tribe and finds Mr. Diaz impersonating the leader. His reason for desiring Lu is the age old W.T.W.W.A. (“Where the white women at?”) conundrum. Seems Lu is the spitting image of the Moon Goddess and Diaz wants her to impersonate the deity in order to claim some treasure. Sam and crew out Diaz to the tribe, but they say that to prove themselves they must enter the Temple of Imak in the Cave of the Moon and bring back some treasure after a series of challenges. Wait, isn’t that the basis of the kids' game show LEGENDS OF THE HIDDEN TEMPLE? Finally, at the 70 minute mark we start getting our Indiana Jones on.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, TREASURE OF THE MOON GODDESS is a mess. Jumping back-and-forth between the Mexico footage and Don Calfa’s narration, it was also apparently a mess of a production. The film was originally mentioned in Variety at the MIFED 1984 market as a product of Hemdale with the title DREAMS OF GOLD (“Two newies that Hemdale will dangle as presales for potential buyers are DREAMS OF GOLD, described as a $ 5,000,000 action-drama with Gerald Green producing, Eric Weston directing and Asher Brauner starring.”) By the time production began in November 1984 (meaning Calfa and Quigley pretty much went from ROTLD straight to this) in Central America locations, Weston was listed as a co-director alongside Joseph Louis Agraz. Something strange then happened as the film shutdown and then resumed production two years later in November 1986 in the Philippines. Those cut aways to Calfa and the narration are suddenly starting to make sense. I’d theorize Agraz shot the Mexican footage and Weston directed the later narration footage, but that would appear to be wrong as Weston was on the film before Agraz. But something happened on this film as displayed by its choppy nature and moments of dubbing. Need more evidence? As Tom told me, watch how often Don Calfa’s hairstyle changes throughout the film. At one point his hair is even blonde (it is black throughout most of the film).

Not that there was going to be much hope for either side of the production. Remember that spider bite I mentioned earlier? The natives tell Harold they have a cure for it called Yaksuk. As any fifth grade joke teller will know well in advance, Yaksuk ends up being a gay guy played in over-the-top fashion. Wah, wah, wah. Of course, I’ll accept bad comedy if we get some good Indiana Jones-esque action. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen until the last few minutes and, while somewhat impressive, doesn’t forgive the rest of the film. And then there is Asher Brauner as Sam Kidd. At this point an industry vet for over a decade, Brauner adopts a completely flat delivery on every line. There is no emotion, no humor, no anything. As Tom said to me in an email, it is like he tried to sound tough but comes off sounding deeply medicated. Maybe he was pissed at the dialogue by Weston and his co-writer? Who was his co-writer? Oh, just some guy named Asher Brauner! Dude, you co-wrote a part for yourself and screwed it up? I’d blame the language barrier, but I’m pretty sure Brauner speaks English.

Regardless of the production woes, I guess we should applaud them for getting the darn thing finished after so many years. According to Variety, the film opened at San Francisco’s Embassy Theater on December 19, 1987 and later in the New York market on January 15, 1988. Oh, yeah, it also had a new production shingle (Ascot Entertainment) and new distributor (Manson International) during this release. And its very limited theatrical release pump out a poster that actually featured Calfa, essentially the film’s lead, in the poster.

That wasn’t the case when it had an unceremonious debut on video via Vidmark Entertainment a few months later in February 1988. That is when we got the cover that lured me in. My muse is still waiting for that badass “hanging by a rope, attacked by alligator” scene as depicted in the poster.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


In the previous installment, Jack (Ivan Sergei) and Nadia's (Joanne Kelly) goofy driver Tariq (Mario Naim Bassil) has a moment of prophetic insight when he muses that THE GODFATHER (1972) was a great movie, but the third part, not so much. While I wouldn't call THE LOST TREASURE OF UGARIT a great movie, it and the sequel are entertaining enough, but part three seems to have lost the plot. Almost literally.

Opening in Bulgaria, Littmann (Thure Riefenstein) has snuck into a crowded marina under the cover of broad daylight. Yep, the notorious grave robber and mass murderer has decided to make a grand entrance in a speedboat with a posse, for no apparent reason. Not only has the NSA got the marina staked out, but apparently Littmann's movements are so obvious that even Jack is waiting incognito (ie: sans hat) on a bench. Of course the NSA make a complete hash of things by simply rushing out into the open and initiating a shoot-out in the middle of a civilian gathering with bodies dropping left and right. And why are American foreign ops so unpopular, I wonder? After Jack takes a bullet in the shoulder, which bothers him for at least minutes, in typical government agency fashion, the NSA lay the blame for the massive clusterfuck at Jack's front door. Liz figures since he was there, therefore, his fault! It seems that the NSA is run by my parents.

Littmann's rich, asshole client, Petrovski (Teoman Kumbaracibasi), is more than a little miffed that Littmann has interrupted his pool party to show up empty handed. Why Littmann went back to be humiliated after the shoot-out and didn't just find another way to get the Star is a unexplained. I mean, if your boss told you to bring back a cup of coffee, and your boss had a firearm, would you go back empty-handed? No, because that would be dumb.

Now Littmann is (*ahem*) under the gun to get the final piece of the Staff and bring it back to the unscrupulous Russian for... whatever reason. I mean, he's a Russian that lounges around a pool with hot chicks in bikinis everywhere, whatever it is, it can't be good. Unfortunately for all concerned, as we know from the end of part 2, nobody knows where the Star is.

The writers made the assumption that the Romans were responsible for the destruction of Ugarit and the theft of the Staff, and so now everyone has to figure out where the Romans may have taken it. Oddly, Hunter makes the assertion that Octavious (Emperor Augustus) must have stolen the Star when he conquered Egypt. Since Ugarit is only a minor detour to a Roman army, a day or two out of their way, this seems reasonably plausible. The only problem is the fact that The Battle of Alexandria, the final of Octavious' wars against Antony, took place in 30 BC, over 1100 years after Ugarit was destroyed! Jack's story may be good enough for the NSA, but I ain't buying it.

As it turns out, the NSA has computers that can do pretty much anything except the dishes. After scanning in a picture of the box that had been made to hold the Star, they come up with a newspaper clipping of Nadia and her ex-boyfriend Fuad (Mert Yavuzcan) at an auction in which the box is sold by Faud's father. This is going to get awkward. Liz manages to twist Jack's arm to go to Istanbul (not Constantinople) and work with Nadia to get that artifact before Littmann does, which presumably would mean the end of the world as we know it. Fortunately for Littmann, a girl that speaks German literally walks in front of him and is able to give him the information that he needs to start his chase. All of the good will that the writers earned by doing a bit of historical research is slowly being eaten away with these incredibly lazy bits of writing that proliferate this final entry.

Starting off with Faud's old man, Mr. Antaki (Michael Halphie), Jack, Nadia, Tariq and Faud follow a trail that leads up a variety of strange ends. Their second stop is a Christian church to talk to an extremely helpful priest who directs them to an elderly widow who is spending her last days in a convent. When they arrive they are told that she is very old, but find that she is in her early '70s, is sharp as a tack and wants to do nothing more than talk about Puccini's MADAM BUTTERFLY. Nadia gets all mushy as the discuss love lost and maybe something else as this is about where I start discussing interest lost.

These scenes give us two things: Yet another chance to appease the local tourism board and also to find some inexpensive locations that at least give the viewer something to look at while we have yet another scene of talking heads. Wasn't there supposed to be some adventuring going on here? Where's the adventuring? Oh and we get to touch on the subject of Christianity in Turkey. You see, Nadia broke off her engagement to Faud because she was Muslim and he was Christian and their families weren't happy about it.

Littmann, like a slow dog with a slippery bone, is following the their every step, shooting up every place Jack and company visit. This breaks up the rather dry proceedings, as does a car chase around the scenic coast of Istanbul. Unfortunately for everyone (including the audience), the car chase leads to the group being arrested and ending up in a really rather nice jail cell. C'mon now, we've all seen MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (1978), and I'm calling bullshit on that nice clean cell with wood-paneled walls and neatly arranged chairs. Aside from that, is there anything more exciting than our heroes sitting, despondent in a jail? Why yes there is! A second scene of jail sitting! That's right, after getting Liz to fly over and bail them out, they finally discover where the Star is located. The group then rush off to a monastery, but on the way decide to stop to help out at an accident between two cars in the middle of fucking nowhere! Literally (I seem to be using that word a lot), it is two cars who have collided head-on in an empty desert. This, of course, raises no red flags, and it is, of course, a trap. Proving that their entire budget was squandered on the first two films, the producers take this opportunity to have Littmann take our protagonists to a rather odd holding pen in the middle of an abandoned factory. An abandoned factory. In the desert. How's that for excitement?

All of this finally leads up to some action in which Littmann has arranged to meet Petrovski to hand over the completed staff. The NSA are down for this, but instead of using strategically placed snipers to take out Littmann before he can use the staff, simply stumble down a mountain allowing themselves to be gunned down by Littmann's men en masse. Yep, our tax dollars at work.

This final show-down takes place next to a volcano which allows for another cheap, scenic location and better still for more cheap CGI. When I say "more" what I mean is: "only". This final installment is so threadbare that until the end there aren't even any special effects, aside from bullet squibs that make actors look like they are part of the NRA's Bastille Day celebration. I guess they thought that no one would watch past the first two or if they did, the viewers would feel compelled to sit through the last one because they invested the time in the first two. These cheap bastards even have the audacity to pull the old helicopter-exploding-behind-the-hill gag which I had thought went out with the A-TEAM in the '80s. Where are the exploding flower pots, I ask you?

Additionally, this denouement gives us an opportunity to shed a tear when Tariq waxes poetic about love in an attempt to push Jack into making a move on Nadia. Complete with swelling strings and lingering gazes. That said, it's still better than KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008).

Thursday, May 4, 2017


Okay, so when we last left Jack Hunter (Ivan Sergei), he had completely failed in his mission to secure one half of the “Eye of the Star of Heaven” and it fell into the hands of his mentor-turned-enemy Littmann (Thure Riefenstein). So to recap part one - Hunter failed on a museum heist, failed to save his boss Professor Schaffer, failed to save his new contact Ali in Syria, and failed on his main mission. Man, this guy has failed so much that he’d be perfect to be President of the United States right now.

Anyway, onto part two - JACK HUNTER AND THE QUEST FOR AKEN… ARKHEN… ARKHAM ASYLUM… AKHENATEN’S TOMB. Okay, Tom, I get it now. I get the unpronounceable entry. Oh wait, I’m typing this. As the show opens, Hunter is kidnapped and taken to a place with a black bag over his head. Turns out this is how the NSA gets people to their headquarters so they don’t know where it is. Is this really necessary? Given Hunter’s aforementioned failures, I’m sure him remembering directions isn’t something they needed to worry about. Anyway, as Tom mentioned previously, meek little Liz (Susan Ward), the professor’s assistant, is actually a take-no-crap NSA government leader. How do the filmmakers establish this? She pulls her hair back tight! And how do we know this is the NSA? Because they are in a room with monitors everywhere and there are lots of white folks typing fast on computers...wait, I’m doing that I NSA?

Liz tells Hunter that Littmann is working for a Russian mafioso named Vladmir Petrovsky (Teoman Kumbaracibasi) and he needs to skedaddle to Egypt to beat him to finding the “Eye of the Star,” the second piece of the relic. Apparently there is an obelisk in Egypt that can help him find it and the best way to provide him cover is to reunite him with Nadia (Joanne Kelly) and Tariq (Mario Bassil). Wait...I can understand bringing back Nadia, who has a history with ancient treasures, but Tariq the taxi cab driver? Uh, okay. Anything to shoehorn in that comedic relief. Once in Egypt, they go to visit archaeologist (and old Hunter flame) Lena Halstorm (Alaina Huffman), Said (Tuncel Kurtiz, looking like the Turkish G. Gordon Liddy) and his assistant Eyhab (Alper Kul). Somehow I think Eyhab might be a traitor. I’m not sure what gave it away...hmmm, maybe this facial hair design?

The obelisk is a long, black foot long pillar with writing on it and Nadia displays her knowledge by saying, “It seems like it was meant to fit into something.” They run some tests (as one astute IMDb user mentioned: “Whilst in the museum, and Jack is examining the obelisk, he asks if it has been carbon dated. Carbon dating is only valid for organic materials - the obelisk is clearly made of stone and could not be carbon dated.” - thank you science nerd Jack Hunter fan) and Jack begins to decipher a location. He then places that location on a current map of Egypt and...hey, didn’t he do the same thing in part one? Before you can say Belloq, Littmann shows up and there is a big shootout. The foursome of Hunter, Nadia, Tariq and Lena escape, but not before the duplicitous Eyhab reports them as having stolen the artifact. Jack and his crew make it to a passenger boat, but a bunch of random baddies catch up and fisticuffs ensue. This allows for a great scene where Tariq subdues a bad guy by showering him with a fire extinguisher and all of the passengers erupt in applause. You know, just like in real life.

Anyway, Jack and crew escape on a little boat and make it up river to the desert they need to be at (apparently Egypt is a really small country). They make it to some cursed ruins where Jack inserts the obelisk (hey, Nadia was right!) and deciphers the next location to head to. This means traveling through the “Valley of Death,” which naturally gives them little problem. The next day they head to the next site and start their journey by - how else - picking up a ride with a random guy. Rule #1 by the writers of this series: If the protagonists are stuck somewhere, there is always some random Arab guy willing to help out. This poor dude gets more than he bargained for as soon his truck is besieged by more random heavies and Jack has to take command for a desert highway chase. Once they make it to town, they fall into the hands of Col. Mustafa (Sinan Tuzcu), a West Point educated military man. He plans to turn them over to the authorities until he finds out about their quest for Akhenaten’s tomb. Naturally, he senses a chance for..wait for it...a promotion! Guess ethics wasn’t a big on the curriculum at West Point. Naturally, under the pressure of a gun and his friends held hostage, Jack leads them the next location but the group soon encounter the Midian soldiers, a group sworn to protect the tomb. After deciphering the location of the tomb, Hunter uses the ensuing chaos to jump off a cliff (perhaps his most Indiana Jones-esque moment of this episode) and go free his friends. But when he arrives at the jail he finds out that punk Littmann and his friends. How did he know they were there? Seems ol’ flame Lena was a turncoat too and proof positive that you can’t trust women with short hair. So, of course, we are headed back to the tomb.

Apologies if the review above sounds a lot like Tom’s first review, but these movies are almost identical in their layout. I say almost because there is one major difference between the two. You see, when they reach the Egyptian tomb at the end here (spoiler alert for anyone who might watch these) they find the sarcophagus empty of any treasure. Yes, you got that right, Hunter not only fails this time, but in the immortal words of Ted White, “You’ll get nothing and like it!” Well, he does get a Roman coin, which, of course, will be his next clue to lead him on his next journey. Yes, this entire journey from beginning to end was done for absolutely nothing. It was literally 90 minutes of misdirection and filler to lead to the concluding part 3. I would have expected more from a production that delivers a wanted poster that looks like this:

Seriously? No height, weight, eye color? Just a name and pic of him in his costume? Very crazy as someone might arrest Harrison Ford. Or at the very least David Keith. And no phone number? What are you supposed to do if you see him? Shout real loud? That said, the producers get a lot of great location work in Turkey (standing in for Egypt) and this might be most action packed entry since we get three shootouts and one car chase. Best of all, the movie never bored me and there were no CGI sandstorm. Oh and Alaina Huffman - looking a bit like Charlize Theron - was hot as hell. Jeez, unpronounceable title aside, I really lucked out with this entry. As a great man once said, “Still, it's better than sitting through INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008) which came out the same year.” Of course, let’s see how that man feels after he watches the third and final part when the producers suddenly run out of money...