Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TENNESSEE BUCK (1988)

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.

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