Friday, October 1, 2010

Dr. Jones, I Presume?: YELLOW HAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD (1984)

If you only had one hour left to live, you’d probably want to spend it reading our Indiana Jones knock off reviews because they have lasted an eternity!  Here we are finally winding down our coverage this weekend with a look at the rarest of Indiana imitations – the female ones!  Yes, producers left no stone unturned when it came to squeezing any juice from the LucasFilm franchise.

Director Matt Cimber (born Matteo Ottaviano) started his directorial career in the 1960s with sexploitation titles.  He moved deftly to blaxploitation in the 1970s with titles like THE BLACK SIX (1973) and THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN (1975), alongside perhaps his best known film THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976).  With such exploitation prowess, you just knew he would be hitting the big titles in the 1980s.  He started off with HUNDRA (1983), a female CONAN THE BARBARIAN rip-off starring Laurene Landon in the title role.  The following year he reunited with Landon for deliciously Jones-ian titled YELLOW HAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD, an odd combination of western and Indiana Jones.

Hitting you over the head with the serial influence, YELLOW HAIR opens with some rowdy kids in a theater watching the opening of the film.  We are introduced to all of the main characters as onscreen titles give you their history.  The heroes are Yellow Hair (Landon), the Apache woman warrior, and her pal the Pecos Kid (exec producer Ken Roberson).  Cue cheers from the kids.  Then there are evil mute Flores (Aldo Sambrell) and the main villain Col. Torres (Luis Lorenzo), who is described as “ruthless…greedy…and…” insert Torres doing a prissy stance to suggest he is gay.  Cue laughter from the kids.  Yep, it is going to be one of those kinds of movies.

The film jumps right into the action as Flores leads a team to the fortress of gold guarded by the Tulpan tribe.  They arrive using a deer horn with a map on it taken from the captive Pecos Kid, but are at a loss as to where the temple is once they arrive at the designated point.  In the mountains they see some of the Tulpan, who have quite possibly the worst supernatural power of all-time as they can turn into statues.  They attack the prospectors with some foam rocks before capturing all but Flores, who gets away with a solid gold arrow in his leg.  Proof there is gold in them thar hills.  Then, in a bizarre choice for a kiddie flick, the Tulpan torture their prisoners, going so far as to cut one man’s eyelids off and dip another in a vat of gold and then lop of his head.

Time to intro our heroine Yellow Hair by having her beat the snot out of one of her fellow Apache tribesmen in apparently a courting ceremony.  It shows her toughness and gives Landon an excuse to show off her wrestling moves from ALL THE MARBLES (1981).  Rape apparently “is the Apache way” says her adoptive mom Grey Cloud.  Yellow then mentions how Pecos had been by recently and mom checks her gold stash to find out a piece is missing along with the horn map. So mom tells Yellow she must bust out Pecos and get the items back so she can pass successfully to the otherworld when she dies.  Wait, how does she even know he is locked up?  Like I said, it is one of those kinds of movies.  Yellow heads into town to break Pecos out, which is a long process that involves Pecos yelling “Yella!” a lot (he sounds like he was dubbed by Earl Owensby) and Col. Torres getting grabbed in the crotch even more.  Yup, nothing finer than some "grab the crotch = high pitch voice" humor.

Following the escape, Flores manages to somehow beat them to Yellow’s camp and kill her mother, who left a note for Yellow and Pecos to speak to the “Man Who Knows.”  Thanks for the vague hint, ma!  Apparently they know who he is because they meet him and he looks like Randy “Macho Man” Savage circa 2009. Apparently his name should be the “Man Who Knows Exposition” as he lays out the story of a Tulpan princess who fell in love with his old partner, a Texan with yellow hair.  Hey, I think Yella just found out who her real parents were.  Our duo heads to bar to retrieve the gold from floozy Rainbow and this allows Pecos to display the worst poker face ever.  Seriously, he is dealt four 8s and a 9 and immediately stiffens up in his seat, grinning wildly.  Of course, it won’t matter as you know a brawl will break out after Yellow gets the gold nugget back from the Jurgen Prochnow looking bar owner.

Our duo then head off to Mexico, with Flores again beating them to a location and knowing exactly where they will stop. This leads to a big stagecoach chase, which mirrors the truck bit from RAIDERS.  It is some full circle imitation since Lucas and Spielberg patterned their famous sequence after the stagecoach chases from westerns.  The pursuit abruptly ends when – I kid you not – the bad guys stop to check on a fallen comrade trampled by the horses.  That’s a first.  Pecos and Yellow make it fortress of gold and she opts to live here with her people.  Of course, we know we can’t trust them and, after Pecos leaves with some gold, the tribe tries to cut out Yellow’s heart as a sacrifice.  Pecos knew something was up though, so he pops back in and opens fire with his rifle, the sound of which causes the cave to collapse (look closely to see the Styrofoam in the sets as they fall apart).  Our heroes then make it to a nearby town where they are confronted again by Col. Torres.  Then, in one of the most baffling choices ever, the film ends with the duo trapped by enemy fire and then offers “scenes from the next exciting episode.”  So, yes, the film has no ending.  At least Cimber was optimistic about the film being successful (it wasn’t).

A first time viewing for me, this is certainly one unusual flick.  On the plus side, the film benefits from some gorgeous locations in Spain and has some nice photography (sadly, the Rhino DVD I viewed improperly displays the widescreen photography at 1.78:1).  Landon is decent in her lead role and there is plenty of action.  On the downside, the film is just full of too many dumb plot holes, which is pretty terrifying when you know how simplistic the plot is.  I actually wish they had gone a bit more into the RAIDERS rip-off territory as the last half is where the film shines the best.  And they are totally trying to be like RAIDERS.  In fact, Cimber even gives Yellow some whip cracking bits during the stagecoach chase and the trailer on the disc has the narrator boldly claim “she’s the female Indiana Jones says the Film Journal.”  I wouldn’t go that far.  She’s more like the female Allan Quatermain.  Wait a sec…

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