Friday, July 20, 2012

Dr. Jones I Presume?: QUATERMAIN - TREASURE OF THE KINGS (2001)

Just when I thought I had nailed down every single KING SOLOMON'S MINES adaptation in, what I thought to be, an excessively anal, and ridiculously obsessive overview during our week (or rather month) of Indiana Jones rip-offs... Apparently an even more excessively anal and  ridiculously obsessive reader pointed out that we missed one! Armed with this information, Indiana Will donned his fedora and whipped a copy out of the hands of the krauts and flew it out to me via a tiny map with a red line showing it's progress. Yep, it was with serious team effort that this review hits our little blog. We are expecting exactly three people to be thrilled by this. Which, incidentally, is about one more than usual.

Amazingly as late as the year 2000 Harry Allen Towers decided to produce a film that would plunder the tombs of the late-great Indiana Jones, who passed peacefully in his sleep in 1989 after finding out that he was named after the family dog. Actually I don't know which would be more of a shock, discovering the source of your name came from the resident testicle-licker, or that Sean Connery is your dad. Not only was it a full decade after the final sequel (yes, I said final sequel, don't argue), but also after countless other raiders had come and gone leaving their own artifacts behind. So how are we going to take another crack at this? Well, follow the examples lead by the masters Golan and Globus of course. Knock-off KING SOLOMON'S MINES! As if Indy wasn't getting a little long in the tooth for shameless exploitation, the last time Allan Quatermain was seen on film was four years earlier in 1986! Ah, but how to make it "budget friendly"? Set it in modern day and christen your protagonist... "Chris"!


Allan Quatermain's grandson Chris Quatermain (Thomas Ian Griffith) is carrying on the family tradition of fedora-wearing, grave-robbing and, well, at least in as far as the Cannon films went, wisecracking. Come to think of it, wisecracking might top the list. This would place Allan Quatermain's adventures to be taking place in the 1950s (instead of 1885), so perhaps Towers was envisioning this as a sequel to the Stewart Granger production of 1950. Not that it has any bearing on this film in any way. While engaged in a tense game of cards with our Belloque-du-jour, Madame Lorenzo (Kendra Torgan in male drag for no perceivable reason), a german frau, Hope Gruner (Anja Kling), is desperate to get Quatermain back to her compartment to get Quatermain to... uhhh, unfold her map. Indeed, a map to the legendary tomb of Alexander the Great, where, rumor has it, lots of, uhhhh, stuff can be found. The only real spanner in the gears is that Lorenzo wants that treasure and the loot she lost playing cards with Quatermain (who gleefully calls them "wiiiiinings!" whenever possible) and sends her MMA goons to grab them both. Of course Quatermain sends them packing with his granfather's wit and fisticuffs, and we are treated to the age old flying-kick-out-of-the-open-door gag. Kato yu fewel!

Added in the mix of goofy characters is Quatermain's "secretary" Johnny Ford, played without an ounce of subtlety by the porn-pseudonym-sounding TV actor Harry Peacock. Peacock's acting is so animated, yet so completely flat, it almost seems like he is playing a live-action cartoon character. Matter of fact, I was having such a hard time wrapping my head around just what the hell this was supposed to be that at the 60 minute mark I finally came to the conclusion that it must be a children's film! Only kids would be this forgiving. It also explains the fact that it is essentially a very mild PG-rated affair and features a non-stop barrage of none-too-subtle quips and comedic hijinx. That is not to say it's painfully bad, I have witnessed far worse in the cause of cinematic science, but it is definitely relentless, landing this squarely on the Family Comedy shelf at the local Der Videorekorder Geschäft.

Being smarter than the average bear (supposedly), we discover Johnny, somewhere in the mileu, conveniently scanned a copy of the map before it was stolen! Unfortunately scanning the map loses some important details (what they might be are never explained), so they have to set out to steal back the map. Well, it wouldn't be much of a movie if it was that easy, but I have to wonder why even bother having that detail in there anyway? To shut up the one guy on his sofa eatin' Cheeto's and Mt. Dew who decries the lack of tech savvy on the part of our heroes? Well, whatever, so we got the plot convenience, right? You'd figure this should lead to some sort of raid on some sort of amazing Fortress of Doom, or at least a trap-laden cult compound. Well, this is where Harry's meds kicked in and things start getting a little loopy. Apparently the evil Lorenzo is livin' da pimpin' life and throws low-class dance parties for high-class rich dudes. Called "Civic Receptions", these are "no wives" affairs complete with outdoor dance-floor and lots of random hoochies in harem pants and bikinis. Oh, and the security is headed up by a former CIA chief, Jack Gates (Barry Flatman obviously relishing his hambone role), who barks about the old days at Langley at his employees: "it's incompetents like you that screwed up the Bay of Pigs!"


So obviously, to get the map back, Chris and Hope need to don black Danskin's and rappel through a rooftop skylight into a criss-crossing laser trapped room of death to gingerly reach out and steal it from under a glass case in a room full of venomous spiders! Or just dress up as Arabs and try to bluff their way in. Guess which one really happened? Oh yeah, you betcha. Arab disguises (complete with fake Burt Reynolds mustache) it is. Oh and the guards are bumblers who cause Gates no end of consternation. We get the old I'm-kissing-you-to-get-the-guard-to-stop-paying-attention-to-us ploy at which point Hope tells him that he ain't a bad kisser, to which Chris replies "you should catch me without the silly mustache!" Wacky hijinx, I says. My second favorite bit is the fact that the Mercedes they are escaping in is so well built (pandering to the German market here), that it can plow through an iron gate like it's... well, balsa wood. And yes, they foly in sounds of iron bars hitting the ground. Undoubtedly, my favorite bit is the five-camera set-up for a stunt where a Hope's rather masculine stunt double carefully jumps about seven feet into Chris' arms like it's freakin' Jackie Chan plummeting to the bottom of a three story shopping mall while being electrocuted by popping lightbulbs.

Click to appreciate the finer details...

Now armed with the real map, Chris and Hope set off to find the church under which lies a catacomb, in which lies the tomb of Alexander the Great. This means that Lorenzo is mighty pissed off and gives chase with her squad of very bad men. How do you know they are bad? The drive shitty cars, listen to loud rock music and have brightly colored hair - don't fuck with those guys! Not content to stop there Towers decides to throw a blue-clad nomad prince into the mix who I'm assuming is supposed to be some sort of Arab, but in fact looks an awful lot like Patrick Swayze in off-the-rack desert robes. Is that "baby" blue? Ok, ok, stop groaning! We also get a kidnapping, a horse vs. truck chase, and a tour bus scene in which we get the only exposition on the great Alexander in a line of dialogue: "Who was Alexander the Great? He was a great man." Oh, and let's not forget, the long scenes of rock-climbing and spelunking! You heard me. Not content to use one of the two most dreaded exploitation movie fillers known to man, Towers opts for both! Not only that, but he uses them back to back. Does the cruelty of this man know no bounds? After finally discovering the church, Chris and Hope realize that they must bust out all FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and scale a vertical cliff wall to get to the top. Half way up the slow and perilous ascent, Quatermain discovers a hidden switch in the rocks that releases some sort of pneumatic pressure valve that rolls back a giant rock at the base of the cliff. So now we cut to the bottom, right? No, no, no, what fun is that? Now they have to climb back down the cliff, get to the bottom and enter the catecombs so that we can watch them wander around in total darkness! Sweet!

I really don't want to spoil the ending, but... I have to. I thought I had seen some shoddy tomb robbing in my day, but brother I am here to tell you, this wins all contests hands down. Even The Asylum might feel a twinge of embarassment from the production values in the final scenes. In order to enter the tomb proper, without getting shot-up with mystical arrows delivered by dry-ice shrouded archers, one must walk on top of oddly shaped rocks that have been placed on a black cloth on the soundstage floor. No really. Then, as if that wasn't ridiculous enough, Alexander's treasure is a freakin' spear, a shield and a helmet! Ok, granted Rick would probably pony-up pretty good at the pawn shop if you had some proper documentation, but since the legend is that only the chosen one can steal Alex's stuff, it becomes a moot point as Lorenzo finds out when she is engulfed in flames and explodes into a chunky, melty mess after the spirit of the dead god penetrates her body. Yeah, just kidding. She stands inside a square of tiny flame bars while a platform lowers her below the stage. No really. That's what happenes. Sorry I spoiled it for you. Released, so far, only in Germany and Canada, this is completely ridiculous and silly in an impoverished way that only the Germans could love. That said, there is so much absurdity and half-assed story-telling, that it actually is kind of entertaining. Maybe. On a slow night.

Wave your hands in the air, like you just don't care...

Moments of Clarity:

2 Reactions:

  1. As a German, I have to strongly object! This movie is indeed lame and plodding, the inclusion of German actors Kling and Otto inexcusable, and the production value almost non-existant. But Griffith has a certain natural charme and one has to take into consideration the measly budgets Towers had to work with during his final years.

    There is a very good reason for the stunt double of Frau Kling: she was pregnant while the movie was being shot.

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  2. It's not so much that Kling used a stunt double, but that Towers squandered a sizable chunk of cash to shoot a stunt double doing a really simple 7 foot jump with FIVE slo-motion camera set-ups! If he had used a two camera set up we might have been able to have a marginally decent set for the finale. Maybe.

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