Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sandok (1965)

Sandok (La montagna di luce) is a fairly entertaining 1965 adventure flick directed by journeyman Italian genre director Umberto Lenzi.

The first thing that needs to be cleared up is the matter of the title. Lenzi made a series of movies based loosely on the Sandokan books of popular 19th century Italian author Emilio Salgari, one of the masters of swashbuckling adventure fiction. This particular film was the fourth and last and being an Italian genre movie was released under many different titles. Mya DVD have chosen to release it on DVD as Sandok which is a slightly confusing choice. It might have been less confusing to have released it under one of its alternative titles such as Temple of a Thousand Lights or to have simply given a literal translation of the Italian title, Mountain of Light. Especially given that there’s no character called Sandok in the film.

Alan Foster (played by American actor Richard Harrison) is an American bank robber on the run who is hiding out in India. The time period is never specified but one assumes it’s the early 20th century. His attempt to do a little card-sharping at the expense of the local Maharajah (played by Daniele Vargas) backfires rather badly. The Maharajah is trying to manipulate him into stealing the fabulous diamond known as the Mountain of Light. The diamond resides on the forehead of a gigantic statue of one of the Hindu gods.

Alan acquires an unlikely accomplice in the person of a remarkably dishonest fakir named Sitama (Wilbert Bradley). He’s so dishonest that he and Alan make a perfect team. The theft seem impossible. The temple is heavily guarded. But Alan has a plan.

There are some reasonably clever plot twists as the various parties involved try to double-cross each other, with Alan taking time off to fall in love with a beautiful dancer named Lilamani (Luciana Gilli).

In some ways it could be seen as a heist movie in an Indian setting. It was actually filmed in Malaysia but there’s some reasonably decent location photography. There’s also not a single Indian actor - the entire cast is either American or Italian.

Lenzi wasn’t a very exciting director but the action sequences are adequate. The big problem is that at 87 minutes the movie is just a touch too short. The ending seems very rushed, almost as if there’s something missing, but this does seem to be an uncut print so it appears to be the fault of the film-makers rather than the work of distributors. On the plus side the pacing is brisk and it doesn’t waste any time getting us into the action.

The acting is quite good by Italian genre movie standards. Richard Harrison is a reasonably engaging rogueish hero. For the robbery he disguises himself as an Indian - it’s probably the most feeble and unconvincing disguise in movie history but in this type of movie it doesn’t really matter. Wilbert Bradley has a lot of fun with the role of Sitama.

Mya DVD have copped a lot of flak for the quality of some of their releases. There’s no real cause for complaint this time. The movie is presented in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it’s a fairly good print. As is customary with Mya’s releases there are no extras.

This is lightweight fun that should appeal to fans of adventure movies in exotic settings.

No comments: