Saturday 15 June 2024

The Phantom of the Monastery (1934)

The Phantom of the Monastery (El fantasma del convento) is a 1934 Mexican gothic horror movie. I’m a huge fan of the Mexican gothic horrors of the 50s but I had no idea that the roots of the genre went back so far in that country.

Eduardo (Carlos Villatoro), his wife Cristina (Marta Roel) and their friend Alfonso (Enrique del Campo), are tramping through a forest and they’re hopelessly lost. Alfonso mentions that there should be an abandoned monastery nearby. If they can find it they’ll have shelter for the night. A strange old guy, accompanied by a huge dog named Shadow, suddenly appears. He leads them to the monastery and then disappears.

Oddly enough the monastery doesn’t seem to be abandoned after all. The three wayfarers are tired, cold and hungry and they’re grateful when they’re invited to stay the night.

The atmosphere at the monastery is rather oppressive and just a tad creepy. Director Fernando de Fuentes isn’t in any great hurry. He’s content to build a spooky disturbing mood gradually and subtly but he knows what he’s doing.

It’s hard to say exactly what it is about the monastery that worries our trio of lost trampers, but there are various little things that just seem somehow wrong or odd.

The dog Shadow lives in the monastery. The Father Prior assures his three guests that the dog has never in his life set foot outside the monastery, but just a few hours earlier they saw him in the woods.

The monks seem to be just a little uncomfortable with their three guests. It also becomes increasingly clear that there are strange things going on in the monastery. The monks are worried about something. There are secrets here. There’s a locked cell from which strange noises are heard. There may well be something evil here.

The viewer will very quickly work out what one of the secrets is, but that knowledge just raises further questions. It’s also not clear whether the monks are sinister or whether they are fighting against some evil.

To add a complication it’s obvious that Cristina thinks Alfonso is much more of a real man than her husband. If Cristina and Alfonso are not having an affair the idea has certainly crossed their minds. This is not just a minor romance sub-plot to add some extra interest. The romantic triangle is an absolutely crucial plot element and it is intimately connected with the horror plot.

The sexual tension between Cristina and Alfonso seems to be reaching crisis point and one has to start wondering if the atmosphere of the monastery is influencing their behaviour, or whether there may be a supernatural influence as well. If there’s evil here it may feed off sexual tensions, or it may trigger those tensions. Cristina initially appeared to be a respectable married woman but now she’s behaving like a temptress. The interesting question is whether this is a repressed part of her nature coming to the fore or whether she’s responding to some kind of sinister supernatural influence.

There’s plenty of ambiguity in this movie. To find out whether this ambiguity is resolved or not you’ll have to watch the movie since I’m not going to risk spoilers.

I think the ending is quite satisfactory.

The acting is a mixed bag. Enrique del Campo as Alfonso is a bit melodramatic at times but this is a horror film so that’s not necessarily a serious weakness. The standout performance comes from Marta Roel as Cristina, a woman who is perhaps a temptress or perhaps a victim of temptation.

The visuals are in their own way just as impressive as those in the contemporary Universal horror movies but in a very different style. It’s much more austere, but very creepy.

What really stands out is that this movie is nothing like the Universal horror movies of the same period. Both stylistically and thematically it’s totally distinctive. There’s a mood of religious fanaticism in the monastery which you obviously don’t find in any of the Universal horror films.

This is low-key slow-burn grown-up horror and it involves grown-up relationships that are totally integral to the horror plot. It’s closer in feel to the Val Lewton horror films of the 40s but this was made a decade before the Lewton films. It took Hollywood ten years to catch up with what the Mexicans were doing in 1934.

It’s also noticeable that this is a movie made by people who were not merely competent but also confident. They had their own vision of what a horror movie could be and they were going for it.

I’m not suggesting that this film is better than the 30s Universal movies - it’s just very different in interesting ways and for that reason it’s highly recommended.

The Powerhouse Indicator Blu-Ray offers a very nice transfer with an excellent audio commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

The Young Seducers (1971)

The Young Seducers (Blutjunge Verführerinnen) is a 1971 softcore erotic film written and directed by Erwin C. Dietrich.

Dietrich was a legendary Swiss film director, producer and entrepreneur. He achieved huge success with exploitation movies and later had significant mainstream success as a producer. His erotic movies might not be high art but Dietrich knew how to achieve a classy feel on very low budgets.

The Young Seducers really has no plot at all. A sex magazine is planning a new series of feature articles about young women who seduce men. The various staff writers toss around ideas based on cases they’ve heard about it and we see these scenarios played out. The movie is a series of very brief erotic vignettes.

There’s a girl who seduces an artist. He didn’t think women were an interesting subject to paint but this young lady changes his mind, and as a result he finally achieves success as a painter.

There’s a gas station that decides that rather than give away free gifts which people really don’t away they’ll offer their customers something they do want. While their cars are getting the full service the customers get the full service as well, from Angela. She might not show much enthusiasm but she’s undeniably efficient. She knows to get a man’s motor running. And the gas station starts selling an awful lot of fuel. Some guys find that they need to fill up every day.

There’s a girl who tries to blackmail her chemistry teacher into taking her to bed.

And another girl who is taking piano lessons and persuades her lady piano teacher that there are things that are more fun than tickling the ivories. They could take nude photos of each other. This gets them both a bit over-excited and you can imagine what happens next.

The next segment purports to be a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale The Princess and the Pea although I don’t think Anderson would have recognised this version. A princess is riding the bus and thinks one of the male passengers might be a prince. What she needs to know is if he has a large pea. He assures her that he has an impressively large pea and proceeds to demonstrate this. While they’re riding the bus she’s riding his pea. This segment is at least an attempt to add a bit of humour.

In the next segment a young lady meets a Danish footballer in an electronics store. She’s there to buy a battery for her vibrator. Again there’s a vague attempt at humour. She finds that with a handsome muscle-bound Danish footballer who needs a vibrator?

Then we move to the world of the theatre. An actor playing Romeo is visited by a female fan wanting an autograph, but she wants more than an autograph.

Four athletes are looking for entertainment and they find a girl willing to oblige, in a barn. She dances for them and then offers them some real entertainment. They like a good workout, and so does she.

The framing story about the reporters takes a bit of a twist at the end. It turns out that they’ve been doing some in-depth in-the-field research.

It’s all just an excuse to get some very pretty actresses naked. And they’re very pretty indeed and one of them is Ingrid Steeger, something of a European sexploitation legend. And they’re very naked. There’s a great deal of frontal nudity.

It’s all much too silly and good-natured to be offensive, although I’m sure it would outrage plenty of people today.

There’s no substance at all to this movie but it doesn’t pretend to offer anything more than skin and a few laughs. This was a more innocent age, in which sex could be treated as fun. If you like European skin-flicks it’s recommended.

I’ve reviewed a couple of Dietrich’s other movies. In 1980 with Women of Inferno Island (AKA Caged Women AKA Gefangene Frauen) which starred Brigitte Lahaie he achieved something I would have considered impossible - he made a bright and breezy feelgood women-in-prison movie which I highly recommend. And Rolls-Royce Baby (1975, with Lina Romay) is stylish erotica.

The German Blu-Ray release looks very nice and offers the English-dubbed version with removable German subtitles as an option.

Monday 10 June 2024

Yor: The Hunter from the Future (1983)

I always get excited when I see the words “directed by Antonio Margheriti” in a movie’s credits. It invariably means I’m in for a good time. I have no problems with profound movies and arty movies but sometimes you just want the cinematic equivalent of a burger and fries. Antonio Margheriti understood this and he would do you a great burger and fries and throw in a thick shake as well. I respect that.

Yor: The Hunter from the Future came out in 1983. I love the fact that we don’t get an introduction explaining what’s going on. Margheriti is confident he can entertain us enough to keep us watching and that it will be more fun to find these things out slowly.

At the beginning we don’t know if we’re on Earth or some other planet and we don’t know if we’re in the distant past or the distant future. We do know that things are pretty primitive.

We’re introduced to a tribe who are more or less at a Stone Age level of culture. They are however reasonably peaceful and friendly. They’re certainly friendly towards a mysterious stranger named Yor (Reb Brown). He’s just saved the life of Kalaa (Corinne Cléry). She’s a total babe and when he returns to her village with her and sees her dancing and sees the way she moves her hips he’s comprehensively smitten. She thinks he’s pretty nice as well. She knows a hero when she sees one and Yor is definitely a hero.

Yor has a medallion that he wears around his neck. He has no idea what it is but he’s certain that it’s important.

Disaster is however about to strike. There’s another tribe, a tribe of beast-men, and they’re not the least bit peaceful or friendly. They raid the village of Kalaa’s tribe, slaughter the men and carry off the women.

There are lots of dangers to worry about. The dinosaurs for starters. But there are worse things than dinosaurs.

There’s another tribe living out in the desert. Their queen is reputed to have magical powers. They worship her as a goddess. She’s blonde and beautiful. Yor falls for her in a big way.

Yor might be a hero but he doesn’t know too much about women. He doesn’t know enough to realise that these two chicks are going to be trying to scratch each other’s eyes out. Kalaa is a very jealous woman and as far as she’s concerned Yor is her man.

Yor has always had a feeling that there is something important he must do. There is a secret that he must unravel. He has a Destiny.

There’s yet another tribe living by the sea, and sure enough there’s another babe anxious to throw herself at Yor. And there’s a Mysterious Island, which might provide the answers for which Yor has been searching.

I’m being very vague about the plot because it’s ingenious and rather cool and it’s more fun to see it unfold gradually (although the posters give some of it away).

Suffice to say that this is not quite the prehistoric adventure movie it seemed to be at the beginning.

There are people on the island and they’re very different from the other inhabitants of this world. They’re definitely not Stone Age people. There are robots and rayguns. There’s also an insane and very twisted villain. He is Overlord. He has minions, and very nasty they are too.

This movie started life as a four-part Italian television series. It was edited down to less than half its original length for feature film release. The plot is still perfectly coherent (rather crazy but it does make sense).

This film may not have had anything like a Hollywood budget but it’s visually very impressive. Imagination and flair (which this movie has in abundance) always count for more than money. Best of all this was 1983 so there’s no CGI. The special effects are old school but they work just fine.

This film is fast-moving and action-packed. It has a big dumb but likeable hero. It has feisty sexy females. It looks terrific. It boasts some great location shooting (in Turkey). It has monsters and villains. It has crazy twists and turns as Yor figures out what’s going on. It’s lots of fun. A total blast from start to finish. Very highly recommended.

Reb Brown isn’t much of an actor but he’s energetic and has a certain naïve charm and you can’t help liking him. John Steiner oozes slimy evil menace as Overlord. Corinne Cléry is a fine heroine. She is best-known for The Story of O (1975), one of the best erotic movies ever made. She’s also in Lucio Fulci’s The Devil’s Honey (1986) which is an absolute must-see movie.

I’ve reviewed a number of Antonio Margheriti’s films including his giallo Naked You Die (1968) and his amazing science fiction films The Wild, Wild Planet (1966) and The Snow Devils (1967).

Friday 7 June 2024

The Mole People (1956)

The Mole People is a 1956 Universal-International science fiction B-movie.

An archaeological expedition has made some surprising finds regarding a very obscure dynasty. I’m not sure where this is supposed to be taking place. They find a Sumerian inscription so one would guess Mesopotamia but it looks more like the Himalayas. After an earthquake they make another find - a very ancient oil lamp with another inscription which suggests that if they climb a rather forbidding mountain they will make some very exciting finds.

Three archaeologists - Dr Roger Bentley (B-movie stalwart John Agar), Dr Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont) and Professor Etienne Lafarge (Nestor Paiva) - make the climb. They do find something pretty startling - an ancient city. And it’s inhabited. The people are still stuck in the Sumerian era and they’re superstitious and suspicious of strangers. In fact they don’t believe that strangers can exist. Their city is to them the entire world. Luckily, after first deciding to kill them, the king changes his mind and decides that these strangers must be messengers from the goddess Ishtar.

The city is located beneath the surface of the Earth, as a result of a catastrophic volcanic eruption five thousand years ago.

The city’s population is extremely small but there are also the Creatures of the Dark (they’re the mole people of the title although they’re never referred to as such). They were once human. Now they’re slaves.

The problem for the archaeologists is to keep the king thinking that they’re divine messengers. The high priest (played Alan Napier) doesn’t buy their story at all and favours killing them. Before killing them he wants their magic cylinder that contains Ishtar’s divine fire. It’s actually just an ordinary torch (or flashlight for American readers). It would be useful to keep the slaves in line. The inhabitants of this buried city cannot tolerate bright light. It terrifies them and can kill them.

Of course there’s a girl, Adad (Cynthia Patrick). She’s a slave. She’s not one of the mole people but she is one of the Marked Ones, who are presumably mutants of a sort. She certainly doesn’t look like a mutant. She’s blonde and cute and Dr Bentley is immediately smitten.

There are some dangers to be faced but there’s really very little action. This is a movie that doesn’t manage to create a great deal in the way of excitement or suspense.

The special effects are mostly very cheap although there are occasional effects shots that work. Matte paintings are used a great deal. It’s a technique I usually like but in this case the matte paintings are rather crude.

The disappearing into the ground trick however is pretty cool and works well on screen. The mole people are just guys in rubber suits but they look quite cool as well.

The acting is standard B-movie stuff, apart from Alan Napier who manages to be creepy and sinister and menacing. You get the feeling that this high priest enjoys putting people to death.

The basic idea is fine (in fact quite good) and while the script doesn’t do anything dazzling with it it’s serviceable enough. There is a surprising touch at the end.

Virgil W. Vogel directed. He spent most of his directing career working in television. A year after this film he directed the very entertaining lost world movie The Land Unknown (1957).

If you accept the fact that everything looks very artificial then this movie is a lot more enjoyable. In the scenes in the mine the artificiality becomes a definite asset, creating a nightmare underworld atmosphere.

Despite its faults and a certain talkiness this is an oddly likeable movie. It’s no masterpiece but it is reasonably good fun if you love 50s monsters movies and lost civilisation tales. Recommended.

This film is included in Universal’s five-movie Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection DVD boxed set. The Mole People gets an acceptable transfer. It’s presented in 1.37:1. The movie was shot in black-and-white. It has I believe subsequently had a Blu-Ray release.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

RoboCop (1987)

RoboCop was not technically Paul Verhoeven’s first U.S. film (and he’d been directing features for years in the Netherlands) but it was the movie that put him on the map in a big way.

This is a dystopian cyberpunk science fiction thriller but in tone it’s a million miles away from the most famous dystopian cyberpunk science fiction thriller of the 80s, Blade Runner. RoboCop, disturbingly but interestingly, adds a lot of comic touches to an otherwise rather dark tale.

Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is a Detroit cop who has just been assigned to the toughest precinct in a city in which violent crime is totally out of control. What he doesn’t know is that he has been set up to be killed. The Detroit Police Department is now controlled by a private corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). The corporation is about to demolish the entire city and build a brand new high-tech city (to be called Delta City) on the site. To carry out their plan they need total control, including total control of law enforcement. The potential profits are enormous.

They intend to reduce the costs of policing to a bare minimum. Their initial idea was to build law enforcement robots but the prototype developed a very unfortunate glitch. Just a minor bug in the system - it blew away a OCP executive for no reason at all. It put about two hundred bullets into the guy.

An ambitious mid-level exec has a better idea - cyborg cops. To build a cyborg cop you first need a real cop who is as close to being dead as possible. They’ve selected some promising candidates, like Alex Murphy, and assigned them to duties where the possibility of being killed becomes practically a certainty. Much to OCP’s joy Alex Murphy is soon blown apart by criminals. Now there’s not much left that’s salvageable, but enough for their purposes. Alex Murphy will become the prototype RoboCop.

RoboCop’s brain is part human and part electronic. His personal memories have been erased but his policing expertise and experience is still there because those things are useful. His personality has been all but destroyed because it’s not useful to OCP. At least in theory Alex’s personality has been destroyed but whether that’s true in practice remains to be seen.

We, the audience, know who shot Murphy. It was a very nasty crime lord named Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). Boddicker and his goons tortured Murphy first, in a scene in which Verhoeven portrays Murphy as a kind of Christ figure (Verhoeven states this in the audio commentary so it’s not speculation on my part).

RoboCop is not supposed to have any memories but he does have some incoherent images in his mind of his catastrophic encounter with Clarence Boddicker. RoboCop is not supposed to have any personal feelings but he develops an obsession with these disjointed memories.

Murphy’s partner on that fatal night had been Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). She doesn’t know that RoboCop is Murphy but she suspects that maybe he could be.

When it comes to cleaning up crime RoboCop is a huge success.

There are power struggles within OCP, with ambitious executives happy to stab each other in the back to get to the top. RoboCop’s success or failure can mean the difference between success and failure for some very ruthless men. For Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) there’s a great deal at stake - his entire career. It would be a disaster if RoboCop developed any glitches. Glitches like remembering what happened on that fateful night. RoboCop might then embark on a campaign of revenge.

This is an exciting adrenalin-rush action movie but there’s a lot more going on. There’s a lot of black humour. There’s satire here as well. Now it has to be said that Verhoeven’s approach to satire is subtle in the way being hit by a baseball bat is subtle. On the other hand it is undeniably effective. It works because, like any good satire, it’s accurate. It’s just an exaggeration of things that we feel to be true.

There’s also a surprising amount of emotion. Machines don’t feel emotions but men do and while OCP thinks of RoboCop as a machine that’s not quite the case. RoboCop doesn’t quite understand his emotions because his memories are so fragmentary but he does have emotions, as we discover in one extremely powerful and effective scene in what was once Murphy’s house.

This is a dystopian future with an unsettling degree of plausibility. In 1987 a society under the boot heel of advanced digital technology really was science fiction. Today it’s everyday reality.

It’s all done with old school special effects - things like matte paintings and miniatures and stop-motion animation. RoboCop isn’t a CGI effect - he’s actor Peter Weller in a very elaborate rubber suit. This gives the movie a feeling of solidity, of reality, that you just don’t get with modern CGI. We really do understand that RoboCop is still to some degree a man rather than a mere machine. The problem is that RoboCop doesn’t know to what extent he’s still human.

A very similar idea would be developed in a slightly different way a few years later in the superb Japanese sci-fi anime movie Ghost in the Shell (1995).

RoboCop is an intelligent science fiction action movie with some interesting emotional nuance. Highly recommended.

The edition I saw was the Director’s Cut Blu-Ray which looks great and is packed with extras.

Sunday 2 June 2024

Savage Three (1975)

Savage Three (Fango bollente) is a 1975 poliziottesco directed by Vittorio Salerno and based on a story by Ernesto Gastaldi.

This was an unsettled rather anxious period in Italian history. As in most western countries violent crime was on the rise but in Italy there was a great deal of political violence as well. There was an air of paranoia, and some sympathy for the idea that a degree of ruthlessness on the part of the police was sometimes justified. The emergence of the hard-edged ultra-violent paranoid poliziotteschi genre was hardly surprising.

Savage Three is the story of three young men who work with computers in a research facility. The research involves things like violence and the effects of overcrowding on aggression. The facility has links with the police who are coming to see computers as a useful tool in regaining control of the streets.

Ovidio (Joe Dallesandro) is the leader of this little band. They’re bored and frustrated by their work and feel that they’re being exploited. Ovidio clearly has a few psychological issues as well. Ovidio is the catalyst.

The three provoke a violent riot at a football stadium. They enjoy watching the violence they’ve unleashed. They’re like overgrown juvenile delinquents, spoilt and bored. Ovidio might be the leader but his buddies Giacomo and Peppe take to thuggery like ducks to water.

Ovidio and his pals develop a taste for violence which quickly escalates to rape and murder. One can’t help feeling that Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was an influence on this movie. Ovidio and his two pals are like middle-class versions of Alex and his droogs, out for a bit of the old ultra-violence.

Violence seems to be an addiction for the three friends. They don’t always intend to commit murder but things always seem to get out of hand. Once the violence starts it always escalates. The city is now in the grip of a wave of exceptionally violent crimes and while the police have almost no clues they are sure that there are three perpetrators and that they’re responsible for all these horrific crimes.

The research facility conducts experiments on rat behaviour, so we’re clearly expected to see a link here. Ovidio and company are like rats living in an unnatural environment starting to display symptoms of frustration-aggression. We’re presumably also meant to see computers as a symptom of a society becoming dehumanised.

This is however (unlike A Clockwork Orange) very much an exploitation movie and it revels in the violence, and those socio-economic subtexts may be little more than an attempt to give the movie a political veneer. On the other hand the interview with the director on the Blu-Ray suggests that he was reasonably sincere in his intentions.

This is also the story of Commissario Santagà (played by the director’s brother Enrico Maria Salerno), a somewhat disillusioned cop. There’s some conflict between Santagà and his colleague Commissario Tamaraglio. Tamaraglio is younger and he’s inclined to see almost every violent crime as a political crime. Santagà is the middle-aged old school street cop. He trusts his gut instincts, but despite being older he’s more flexible in his thinking.

Santagà is intrigued by the fact that these crime are apparently motiveless. He thinks that’s important and he’s starting to develop the germ of a theory.

It has to be said that some of Santagà’s flashes of insight are just a little implausible, and a little bit too convenient in plot terms.

Enrico Maria Salerno is very good as Santagà. He’s sympathetic but with a few rough edges.

The standout performer is however Joe Dallesandro. He has the ability to project both evil and an odd kind of innocence simultaneously and he’s rather chillingly coldblooded. I was very impressed by Dallesandro.

Gianfranco De Grassi who plays Giacomo seems to have based his performance (and very effective it is too) on a close study of Malcolm McDowell’s performance in A Clockwork Orange.

There is some gore and there are a few harrowing scenes. Vittorio Salerno mostly relies on the sheer senselessness of the violence to give the movie its impact. There’s a small amount of topless nudity but Salerno was trying to keep the sexual explicitness to the minimum, consistent with the inherently sleazy subject matter.

Savage Three is a fairly nasty little movie but it has a few interesting ideas and the combination of poliziottesco and psycho killer movie works quite well. Highly recommended.

Arrow have released this movie in their Years of Lead poliziotteschi boxed set. The transfer is excellent. Extras include a lengthy and fairly interesting interview with the director.

Friday 31 May 2024

King Solomon’s Mines (1985)

There have been several film adaptations of H. Rider Haggard’s classic 1885 tale of adventure King Solomon’s Mines. The 1937 version has its admirers and it’s reasonably enjoyable but it has its problems and Sir Cedric Hardwicke is badly miscast as Allan Quatermain. The 1950 version is much better with Stewart Granger being perfectly cast in the lead role, and looks great. And then there’s the 1985 version.

This is a Cannon production, which depending on your tastes is either very promising news or very worrying news. This 1985 version is much less admired than the earlier films but there was some impressive talent involved. Maybe he’s no Stewart Granger but Richard Chamberlain was no slouch when it came to playing in adventure movies. Sharon Stone was not yet a big name but you can see signs of her star quality. You’ve got Herbert Lom as a villain, always a huge plus. And John Rhys-Davies is always fun in these kinds of movies. You’ve got J. Lee Thompson directing. This is the guy who directed The Guns of Navarone. The man knew how to make exciting action-adventure movies.

This 1985 version is not exactly a faithful adaptation of the novel, as we shall see. Not surprisingly given that it was made in 1985 this is very much an attempt to capture a Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe.

The setting would appear to be German East Africa and since there are cars and aircraft but the Great War is never mentioned we can guess that the events of the film are supposed to take place shorty before the outbreak of war, probably around 1912 or thereabouts.

Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone) is a student archaeologist from Iowa. She has apparently hired Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) to help find her archaeologist father who has disappeared in Africa. He had been looking for a map revealing the location of King Solomon’s Mines, having devoted most of his career to the search for the mines. Hardly anybody actually believes the mines exist. Jesse’s father believes they exist, and he is convinced that he has acquired a map that really will lead him there.

The local German commander, Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom), believes in the mines. As does the sinister scheming Dogati (John Rhys-Davies). They want that map.

Allan Quatermain doesn’t believe in the legend but Jesse is his client and although she’s exasperating he’s determined to help her.

Wild adventures ensue, with Jesse getting captured several times, a horse-drawn car chase, a car chase, an aerial dogfight, various pitched battles, fight scenes on a train and encounters with lions. Jesse and Quatermain almost get eaten several times, and not always by animals.

Of course they eventually find King Solomon’s Mines and of course it turns out to be a very dangerous discovery, with Colonel Bockner and Dogati not being the only threats.

The whole movie is crazy and don’t expect a taut coherent plot, and don’t expect a movie that makes any concessions at all to realism or plausibility. It’s closer in feel to the wonderful movie serials of the 1930s and 40s than to Rider Haggard. Scenes are included because they’re fun, not because they have the slightest connection to the plot.

Cannon obviously could not match the budget Spielberg had on Raiders of the Lost Ark but this movie still looks expensive. Whatever the budget was most of it ended up on the screen. The visuals are impressive. OK, some of the special effects are a bit iffy but for a modestly budgeted movie they work well enough. And they are fun. I’d rather have fun cheesy special effects than fancy effects done without imagination.

J. Lee Thompson is a director whose work has been seriously underrated. He knows the importance of pacing. The action doesn’t let up. As soon as our hero and heroine escape from one danger they are plunged into some new terror.

Richard Chamberlain makes a perfectly adequate hero. Sharon Stone is charming and cute as the likeable Jesse, a girl with an extraordinary talent for getting herself into trouble. Herbert Lom hams it up outrageously, which is as it should be.

This movie did extremely well at the box office. Critics hated it, insisting on comparing it to the 1950 movie even though it should have been glaringly obvious that the 1985 movie has its tongue planted firmly in cheek and is deliberately silly, goofy and cheesy. This unabashedly a B-movie.

Get yourself plenty of beer and popcorn, switch off your critical faculties and just sit back and enjoy the fun. This is a hugely enjoyable load of nonsense and I loved it. Very highly recommended.

The Olive Films Blu-Ray is barebones but offers a lovely transfer.

I've also reviewed the 1937 version and the 1950 version.