The success of Raiders of the Lost Ark spawned a number movies ‘inspired’ by Indiana Jones and his adventures (and his sizeable box office take). Most of them had very familiar elements. Bold adventurer in exotic locales such as jungles, deserts, rain forests, goes looking for something valuable with beautiful but feisty (and usually complaining) woman while hordes of bad guys pursue (often led by a villain who’s mutilated in some way). Add fist fights, chases, and in the more lavish clones, expensive stunts and action pieces.
Some were pretty good (Romancing the Stone), others vanished instantly (Yellowhair and the Fortress of Gold? Anyone? Anyone?). One such clone is Firewalker, starring action hero Chuck Norris, who by the mid-eighties was watching his box office power wane as new action stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Seagal came along. With him here is Louis Gossett Junior, who I think is quite a good actor, but he seems to be willing to star in just about anything (Iron Eagle? Anyone? Anyone?). Actually, either Gossett is too willing to jump aboard loser projects like this one in order to get more respected roles like other good black actors (such as Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson), or Hollywood doesn’t make enough movies with talented black actors in leading roles, forcing him to accept whatever he can. Hmmm…
Also on board is Melody Anderson, still smarting from her triumph in the legendarily flop TV series Manimal.
This movie is from the Cannon Group–now out of business. Why is Cannon out of business? We’re about to watch Exhibit A. It would be a merely forgettable Indy clone (Jabootu’s Mediocre Movie Dimension) if not for two things–Norris and Gossett’s ‘bickering buddies’ dialogue, which consists mainly of Gossett telling Norris that this is all his fault over and over again, and the horrendous editing. If I taught film and television, for the chapters on ‘The Action Axis’ and ‘Screen Direction,’ I’d have this movie on hand to show students what happens when you break these rules. In toto, the editing and the dialogue, along with some low budget sets and ridiculous continuity mistakes, in my humble opinion, are enough to summon Jabootu to carry this one to his realm.
Open on a desert. Max Donigan (Norris) and Leo Porter (Gossett) are zooming along in a jeep, with dune buggies and quad runners in pursuit. They’re bickering about where they are. Leo advises driver Max to go left. “It’s a desert, Leo, what difference does it make?” he protests. Two things: if they ever want to get out of this desert, it probably makes a big difference. Also, Max’s dismissing of the differences between left and right is shared by the editor of this movie. But before we get to that, let’s talk about this badly edited sequence.
We see one of the goons riding in a buggy take a shot at Max and Leo’s jeep. Cut to a shot of the side mirror shattering. Okay, fine. Now cut to a totally unrelated shot of one of the quad runners, then the gunman again. It’s extremely disorienting. The terrain alters from shot to shot. Because of the quick cutting, it’s obvious that it’s not because they are driving fast enough to leave old terrain behind. A desert dune covered in sparse vegetation, for example, jumps in and out of the chase sequence. We also get totally unrelated shots, like an apparently unmotivated shot of the side of one of the vehicles.
This action sequence is so disorienting that we can’t really get carried away by it. Not good for an action movie. You may not be a military expert, but you’ll probably wonder about the grenade throwing sequences, too. One pursuer throws a grenade, which explodes next to Max and Leo’s jeep. It kicks up some sand, but that’s about all. It seems rather wimpy. I also have to wonder how good an idea is to throw a grenade forward from a moving vehicle. My guess is that the army discourages this practice.
Despite the close proximity of their pursuers, Max says “Relax, we’re losing them.” This provokes a fresh burst of gunfire. Max frequently makes these obviously erroneous assumptions, only to be proved wrong seconds later. This would be funny, but humor requires the element of surprise and since the bad guys are practically tailgating them, it’s neither surprising nor funny. It also makes Max look like a Grade A dummy.
“Maybe they’ll run out of gas,” suggests Leo. No such luck, but their jeep coughs and the speedometer drops. “I SAAIIDDDD THEEEEEMMMM!” barks Leo. Guys, a word of advice: stop making predictions if you want to get through this movie alive.
As the jeep chugs along, the movie attempts to have it both ways with the comic moment of them running out of gas, and a crash ending for the action sequence. Ah, but you can’t have it both ways. When the speedometer is hovering under 20, and they go roaring over a dune and crash into an oasis, you can’t help but wonder if they had a mid-chase refueling or something.
Looking dumbfounded at the water, Leo complains that they’ve been through two hundred miles of desert and Max had to crash them into the water. And where would you prefer to crash in the desert, Leo? In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sand?
Okay, next we get a badly disjointed series of shots showing vehicles surrounding our two heroes. It’s so badly edited it almost looks like a random montage of vehicles. Considering they were bumper to bumper with Leo and Max just a shot or two ago, it’s surprising that they didn’t crash right on top of them. Max and Leo put up their hands to surrender.
Next scene, they’re staked spread-eagled in the desert. And they’re arguing about who has captured them. Ho, ho, those wacky guys! Always they argue, even when captured! This movie has them bicker about everything. It all gets old as fast as the villain who dies at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a movie you’ll wish you were watching before long.
We see a banner appear over the dunes. Upon seeing it, they identify it as belonging to “The General.” They must have pretty good eyesight. The banner (actually, more like a pendant) is very generic. It looks like it could have ‘Penn State’ on it.
A ridiculously decked out dune buggy appears. A large, bald man wearing what looks like a Communist Chinese uniform is riding inside. The buggy has Chinese arches on its roof rack, and just to get the point across, Chinese music begins to play. So like, where’s this guy from? Australia? In fact, although he’s referred to as “The General” in dialog, he’s listed in the credits as “The Chinaman: Richard Lee-Sung.” I’m guessing that this reference was a little too obvious for even our filmmakers, and so they changed it, but didn’t have the time or money to change the credits.
The General gets out. He has an obvious make-up scar. His bulk makes getting out of the buggy awkward. He does look large and imposing, but his clumsy movements make him look as threatening as a cow with three broken legs.
Max predicts the General will says something stupid like “So gentlemen, we meet again.” And that’s exactly what the General does. It doesn’t quite have the distance to make it funny, but the movie will keep trying the joke where one character predicts or speculates about something only to have it happen a second later, over and over again. It never quite reaches the level of funny, but it sure is great at ruining every potential surprise in the movie.
The General indicates his scar and says he blames Max for it. Max tries to pin some of the blame on Leo, which starts Leo denying everything. Gee, what great buddies.
The General takes Polaroids of them, which he immediately thrusts into his pocket (careful they don’t smudge). The General has them dead to rights, but he’s a kindred spirit with Doctor Evil from Austin Powers. Instead of putting a bullet into the both of them, he’s going to put them in a needlessly complex and easily escapable deathtrap, and then leave. Specifically, he’s going to leave them staked out in the desert to let the heat get them. For an extra sadistic touch, and to get in a product placement, he thrusts a bottle of Perrier into Max’s bound hand. The General gloats that he will die with the very thing necessary to save him right in his hand.
“You’ll still be bald,” retorts Max. It’s an extremely weak jab, but the General looks like he’s been the victim of a burn the size of the Chicago fire. By the way, Leo’s bald. Should he be taking offense?
Eventually the General recovers enough to say “Should you need anything, gentlemen, just scream.” He laughs, and he and his cronies leave. For a moment, we watch them lay there in the desert while the last of the opening credits roll. One of them is “Edited by Richard Marx.” More like Groucho Marx.
Leo wants to tell Max something. It looks like he’s going to say something tender. “I really want you to know…that I blame you for this.” You know, it’s a stressful situation and all, but this movie carries the ‘funny’ bickering too far. Moments like this seem to indicate that they hate each other. They try to pin blame on each other, they face death and insult each other.
The ‘incompatible partner’ gimmick has been explored in hundreds of movies, but most of them come up with a reasonably acceptable reason for them to work together. The classic example is the two incompatible cops, one the slob loose cannon, one the professional by-the-book type, assigned to the same case. They don’t like each other initially, but their superiors have given them an assignment, so they reluctantly work together. Max and Leo, though, are willing partners. If they really are buddies, they should behave more buddy-like. If they really do hate each other, why do they work together?
Anyway, Max squeezes the bottle, breaking it. You can’t see anything in Chuck Norris’ hand, but I guess we’re meant to assume that there’s a piece of glass from the bottle in it that he’s using to cut the rope. We can easily see that there’s plenty of slack on the rope, and that he should be able to just slip free.
While Max frees himself, Leo urges him to hurry, there’s something crawling up his leg. While he’s twisting, his left leg clearly pulls free before Max cuts him loose. Chuck Norris just sort of tosses the rope away awkwardly when he gets there.
A while later, Leo and Max are free, walking through the desert. Leo complains that Max destroyed their only water (what about that pool they crashed into?). “That’s gratitude for you,” says Max, and no kidding. Any idiot can tell you that the destruction of the water bottle was a regrettable but necessary sacrifice. Or did Leo know that their bounds were loose, and that Max should have been able to pull free?
Cut to a rough-looking bar. Now we realize this opening sequence is just a preamble, similar to the ones that kicked off Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone, the other movie that ‘inspired’ this one.
Leo is complaining he’s going to quit. “Again?” asks Max. Leo says that they’ve been partners for 10 years, done 15 jobs together, and made money on 3. Max informs Leo he’s being a teacher again (Leo’s old vocation), a side of him that he doesn’t like. Max can’t handle the math lesson because Max is the muscle, Leo is the brains. If Leo is as strong is Max is smart, he must have problems lifting the bed covers in the morning.
Now enter a professionally dressed woman, Patricia Goodwyn (Melody Anderson). Obviously out of place in this bar, she nervously approaches the bartender. To show us how nervous she is, she coughs uncomfortably before beginning to speak. This cough must have actually raised phlegm in Melody Anderson’s throat, because her opening lines are garbled. She momentarily sounds like she had an injection of testosterone.
Naturally, conservative types in roughneck places can’t do anything without seeming out of place. She asks to see the wine list. Look, I’m a hopelessly middle class kid, but I know if I go to say, a biker bar, not to ask for a Root Beer Float.
The bartender has the list “memorized.” Her choices are “red or white.” Yuk yuk.
“My sources inform me that this bar is frequented by men of, shall we say, questionable character,” she tells the bartender. “I need men of undying loyalty. Brave. Not too smart.” Hmm…I’m sure there aren’t many people in this place who read philosophy, but if you wanted “men of undying loyalty,” would you go to this sort of bar?
The bartender directs them to Max and Leo. The bartender says she should tell them that he said she’s “okay.” That should be good for an amusing misinterpretation or two. Strangely, they don’t do this. Instead, Patricia says she wants to hire them, but she needs to know that they’re very brave. Max says “we laugh in the face of death.” To prove the point, Leo laughs. Yep, they laugh in the face of death, even if the audience doesn’t laugh along with them.
Patricia says her job is dangerous, but it could be worth a lot of money. Leo does a double take at this. “Money?” he asks. Yes, Leo, money. What did you expect to get paid with? Perhaps this explains why they’re having trouble making their jobs pay off. “Max, we’ve only made money on 3 of the 15 jobs we’ve done. Maybe we should stop accepting old bus transfers as payment.”
Patty has a map that she believes leads to a large amount of gold, located “on an Indian reservation near the border.” This kinda raises the question in your head that perhaps this might prevent them from legally laying claim to the gold. It doesn’t seem to bother them, though–the subject is never raised.
Patricia says if they help her find it, she’ll split it 50/50. Leo asks her how she’s know it’s legit. She answers “There must be gold there because someone’s willing to kill for it.” When asked who, she responds “I don’t know, but it’s very dangerous.” Gee, that’s helpful. This, by the way, is the extent of the background on the treasure. Patricia offers absolutely no evidence–not even circumstantial–that the map leads to gold. Nor is anything said of how she came to realize that someone would kill for the gold, a piece of information you might want from a potential employer. This movie tries to get in the investigative angle of the Indy movies, where Indiana pieces together various clues as to where the Ark of the Covenant/Sankara Stone/Holy Grail is hidden. Those movies don’t fill in all the details, but they do fill in the important ones. This one doesn’t fill in anything.
During this scene, Max can be seen fiddling with a toothpick, only to lose it in the very next shot. Don’t chuckle too hard at this, as the mother of all continuity errors is still to come.
Patricia says there’s one other thing, but she doesn’t think they’ll believe her. She says the man who wants the map isn’t really a man…he looks like a Cyclops. “A red one,” she clarifies. “With long black hair.” Max and Leo start to get the idea that perhaps she’s not all there, and engage in some mild mocking. “There’s certain things that are out of our league,” says Max. “Dragons…sea serpents…” Continuity…coherent editing…
Sensing they’re about to reject her offer, she asks them to take a look at the map. She produces it, and it looks a little like the one in Romancing the Stone. Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner. Mmm…Kathleen Turner. Body Heat…Uh, where was I?
Oh yeah, the very intriguing plot background. “It’s authentic,” says Patricia. Now, how does she know that? Where did the map come from? How does she know it leads to gold? You can stop asking these questions now, because the movie never once takes the time to answer them. Or why Max and Leo would buy into this extremely unconvincing story. On second thought, considering they’ve only made money on 3 of their 15 gigs, perhaps they are complete suckers. “Max, we’ve got to stop taking these jobs where we follow leprechauns to their pot of gold.”
Leo and Max do not get to ask her for some badly needed clarification of her story. Suspense music starts playing, and a guy with a crossbow enters. It’s hard to say, but he may be the villain of this movie (more on him in a minute). He takes aim. Patricia knocks over a glass, and just as she bends over to pick it up, the crossbow bolt slams into a beam behind her.
Max knocks the table over and they duck behind it for shelter. The bar starts freaking out, as if someone fired a gun. You know, a crossbow is much quieter than a gun. In this noisy, crowded bar, Max would be lucky to see the bolt and realize what was going on, and the only thing the bar patrons should react to is the table being knocked over, which is unlikely to send them into a panic. But let’s cut the movie a big break and say that the patrons can hear the crossbow going off (it does after all make a very loud Scooby-Doo-ish AAAAAAWHAYNK! noise when it fires). What are the odds that as the shooter reloads the bolt, somebody in this bar of toughs wouldn’t brain him with a pool cue? Every time the shooter misses, someone else is at risk of being hit.
Anyway, our characters crawl out of the bar, dodging one more bolt. Cut to a desert/badlands-like area. Leo, Max and Pat are riding on horseback, with a guide in tow. Whoa, abrupt huh? I guess they didn’t bother to go after the shooter, and the shooter didn’t bother to come after them when they fled the bar. And I suppose that Max and Leo have agreed to take Pat’s job.
As they trot down a dirt road, Max is telling a story about how he was once rescued by a porpoise. Hey, aren’t porpoises supposed to be one of those creatures that are as smart or smarter than humans? Max’s story shoots that theory all to hell.
Leo’s got the map, and spots something on a ridge up ahead. It looks like a ceramic snowman. A later shot of what I suspect to be an entirely different object seems to indicate it’s the sculpture of a Christian Saint, or perhaps the Virgin Mary. Leo points it out to Max, indicating that they’ve arrived.
Okay, I’m going to try to describe this next part in very careful fashion, because it is one of the worst handlings of screen direction I have ever seen. Screen direction is something they’ll teach you about in film and TV courses (unless you take the ones that the people responsible for this movie went to). Watching this scene would be an excellent way of demonstrating it going totally wrong. The first time I saw it, my brain started to hurt.
Okay, the initial shot of this scene is our party of four, from the front, trotting on horseback towards the camera. From our perspective, they are moving from the top of the screen to the bottom. You can also see that they’re moving from the background to the foreground, although the camera retreats as they advance to keep them in the shot. Got that?
Next, Leo spots the monument. We see a point of view shot from Leo. The shot shows the monument on top of a cliff. Because this is a POV shot and the party is in motion, the statue appears to be moving from left to right on the screen. Got that?
So far, everything’s cool. These two shots establish that the monument is to the right of our heroes. They are walking towards you, a POV shot showed the statue moving from left to the screen to the right of the screen. Therefore, that statue can only be to their right.
Here’s where it gets screwy. Leo stops the party and indicates that they’ve arrived. He points at the statue for proof. The problem is, he points to his left. But the previous shots established that the statue was on his right. If it was supposed to be on his left, then it should have been scrolling right to left when we saw it from Leo’s POV. If it is indeed to Leo’s left, then the film-makers have done what is known as ‘crossing the action axis,’ a big no-no in video production. This occurs when a camera or character motion changes direction between two shots without a logical transition period from one direction to the next.
Max looks off to his left, and is apparently looking at the statue too. This glimpse at the mountain with the statue appears to be a completely different mountain than the one Leo saw, unless they’ve moved and this is a new angle of it. This can’t be, because they stopped almost immediately after Leo’s POV shot.
We cut to the guide, who starts getting nervous. This is a sacred place, blah blah, he doesn’t want to go in. In fact, he wants to turn back. He points at the statue, too, and he points to his right! This is actually more consistent with earlier shots, but they haven’t moved an inch from the spot where Leo pointed it out–to his left.
Cut back to a shot of the party, and suddenly Leo, Max and Pat are instantly dismounted. Nope, this isn’t the mother of all continuity errors, but it’s coming.
Leo starts thinking about the guide’s words, and suddenly, he’s looking up and to the right of the party, where the guide pointed.
Next we see a shot of the dismounted Patricia. She is standing with her back to the mountain. Over her shoulder, we can see the statue. Because of her position immediately before and after this shot, which is the left-most point of the party, there’s no bones about it. The statue is to the right of the party.
Max is still talking and looking at it, though, and he’s still looking to the left! In fact, the cutting comes soooooo close to having Leo and Max both looking at the statue at the same time, but looking in two completely different directions!
And to cap it all off, they exit the shot to go towards the mountain. They exit…to the left of the party! Before they do, Patricia snaps a picture, presumably to document this weird spatial distortion that allows an object to exist in two place at once and report it to Aumni magazine. I’m sure Star Trek has a name for it. A quantum anaphasic warp flux, or something.
Whew, watching this scene and then writing it made me dizzy. I fear that the description may not have made it very clear. I would have taken screen captures, but I have more ground to cover, and to get the full impact I would have needed to stuff many images in a short space. All I can say is that the movie is worth renting just for this scene.
A bit later, we see a guy looking through a telescope, watching them climb the mountain. This is El Coyote (Sonny Landham), the big bad guy. [Editorial Note: For those who don’t habla Espanol, ‘El Coyote’ is Spanish for ‘The Coyote.’ – Ken] No doubt he’s watching our heroes. Meanwhile, the only thing we’re watching is the counter on the VCR, wondering how much longer this is going to take.
Our heroes are climbing the cliff, which looked pretty sheer, but they are doing it entirely by hand. When they get to the top Patricia looks pretty good, not a hair out of place. Leo fusses as Max helps them up.
Looking around, Max says there’s no cave here, and that they climbed for nothing. Patricia has an odd little smile, and says it’s behind a tree just a few feet away from them. The movie has started hinting that Patricia has some kind of extra-sensory perception, which is why she was able to detect the cave where Max failed. Since Max didn’t do the obvious thing and check all along the cliff face behind the tree, this doesn’t seem so impressive. A person who can intuit that a clear bottle of Evian contains water looks clairvoyant next to him.
They’re about to go in, but Patricia says to wait. She says someone’s inside. They ask if she saw someone, and she replies “No, but I’m sure there’s some old people in there, sleeping.” Maybe she’s referring to a 1/2 priced Senior Citizens Night at a theatre showing this movie.
Max and Leo ignore her warnings and go inside. She slowly follows. They wonder how far the cave goes. Our treasure hunters apparently thought the gold would be in a shopping cart in the middle of the road, because they didn’t bring ropes to climb, and they didn’t bring flashlights.
Chuck begins calling hello. This next part is very confusing. Bad lighting and bad editing make it hard to figure out who’s where. Pat appears to have slipped away. She finds some bones in the darkness. Like all adventure movie women, she can’t handle anything even remotely unpleasant or disgusting, and will start screaming at the sight of sour milk. She starts wailing, and Max and Leo appear to run to her assistance. They stumble across the bones. I can’t tell if Patricia recovered and wandered off again before they arrived or what, because she’s not in the shot.
Seeing the bones, they speculate it’s a burial ground. Presumably, a Native American burial ground. Why then is there a Christian icon out front?
“Old people…sleeping.” says Leo, making the connection to Patricia’s earlier statement. We see her back into the shadows. It’s impossible to say if she’s with them or in another part of the cave.
“We’ll it’s a bust,” says Max, thinking there’s no gold. He gives up easily. They haven’t explored the entire cavern. Now they notice that Patricia is gone…was she ever with them?
She calls to them, and they run to another part of the cave. They find her lying on what looks like an altar. She’s wearing what appears to be a helmet or a skull. Good thing she’s here, otherwise they would have left already. I guess when these two dig for treasure, they say things like “Damn, we dug twelve feet and all we came up with was this old chest with ‘Property of Captain Kidd’ on it. We threw it in the ocean. What a waste of time.” They were lucky to make money on those 3 jobs.
Leo speaks for us all by saying “I really don’t like this.” He examines the back of the chamber, and finds some writing. Leo describes it as “Aztec/Mayan” with a date of 1527, but “it doesn’t make any sense” (possibly he’s referring to the plot. Leo identifies a helmet as “16th century conquistador.”
Max picks up a skull and asks it “Can you tell us anything?” They laugh at this. Well, if we won’t, they’ve got to.
The skull’s eyes glow. Max drops it, and it shatters. Inside is what appears to be a gold dagger, which is too long to have been concealed inside a human skull. They are happy with this find, but Patricia says it’s not the gold they’re looking for, and wants to keep searching. Max and Leo are overjoyed, and begin clowning around taking pictures. This must be their most successful caper since they found a case of deposit bottles.
Incidentally, if this is a burial ground in the contemporary USA as earlier dialogue indicated, I suspect they’re going to have a hard time laying total claim to whatever they find here. Of course, they could simply take everything and not say a word, but that wouldn’t make them very sympathetic heroes. The movie does not raise the issue even once, making it appear that they’re taking everything and not saying a word, making them not very sympathetic heroes.
Patricia wanders through the darkness and is suddenly grabbed. She screams, and they take off after her as her assailant drags her off. Suddenly a spear-wielder who looks like he should be in a tropical island movie (I believe he’s supposed to be dressed like a Mayan) drops from the cavern ceiling and attacks. Leo urges Max to shoot him. Max fires three shots, and misses–utterly impossible in this confined space. Leo grabs the gun and shoots him just in the nick of time (the Mayan, not Max. Sorry if I got anyone’s hopes up). Leo complains justly that Max is the worst shot he’s ever seen. I guess that’s why he gives the gun back to him.
Pat’s cries alert them, and they give chase. They bump into another native, firing a bow and arrow. They hide behind some rocks. Question: why don’t these guys just use guns? Religious beliefs? Can’t afford them?
They observe “He’s got us pinned down.” Yes, we’re following, thank you very much. Bows have to be reloaded, but they don’t seem to realize that after he shoots they have a chance to rush him. Another assassin appears behind Leo as he wonders if there are any more of them. Max throws a knife and skewers him.
Next, Max is going to use the gun to take out the bow and arrow guy. Leo thinks maybe he should do it. Max ignores him and fires, and the bullet ricochets around the cavern accompanied by kazoo noises. Comedy! Eventually the bullet ricochets right and kills the assassin. “Nice shot,” says Leo, then Patricia screams again to remind them what they’re supposed to be doing. Luckily she always stops when they’re occupied, so there are no distractions.
They run some more, accompanied by ’70s horror movie music. There’s a brief scene where Max takes out two opponents with martial arts. Next, we see Pat bite her assailant, who knocks her out and picks her up. He runs outside, where it’s totally dark! They were in that cave for maybe five minutes. We saw them go in when it was clearly mid-day outside. I guess when night falls around here, it really falls.
Max and Leo catch up with the assassin at the cliff. Max holds up the dagger, obviously intending to throw it. He orders the guy to drop his knife, which he does. Next, he drops Patricia. Max orders him to step away. The dagger’s rubies start glowing but apparently only the assailant can see this. He freaks, and jumps off the cliff. “Geez, I didn’t tell him to jump,” says Albert Einstein, I mean, Max Donigan. Gosh, it’s so easy to get those two confused.
Okay, cut to a bar, which seems to be run by their guide. It’s after hours, and they’re all alone, examining the dagger. Strangely, the conversation starts with this from Leo: “Both.” (?) “This is Aztec, and here’s the Mayan Sun God. And he appears here again on the [something that sounds like ‘dead’].” He seems to be indicating the grip of the dagger. “You see?” No, not really, but go on, Leo.
“Now these hieroglyphics, they give us the date, 1527.” I wonder how Leo knows that that number indicates that date. Presumably, you can’t just translate the numbers, but you’ve also got to come up with the equivalent on our own calendar. If he’s got that memorized and can do all this with just a moment’s examination, I’m very impressed.
“Aztecs…Mayans…Spaniards, all on an Indian reservation,” declares Max. “But it doesn’t jibe.” He must be referring to the script. The guide begins talking about El Coyote, a Native on the reservation who claims to be descended from an Aztec priest. “A very dangerous man,” says the guide. “Even to his people, he is bad medicine.”
While they chat, a one-eyed man is looking though the window at them. I’ve always wondered what it is about movie windows that allows you to smear your face right against them while someone plots or takes off their clothes, but allows you to watch undetected. This is the man who was following them earlier, El Coyote. We get a good long look at his face, which is important later.
The guide says that there’s another man who might be able to help, if he could only remember his name. Chuckling, they break out the money. Yep, bribery is sure a light-hearted activity. The guide tells them about a Native named “Tall Eagle.” Just once, I’d like to see a movie Native named “Paul” or “Martin.”
We next see them driving up to the house of Tall Eagle. Max knocks on the door. We can only hear the TV. They go inside, where Tall Eagle (Will Sampson, of Orca shame…err, fame) is watching I Love Lucy. “I don’t know why he puts up with her,” says Tall Eagle, switching off the TV. “If she we’re mine, I’d cut off her nose.” Apparently he’s seen Ms. Ball in Mame, a musical which may one day take it rightful place in Jabootu’s hallowed halls next to Can’t Stop the Music.
Patricia gives him a bottle of booze. “Oh, snake bite,” he says. “We have lots of those around.” Huh? They nod and smile dumbly. This is about the only option for the audience too. And now, an interesting batch of racial politics. “When white man brings gifts, it means they want something in return,” says Tall Eagle. Strictly speaking, there is only one white man in this trio, but anyway.
“You got that right, brother,” says Leo. Max elbows him. What was Leo getting at here? Was he confirming that they did indeed want something in return? Or was he sharing some racial outrage with Tall Eagle? After all, the two minorities they represent have cause for grievance. Patricia can join in also, as women have plenty to complain about white men, too. Leo’s delivery of this line suggests the line meant “we want something.” If so, they’ve designated Max as the key person in this party. Why did they do that? If anyone should be in charge, it should be Patricia. She’s the one that initiated this whole thing.
Max says he heard that Tall Eagle knows a lot about Apache history. Okay, how does Apache history fit into the whole Mayan/Aztec thing? It is possible to fit them together, but the movie doesn’t try.
“You want me to tell stories,” says Tall Eagle, “that’s what I do best.” And he slips into Wise Old Indian ClichÃ© mode. “Many winters ago,” (oh, brother!), “the white eyes gave us this land for as long as the grass grows and the water flows, but as you can see, we got screwed.” Ha, ha. Most aboriginal cultures tend to regard the Earth as a thing we’re using temporarily, something you can’t be given ownership of. It seems unlikely that an old myth would begin with white people “giving” the land to the Natives. “This land” is also desert, and I don’t think that the grass was green and the water was flowing here any time in recent memory. So, when they signed the treaty originally, this was farmland, but a desert sprang up since?
“What are you getting at?” asks Leo. “I think he wants a piece of the action,” says Patricia. “No, not me, the Great Spirit,” he says, and then we hear chanting on the soundtrack, and wind begins to blow Tall Eagle’s hair. I wonder if that happens every time he talks about the Great Spirit. It must be terribly inconvenient.
Naturally, our heroes looked stunned. This lasts for just a moment, and Max recovers quickly. Instead of asking “What the Hell was that?” he offers 20% of the treasure for information. Leo caveats that the info must lead them to the treasure. Patricia stands quietly by and doesn’t point out that this is her expedition. She should at least have a say. Of course, if the treasure has any sort of historic or spiritual value to the Apache, maybe Tall Eagle should offer them 20% if they find it.
“I’ll tell you,” says Tall Eagle, “but you’re probably not going to believe me.” Patricia says “I know just how you feel.” Does she? Max and Leo swallowed her hardly airtight story. These guys will believe anything. Every December 24 they probably wait up late trying to catch Santa Claus in the act.
Tall Eagle bids them to come with him. He takes them to what looks like a teepee. A fire is already lit–convenient, but it seems a little dangerous. They sit, and Tall Eagle begins his story. Or maybe he resumes it. It’s hard to tell. “He was called ‘Firewalker’.” Hey! He said the title! “Because his soul could fly to the sun.” He points skyward, in case Max and Leo don’t know where the sun is. And yes, they do look up.
“He would gather his power, and his power, ooh!, was great.” Tall Eagle falls silent as he recalls the power of the Firewalker, as if he’s thinking about the time he had the most amazing chocolate sundae. Max coughs to get his attention. A bad edit of Tall Eagle’s face shows that this scene was obviously filmed later, and he resumes his story. The Spaniards came looking for gold, so the Firewalker went back to the sun “to walk among the fire forever. That’s all I know.”
Okay, so do we know where the gold game from, how the Aztecs, Mayans and Apache fit into this, the significance of the year 1527, and where Patricia’s map came from? No? Too bad, because that’s the last of the background information. Even the movie characters are puzzled and disappointed. “That’s it?” asks Leo. “That’s our lead?” Tall Eagle adds “Beware of the Coyote, he is very treacherous and powerful.” Thanks for the tip. The guy that fired a crossbow at them is dangerous. Guess what you can do with your 20%, pal.
Max says doesn’t care about coyotes, he wants to know where the gold is. Tall Eagle points out the obvious–if he knew that, he’d go get it himself. This didn’t seem to occur to them. Well, duh! They leave, with Leo muttering about 20% to Max. Don’t worry, Leo. The condition was that the information lead to the gold. This story doesn’t even make an interesting myth, never mind a hot lead. That 20% is safe.
As Pat makes to leave, Tall Eagle stops her and says that many spirits will come to visit her. Some good, some evil. He gives her a charm which will protect her. He hands her a small bag, which he identifies as “Dust, bones, magic.” As she leaves with the bag, he rolls his eyes and says “I don’t know how Tonto did it.” What, spout horribly cliched and patronizing “Indian” dialogue obviously penned by a white writer who wouldn’t know aboriginal culture if parked on his foot? Yes, Tall Eagle, I guess we can only wonder.
Cut to a horrid set, apparently Max’s room. It looks like it has been constructed out of flats (canvas frames used in TV shows to make rooms) painted gray. A map of Central America is on the wall. “Okay, we’ve got gold, human sacrifice, the dagger, and the sun,” says Max. This is the first time human sacrifice is mentioned. Where did it come from? I’m wondering if editor Harpo Marx dropped some more explanatory scenes.
Leo and Pat are playing cards. Pat throws down her cards and says “Gin.” Leo throws down his ands says “We’re playing poker.” He gets up and explains to Max that the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in 1522. The date on “this painting says 1527.” This is the first time a painting is mentioned. “According to your theory it took the Aztec 5 years to get here from somewhere in Central America.” What, the Aztecs couldn’t leave their territory before the Spanish arrived, right? And in actual fact, according to my history books, the Mayans continued to fight the Spanish sporadically for nearly 300 years. Leo used to be a teacher, huh?
Max says “All I know is, if that gold isn’t in that cave, then it has to be somewhere else.” Whoa! Deductive reasoning that would make Sherlock Holmes look like a naÃ¯f. Watch out, Leo. If Max keeps that up, you’re going to lose your position as the brain of the group.
Leo says they have half of Central America to choose from to look for the gold. The obvious question doesn’t arise–how do they know there’s any gold to begin with? All they have is Patricia’s flimsy story and a map with no apparent origin. That’s all. How do they know she isn’t lying, or at least gravely mistaken?
Patricia gets up. “You’re so smart,” she says, slams the dagger into a map, and collapses into Max’s arms. No, really, that’s what happens. This is further evidence that the scene might have been cut, losing important information in the process. There’s no prior evidence that Patricia was drunk, stoned, hallucinating or whatever. She made the mistake of thinking they were playing gin, but since we know she’s a ditzy upper crust type who can’t do anything remotely proletarian, this doesn’t strike us as odd. Or humorous, for that matter.
Looking at the map, Max and Leo observe that the dagger struck “San Miguel,” which is “right in between Aztec and Mayan country.” The dagger is stuck in what appears to be the end of present-day Mexico, which in fact would be the heart of Aztec country. Describing this area as “right in between Aztec and Mayan country” is inaccurate.
“Do you believe in witches, Leo?” asks Max. Hell, they believe her story, so there must be a long list of things they believe in–UFOs, Atlantis, the Easter Bunny…The scene ends with a zoom-in of dagger on the map, helping us see that this a flat, or a very flimsy wall.
Next we see a shot of El Coyote, doing some evil ritual. He’s holding a surprisingly cooperative (or perhaps rubber) snake over a roaring fire, chanting “hi yi yi yi.” This next sequence does a lot of cross-cutting between Max’s place and Coyote chanting. During several cuts, we get a good look at Coyote’s face, and one of the most ridiculous continuity mistakes ever. Coyote’s eye patch has switched eyes. I’m serious. It will continue to jump from eye to eye throughout the movie. In fact, it may already have.
In early scenes of Coyote, his face was obscured, but there is one scene where he has his back to the camera as he looks through a telescope at our gang. The tie holding his patch in place can be seen. From that you should be able to determine where the patch is, if you care that much. It might be worth checking out just to see which eye he holds the telescope up to. How this escaped notice is beyond me. At the very least, you would think the actor playing Coyote would remember he’s used to looking at things through his left eye (or whatever) when he’s on the movie set.
Anyway, Max lets a woman into his room. She says she’s got a potion from Tall Eagle that will protect him from evil. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this woman never appeared in front of a camera before, because she sure can’t act. In fact, I have to wonder if she even likes acting, judging by her performance.
“I never turn down a good potion,” says Max, and takes the potion and chugs it down. “Heady stuff,” he comments. This scene has Native music playing through it while Coyote chants. We also see Tall Eagle get into the game, going his own “ya ya ya ya” chant.
The woman kisses Max, who soon falls asleep on his bed. Cut to a shot of Patricia, tossing and turning in bed. Meanwhile, the woman who slipped Max the Mickey Finn takes the dagger out of the map. She does so very slooooooowly. This is inter-cut with Patricia’s disturbed slumber, and Tall Eagle and Coyote chanting. The assassin is moving so slowly that there’s a danger of Max sleeping to about three in the afternoon and waking to find her still walking towards the bed.
I might also point out that since the intention was to kill him, and he drank the potion without a second thought, perhaps poison would have been a more effective method. Knowing the moronic Max, you wouldn’t even have to disguise the potion. “Here Maxy, drink this, and never mind the words ‘Javex Bleach’ on the bottle. That’s err…Apache for ‘Potion that Brings Good Luck.'”
Patricia, whose slumbers seemed to be disturbed by Tall Eagle’s ritual, sits up in bed, and stares at the camera. She’s probably thinking “What a horrible nightmare. Going from Manimal to Firewalker…” (spots camera) “NOOOOOOO!”
Patricia rushes into Max’s room, and seeing the woman, slaps her. Oh good, Patricia. If this doesn’t work, pull her hair next. Pat tries to wake Max by shaking him and shouting “Max, you son of a bitch, wake up!” The assassin somehow has shaken off her devastating attack, and comes after Patty. The two struggle. Now cut to Leo stirring in his sleep. He wakes up, goes into the room, touches the assassin’s back with the pommel of a dagger, and she collapses. Guess she didn’t have a lot of fight left in her after Patricia slapped her. Good thing Patricia didn’t raise her voice to her, she might have killed her.
Cut back to Tall Eagle. “Goodnight, Coyote,” he says. Our next shot shows the guide guy taking her body to a storeroom, where presumably they lock her up. I guess the police only work normal business hours in these parts.
A while later, Max is still snoozing while Leo and Pat talk. “Tender” music is playing. Pat is moaning that their quest is important to her, but she is worried that something bad will happen to Leo and Max. Leo comforts her by saying that if anything happens to them, it will be their fault. Well, we all knew that already, but how is that supposed to make her feel better?
Why does he do it, asks Patricia. Leo replies “Because Max does. He has a way of getting things out of me that I never knew I had in me.” Like being a whiny wimp? Pat speculates that Max is involved for finding buried treasure. Leo disagrees. “It’s the looking.” It must be, and that would help explain why they’ve found bugger all so far.
Leo offers her a chance to turn back and still get her share. She refuses. “It’s very complicated, but it’s something that I have to do.” She doesn’t add “It’s in the script,” but “Besides, you guys will take care of me.” Oh, right. Like guard dog extraordinaire Max?
Leo decides to get some sleep. Patricia wants to stay with Max awhile. She goes over to the bed and watches him tenderly, playing with his hair. He’s so cute when he trustingly drinks a tainted potion and risks all their lives.
The next day, our heroes are looking at the storeroom, where the woman has vanished. There’s some quick arguing, then they go to leave for San Miguel. Before the scene ends, the camera tilts up to show a snake coiled around a beam. It’s inferred that this is the woman, having turned herself into snake. This is a very large snake in a small room with a low ceiling. Mr. Magoo could not have missed this snake. Of course, I’d feel more confidant with him leading an expedition to find lost gold.
Soon, we’re in a plane, listening to Patricia read about San Miguel. Despite apparently being in Mexico, San Miguel seems to be an independent state. Leo looks uncomfortable, and is gripping his chair. Fans of bad ’80s television (Manimal, hee hee hee) will also remember that Mr. T’s character in the The A-Team also hated to fly. One of the pilots comes rushing back to look out the window at an engine, which has caught fire. Despite Leo’s demand for information, the pilot insists it’s nothing. The filmmakers insist it’s funny. I insist it’s boring.
Eventually they touch down. Max has slept through the whole flight, and wakes up after the crisis with the engine is over. You may not want to read this next part, especially if your sides are still splitting from the engine fire. All right, Max wakes up and comments it was a great flight. Get it? He doesn’t know there was a fire and everyone is still on edge. Maybe you had to be there.
A while later, they’re driving down the streets of some town in San Miguel. San Miguel is a faceless banana republic. These were popular settings in ’80s action flicks, just behind the faceless Mid-east terrorist republic. You can tell them apart because these guys are wearing berets, hats and helmets, whereas as Mid-east terrorist republicans would have their heads wrapped in cloth.
So we lots of guys in dirty jeeps and uniforms openly carrying machines guns and yelling in Spanish a lot. In fact, one such jeep begins yelling at Our Heroes. Pat takes a picture of the soldiers. Hey, GREAT IDEA! If there’s one thing banana republic soldiers love, it’s Americans taking pictures of them. Fortunately, they don’t jump out of the jeep and confiscate the camera or beat them to death with the butts of their rifles. The just drive off. [Editorial Note: ‘Fortunately’? – Kurious Ken]
Next stop, the hotel. Max is enthusing “This is the big one, Leo, I feel it in my bones.” Leo looks less than thrilled with the accommodations, which aren’t exactly up to Hilton standards, but don’t look any worse than their apartment at home (in fact, it looks a lot like they remodeled the same set).
Pessimist Leo says he feels like they’re going to die. When Max asks him why he came, he offers up this less than sterling excuse. “Because you did.” You know what, Leo? You’re right about Max being an idiot and getting you into constant trouble with his 1/3rd assed schemes. But since you always follow them, you elicit no sympathy from us.
Max complains that he knew Leo was going to blame it on him, and tells him to stop acting like “a dad-gum sissy.” Being called a sissy pushes Leo’s buttons, though how he can keep from laughing after hearing the words “dad-gum” are beyond me. “You’re getting as bad as that fruitcake girl,” adds Max.
Hang on, where did that come from? The only thing that can be described as fruitcakeish about Patricia is her story about the gold. Which is why they’re making this trip. It doesn’t make sense. It’d be like Leo complaining that only an idiot would follow Max around (Oh wait, he does that, doesn’t he?). At any rate, Pat has overheard all this and bursts into the room. She has some kind of beauty product smeared on her face, and I don’t even want to get into what it looks suspiciously like.
“Let me tell you something, bucko,” she seethes. Bucko? Watch your mouth, lady. Between that and “dad-gum” we’ve got language here that would make Quentin Tarantino blush.
“I happen to be a highly educated, open-minded person with an IQ that would put that pea-brain of yours in the cellar. So the next time you start blowing hot air, and playing the hero, remember if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t be here. Call me for dinner.” Actually, not a bad put-down, except the dinner part.
That night, they decide to go out on the town. They walk by soldiers accosting some civilians. What, no picture?
Three toughs block entrance to the bar. After some silliness with a coin-toss (don’t ask), they quickly knock out the toughs, and go in. You know, I suspect there will be a barroom brawl in this scene. Call it a hunch.
Leo is to show the picture around the bar and see if anyone knows anything. What picture you ask? Good question. Watching through the movie, it seems that the picture is of a drawing of the temple where the gold is supposed to be stored. Leo photographed a representation of it at the cave, which he earlier described as “the painting.” This information is very hard to discern and can only be arrived at retroactively, after you’ve seen the movie. The movie’s efforts to add the Indiana Jones investigative elements of this adventure story are quite sad. I mean, now we’ve got Leo going around a seedy Latin American bar asking people if they know where a temple hiding a fortune in gold is. If by some miracle they do, what are the odds that the place hasn’t been stripped of anything worthwhile?
Max brings two beers to a table where Patricia is waiting. Apparently, they cost 20 dollars each. Is this in US dollars? Not to generalize, but the purchasing power of the American dollar tends to be a little stronger than this in such countries. In some of them twenty dollars should be enough to put you into an alcoholic coma.
Max apologizes for calling Pat a fruitcake. She says it’s not the first time. “Maybe I am little naÃ¯ve,” she admits. Pat, if you were any wetter behind the ears, the arms of your sunglasses would rust.
Max wants to get to know her better. Specifically, he wants to know something “intimate.” She reveals that she’s had visions ever since she was a child. She’s tried to tune them out, but hasn’t been able to block them since she found the map. What a perfect opportunity to explain where the map came from. Let’s just drive on by it without a second glance, shall we?
The things Pat has seen in the visions have been “frightening” (not as frightening as what we’ve seen, I’ll bet), and “That’s why I’m here. To understand what’s happening to me. Is that intimate enough for you?” “I was thinking something simple,” replies Max, “like maybe you slept in the nude or something.” Laughing, she says “I do.” She doesn’t. We saw her asleep earlier, remember?
Leo returns to the table. Amazingly, no one in the bar has seen an ancient temple full of hidden gold. Max decides to give it a try. Standing on his seat he loudly announces that he’s offering 20 dollars American for information. Max, that’s just one beer at this bar. Big frickin’ deal. That’s like offering a payoff of a free lunch at Taco Bell. Max increases the offer to fifty dollars when no one bites. Leo doesn’t think he should be waving money around. Yeah, come to think of it, Max’s scheme does have just the slightest potential to go wrong, doesn’t it?
When Max increases the offer to a hundred bucks, a man named Ludlow Boggs takes the bait. They explain to him they are on an “archeological expedition” and want to get into “the interior.” Boggs says that the government isn’t letting anyone into the interior–they’ll be shot on sight. But he does direct them to a man named “GutiÃ©rrez” who should be able to guide them to the temple.
Except for the bit about GutiÃ©rrez (or however it’s spelled. Although no such character appears in the movie, one of the cast members has this last name), this isn’t exactly great information. There are plenty of hints that San Miguel isn’t the world’s most stable nation. You’d think they’d take a look at the news or drop by its embassy in America and check to see the political climate before going. And since this government is very hostile, I wonder how their customs agents will react to any gold they find in their carry-on luggage?
Having got Boggs’ info, they turn to leave. A big guy blocks Max’s way. He growls something at him, which Leo translates as “your mother is a pig and your father is a dog.” Max says “Did he mention my sister?” You know, that line could be funny, if delivered in a sneering, fearless kind of way. Unfortunately, Chuck Norris doesn’t deliver it that way. He sounds genuinely curious.
Tough Guy spits on Max’s feet and tells him he has “sexual relations with goats.” Leo tries to reason with him, only to get spit on as well, and tossed over the bar. Leo tries to retaliate, but gets his butt kicked. Max gets involved. He puts the tough in a sleeper hold, picks Leo up, and utters a line of IMMORTAL DIALOGUE (see below). It looks like the fight is over, but suddenly Patricia is being accosted, so a rumble breaks out. Who would have thought? For some reason, Max hands Leo the gum he’s chewing and instructs him to hold it while he kicks ass.
All right, on to the usual stuff. Max knocks a guy through a pretty lame looking fake window. Max takes a punch right to the face, and barely flinches. Max hits people with slow motion kicks. Max has a sip of what probably isn’t his beer while fighting. Ewww…I wouldn’t share a bus with some of these ugly looking critters, never mind a glass. Anyway, Max cleans house in a plodding, uninvolving fight.
Afterwards, the trio walk down the street. Max says he has a plan to get into the interior. Leo instantly says it won’t work. When it’s pointed out that he hasn’t even heard it yet, Leo says “I’m playing the odds.” Okay Leo, how about you coming up with a brilliant plan? The reason why this bickering buddy schtick isn’t working is because a) it’s constant and b) one of the arguers never has a reasonable alternative to argue. If Leo had a plan of his own that he thought was better, we could accept the argument. All Leo ever does is jeer at Max’s plans, while never presenting a solution of his own…and then he goes along with Max’s plan anyway. This makes the whole dialogue seem unnecessary.
Meanwhile, Boggs is meeting with Coyote, and explaining that he sent the threesome into the interior. Coyote doesn’t seem that interested. He says “Good,” but is more interested in the comic book he’s reading. And you know what? Like Coyote, the audience is more interested in the comic book than what Max and Leo are up to.
Boggs wants a little cash for his info, and Coyote doesn’t like that. What’s Boggs’ incentive to work for Coyote? Altruistic reasons? If this movie wants to have a Bad-Guy-Is-So-Evil-He-Kills-His-Own-Henchmen scene, can’t they have it make sense by having Boggs ask for more money? Coyote glances up at Boggs menacingly (the eyepatch having changed eyes again). Boggs tries to flee pathetically, stopping at the door so Coyote can catch him. Coyote puts his hand on his face, and Boggs dies. Wow, must be a lethal version of the Vulcan neck pinch.
Back to our heroes, now at a train station. They’re in disguise, dressed as priests and a nun. Well, that’s got me saying “Oh, God.” What reason do they have for this? If the government isn’t letting anyone into the interior, they aren’t going to change their minds at the sight of some churchy types. Oh wait–maybe, just maybe, this is yet another comic moment. In fact, perhaps their disguise will lead to further complications, such as them be called upon to perform some priestly function? You think?
“What if they ask us for our papers?” frets Leo. Max asks “What if they do?” “We don’t have any papers,” says Leo. What about their passports? They came in on a commercial flight. This means they had to go through an airport, customs, the whole routine. They must have had some kind of identification to make it this far.
“Just act wise and holy,” says Max, and then there’s some filler of them wandering through the train. Eventually, we find them in their cabin. Max has a flask, which he takes a quick drink from. Patricia says “I though priests were supposed to be teetotalers.” Did you? Try attending a Catholic mass, sweetheart. Ever heard of Communion wine? Max offers this even shakier and somewhat offensive insight. “I thought nuns were supposed to be virgins.” Nooo…just celibate. Patricia looks both mildly embarrassed yet slightly amused by this line.
Let’s all take a moment to ponder the plight of actresses stuck with a script that has them scream, look pretty, maybe take off their top, and not much else. These poor women have to valiantly fake a smile and pretend to be charmed at the hero’s insulting come-ons while trying to keep the dream of being the next Jody Foster in view. Melody manages to look suitably charmed (and therefore like a complete bimbo), when in fact Max’s charm couldn’t pick up a chilidog.
Patricia observes that subtly is not his strong suit. Max responds “Leo’s the subtle one, I’m in charge of charm.” Actually, Leo has been much more sensitive and kind to her. He’s never called her a fruitcake. But it has been obvious from the outset that Max and Pat will end up together. I wonder why Leo and Pat don’t get together? I’m not accusing anyone of anything, just asking a question.
Tender music has started to play. They observe that they’re not really dressed for flirting, but apparently they’ll do it anyway. “You really do look…good,” says charmer Max. Cool off, Max. A passionate necking session would ruin your cover. Of course, Patricia’s dark red lip-gloss doesn’t help either.
Suddenly, the train slows down. Hilariously, a jeep is outside and a soldier is waving to it, ordering it to stop. Hey, a train isn’t like a car. You can’t instantly stop one. It takes time for the train to slow down. Any soldier parking his jeep in front of a train and expecting it to stop in time would soon find himself without a ride, and probably understocked in the limbs department.
Of course, the train does stop, and menacing music plays. The train is being searched. Soldiers haul some guy off the train. “Probably just routine questioning,” says Max. Gee, thanks Max! Don’t you know that something ironic happens every time you open your mouth? Why not just push him off a moving train while you’re at it? Sure enough, as soon as he’s said that, a shot rings out.
Now, a soldier calls them out of their cabin. Max advises them all to act dumb. Leo says he thought they were supposed to act wise and holy, to which Max responds that he’ll act dumb, Leo can try wise and holy. Patricia is told to “look virginal.” I’d advise dumb myself. It’s more in keeping with the performers’ acting range.
Soon, they are standing over the shot man and his hysterical wife. The soldier gives them an order, which Leo translates. The soldier wants last rites for the shot man. Whoops, looks like they’ve got to do something priestly. If you didn’t see this coming, I’d advise you to get a boy scout to escort you whenever crossing the street.
They hesitate over this, and the soldier puts his gun to Max’s head. Wow, his compassion really runs hot and cold, eh? First he shoots somebody, then he calls a priest over for last rites, than he threatens to kill a priest.
Leo does the last rites, basically spouting gibberish and Pig Latin “Exnay, this is all-ay your ault-fay, you stupid-ay erk-jay. Amen.” Suddenly, the grieving wife finds the man’s “papers,” which look like they might be auto insurance. Wow, this is one tough law and order country. Where I come from we’re just required to have it when we drive, and even if we do get caught driving without it, we don’t get shot.
Next, a doctor is saying that the wound is superficial, and the man starts recovering. The wife thinks it’s a miracle. Everyone is moved by this, except the people who paid for the movie tickets. The soldier asks to be blessed. The audience asks for a Tylenol.
A while later, they’re at a burnt-out town. They stop and pose for photos, while naÃ¯f Patricia hopes for a good restaurant. They chuckle at her naivetÃ©, but they’re in no better shape. This town is literally still burning, as if the army wasted it five minutes ago. The town is nearly deserted, and there are maybe two buildings that still have all four walls. A guy watching them with narrowed eyes takes off. That’s a bad sign. That’s a sign to leave. Right now.
A while later, we get another witty exchange from Max and Leo. Leo says “I heard something.” Max says “It’s just your imagination.” As always when Max speaks, the exact opposite of his assurances happens. An army detachment teleports in, and they book. “Run for the banana field,” cries Max, and soon they are running through a field where no bananas can be seen. Patricia hides in some foliage. Max and Leo somehow split up momentarily, and Leo gets caught by two soldiers. Max spots this, runs up behind one and, in slow mo, jumps on his back.
I’ve never understood why action movies do this. In my opinion, regular speed action sequences look much better, and they don’t give us extended time to catch the obvious flaws. For example, the soldier next to the one Max has taken out has about two and half hours to react, but his eyes remain glued forward, allowing Max to kick him. The soldier fires a few shots as he falls. Curiously, no one seems to think much of these shots, and no one bothers to investigate.
Meanwhile, an ugly looking soldier has stopped by Pat’s hiding place. She whispers for Max and Leo without peeking. This, of course, gets his attention. Patricia peeks out (should have done that in the first place, Pat) and the soldier spots her. Instantly she emerges, and she begins to strip off her nun clothes, explaining he has the wrong idea. She identifies herself as an American. Since these soldiers are willing to chase after two priests and a nun, I wonder why Patricia thinks they’ll go easier on a plain ol’ American citizen.
Soldier leers “Senorita,” while leaning over her breasts. She collapses in an apparent faint. Soldier drops his gun and his pants, intent on rape. Patricia grabs his gun and points it at him. She orders him to go, but he stares stupidly. She fires two warning shots, and that gets him moving. For some reason, these shots cause shouting and soldiers to come running their way, whereas the gunshots that were fired when Max took out the two soldiers didn’t.
The trio manages to bump into each other. Max says “I sure wish they would shoot at us again.” Okay, he doesn’t say that, but he says the next best thing: “they’d given up on us by now.” They get shot at. They run some more, and apparently, they get away. The next scene is of them camping in the jungle. More abrupt editing from Chico Marx.
Our trio is speculating how much gold they’ll find, and what they’ll do once they get it. Leo says he’ll buy a sailboat and sail the world. Max says he’d like to come, but Leo asks him what makes him think he’s invited. I guess Leo can sail with Jack Coltan, because this was exactly his goal in Romancing the Stone.
Meanwhile, Good ol’ Wile E. Coyote is nearby, casting a spell. Suddenly, Patricia gets a glazed look in her eyes. It’s the look I’ve had since the first ten minutes of the movie. She picks up the dagger and it seems she’s about to leave them. A jet of fire shoots up behind her, but nobody notices (?). Max tells her not to wander off, breaking the spell. Oh, come on. “Don’t wander off” breaks the spell? I think Coyote needs to enroll in remedial Spell Casting. Patricia returns to the camp and picks up the charm Tall Eagle gave her, so far doing a bang-up job of protecting her.
Next day, Max is being shaken awake. He thinks it’s Leo, but it’s some kind of patrol. They’ve already caught and tied up Leo and Patricia. Didn’t think about a sentry, huh? They’re lead away, while another soldier goes through their backpacks, strangely left behind. He finds the dagger.
Arriving at their camp, Patricia is taken to a hut, while two guards argue what to do with Leo and Max. “No matter what happens, let’s keep our heads,” says Max. Sigh. Sure enough, in the very next shot their necks are resting against a log, about to be chopped off. Komedy! With a “K”!
In order to demonstrate their fate, the soldiers break out two melons, and they cleave them in half with the sword. Okay, I think I get what’s going on here. Hitting their necks with the sword would be a bad thing, right? Actually, it would take a very sharp sword and a good deal of strength to sever the head from the body, but it’s a common thing in movies and I’m willing to let it pass. The melon demonstration was really redundant, though, unless they were planning on making a fruit salad for after the execution.
The sword is raised above their heads. A long pause, and suddenly a voice says “Always said you were too pretty for jungle work.” Max looks up and says “Corky?” Looks like Max has run into an old buddy. Patricia is standing behind him, smiling. She caught on to the joke fast. To our dismay Corky is played by John Rhys-Davies.
JRD is a strange actor. I personally think he’s pretty talented, but there isn’t much he’ll turn down. Anyone into the computer gaming scene, for example, will know that there must be a law that all games with full motion video must feature JRD–he’s been in Ripper, Dune 2000, the Wing Commander series… His film and TV work also seems to suggest that he’ll star in anything (Hell, he didn’t turn down this one, did he?).
Also, JRD somehow managed to lock into the Exotic Actor rule. There doesn’t seen to be an ethnicity they won’t have him play. He’s Welsh, but he’s played an Egyptian in Raiders of the Lost Ark (hey, anyone want to bet that’s why they cast him in this sucker?), a Scotsman in the Wing Commander games, and here, he’s supposed to be Texan. Looks like this movie finally found a role he’s not suited for, because that accent comes and it goes. With his loud, blustering and over the top performance, while continually sweating during his scenes, JRD is an all round embarrassing sight.
Later that night, there’s a wild party with music, a banquet, and drinking. We learn that Corky and Max were in Vietnam together, and they kinda miss those days (Undoubtedly because Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action series grossed much more than this limp effort). Corky was thrown out for some unspecified reason by a “Second Looey” (Second Lieutenant, who seems unlikely to have this kind of authority), and so Corky cut off his ears, and now stores them in a pickle jar. “Wanna see?” he wheezes.
Patricia is asked to dance by one of Corky’s cronies. “He ain’t never danced with a girl before,” says Corky. That’s right, these Latin American countries are so underdeveloped, they haven’t got females.
I might add now that this whole sequence is a naked rip-off of the scene in Romancing the Stone where Joan Wilder and Jack Coltan are about to be killed by a drug cartel until the leader of the cartel recognizes Joan–she’s a romance novelist and the drug lord reads her books. That movie was light-hearted and skillful enough to make the scene work. This one just seems too contrived. When Corky appears seconds before Max gets his head chopped off, you can’t help but think “Convenient, if not terribly convincing.”
Corky actually puts in a bid to buy Patricia, but Max says she’s not for sale. How touching. Suddenly, it’s raining. It rained continually during the making of Romancing the Stone, but I guess these guys didn’t have the money to suspend shooting long enough to wait for cooperative weather.
Corky and Max are doing the William Tell thing with a knife and a surprisingly patient soldier. Hey, if Patricia wanted undying loyalty (well, undying as long as their aim holds up) she should have come here. This is undying loyalty. And undying stupidity.
They do some male-bonding crap, and Corky declares “Can’t nothin’ kill you if you got the charm.” Corky, Leo and Max sit down to talk some more. During this conversation, Corky announces his intention to be king of these people. The movie doesn’t say specifically what Corky’s doing out here (just as it hasn’t specifically said much about what anyone’s doing out here), but considering Corky’s plans and mercenary background, it seems likely he’s leading a revolutionary army against the government forces, whom I assume were chasing them earlier. This theory could well be wrong, since the government and revolutionary forces don’t look any different (I suspect they used the same extras).
Leo chuckles at Corky’s plans, thinking them to be a joke. Max shakes his head warningly. “What’s so funny?” growls Corky. “These people need leadership.” Max asks “What if they don’t want it?” Oh yeah Max, good one. That’ll calm him down. “You know, I never thought about that,” says Corky, and roars with laughter as JRD does his Jabba the Hutt impersonation. When actors you like do stuff like this, it’s kinda like watching a loved one go under a scalpel for open heart surgery. You just want to avert your eyes.
“You think my plan is crazy, Leo?” Corky grabs a bottle and chugs most of the contents down. The next shot of Corky is obviously well after the drinking binge. I’m guessing JRD didn’t handle the chugging scene so well. Corky thinks he’ll succeed because “I got the charm, too.” He stomps off. “You’ll never let me go that far, will you, Leo?” asks Max. No Max, it’s the director’s job to see that the actors don’t go over the top, not Leo’s. Besides, we have a different problem with you. We’re still trying to get you to smile convincingly. Over the top is a long way off.
Leo promises he won’t. “I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re my partner,” says Max. Leo says “In that case you can come on my sailing trip.” They begin enthusing over “Fine restaurants, hotels,” and something called “womeeeeeeeeeenn.”
The next day Corky is letting them drive off in his “command vehicle,” a VW bug painted in camouflage with lots of balloons attached to it. Now they can go find the General and engage in a “Who’s Got the More Tasteless Vehicle” Competition. While the General seems to have the immediate edge with the crude cultural stereotyping, Leo, Max and Pat have livestock. A squealing pig and a chicken is stuffed into their car before they drive off. They’re also given their dagger back. Corky doesn’t seem to be very interested in their gold, which is strange. Perhaps Max and Leo didn’t tell him why they’re here. Either way, Corky is strangely uninquisitive. They drive off.
“Are you ever going to see him again?” asks Patricia. Max, looking pained, says “No.” A cut back to Corky shows him looking distraught. You see, the movie is trying to paint Corky as a darker version of Max. He’s got his own idea of fame and fortune, and it’s become his obsession. Earlier, Max suggested to him that he should go home to the States, an idea Corky rejected. We’re now meant to understand that this was Corky’s last chance to lead a sane life, and that Max narrowly avoided becoming Corky, and they’re both realizing it.
This could be a genuinely touching moment in the movie if not for two things. Let’s compare their goals. Corky is leading a revolutionary army in an effort to make himself the ruler of this country. Max is hunting for treasure, which he only believes exists because a psychic told him it did. Who’s the bigger crackpot? Second, the scene closes with a close up of JRD’s distraught face, and he’s wearing a ridiculous hat with corks and string dangling from it to keep the bugs away. It would have been much better to remove this hat before setting up the big dramatic moment.
Back in the car, they’re examining the livestock they were given. “Which one are we going to eat first?” chuckles Max, which Patricia finds disgusting. They let them out of the car. Hardly a more humanitarian choice, as they’re bound to bump into predators.
Later, Max is trying to tell Patricia a story about “Zulu pigmy cannibals” until they get to a river. They stop the car and decide to make camp. Patricia wants to take a bath. They tell her it’s not a good idea, and throw something into the water to demonstrate why. It’s difficult to see, but something is moving in the water, possibly an alligator or something. Or possibly they’re worried she’ll be attacked by a board being pulled by a string.
Later, they’re finishing dinner. Leo goes off to do the dishes when he sees Pat and Max are about to have a tender moment. This really makes him look like a doormat. First holding on to Max’s gum, and now doing everyone’s dishes. Hey Leo, do the words “Uncle Tom” mean anything to you?
“I think we’re getting real close,” says Patricia, apparently another unsubstantiated guess. Max misinterprets this, and says they have a “real bond.” There’s no way the audience would have reached Max’s conclusion, as there really isn’t a lot of sparks flying between them. All they’ve got is Ironclad Hollywood Rule #3: The leading man and the leading lady must fall in love, no matter how unlikely the pairing.
Max predicts they will be there “sometime tomorrow, if we’re not off course.” Being off course implies that they had some kind of course to begin with. We’ve seen no evidence of that.
“What scares you Max?” asks Patricia. Max replies “Suits, alarm clocks, apartment buildings.” This apparently is the correct answer, because Max and Patricia kiss. They are interrupted by the clink of pots and pans. Max calls to Leo, but he’s gone. Down by the river, they find blood. In the river, something is moving, perhaps another board pulled by stagehand, I mean, alligator.
Okay, I’m going to play spoiler and tell you Leo isn’t dead. El Coyote ambushed him. Max should realize that a predator didn’t get him, because there would have been more thrashing around. In fact, you have to wonder why there wasn’t more thrashing around when Coyote got him. Even if he had been knocked cold, Max should have been able to find Coyote dragging the body away.
Max thinks Leo is dead, and blames himself. He begins to fall apart, saying there is no gold. Uh oh, common sense seems to be slipping through. Max mumbles about taking advice from a… “A what? A fruitcake?” snaps Patricia. I’m telling you, she’d be better off with Leo. This romance just doesn’t have the legs to last. Leo has been much kinder to her.
Patricia says she’s either right or crazy, and she’s going to find out which. Max says she won’t make it alone. “Yes I will,” says Patricia, “and so will you.” That’s right Max, it will be hard to go on without the complaining, the whining, the constant bickering over the stupidest things, but somehow, you’ve got to find the strength to do it. Meanwhile, a distraught Max calls for Leo, and Pat hugs him while bad synthesizer music plays for that authentic “Made in the ’80s” stamp.
The next day, they’re driving in the car. They stop at a point further down the river, where Max says he’s going to drive across. Patricia asks how he knows it’s okay to cross. “It’s my job to know,” says Max. Class, can anyone predict what’s going to happen?
A minute later they’re swimming to shore. “Nothing like a morning swim to get the old circulation going, right, Max?” asks Patricia. Yep, this is a moment for laughter. I wonder if it will last when they realize they have no supplies and no means of getting back to civilization? Well, not that they’re all that far from civilization. I mean, they drove here, on what looks like a dirt road. Yes, it’s only a dirt road, but it’s still a traveled route. I wonder how this temple has remained undiscovered so long?
Walking through the steamy jungle (Melody Anderson’s hair is absolutely perfect by the way), they spot a cliff. A musical sting sounds. They identify this as the temple, from the picture in the cave. Incidentally, this is the first direct mention that they were looking for this temple based on what they found in the cave. You can only picture what they’re supposed to be doing after the movie is over. And then only just.
They go inside the temple. Once again, they have no flashlights, shovels, picks, or anything that might help them search for gold. The doors are sealed, and they have no way of opening them. After wandering around a bit, a door that was sealed before is suddenly open. Max wants to go in, but Pat says “Wait, there’s something in there.” Max says “I hope so,” and goes inside, walking past the large neon sign that reads “Hey, Max! This way to the trap!”
Wandering down a corridor, a big statue suddenly lunges forward. Max shoots at it. Patricia, who dutifully screamed, apologies for being so jumpy. Max tells her not to feel so bad, he didn’t even hit the statue. Actually, he did appear to hit it, but anyway. He gives Patricia the gun.
They’re trapped inside this new cavern, something Max blames on Patricia. Let’s see, who charged in despite someone else’s warning? She sits on a stone chair, which turns, revealing the exit. Oh that’s original.
Now they enter a partially flooded cavern, where Leo is suspended above boiling water. Despite the blood they found by the river, Leo looks unscratched. Max is overjoyed (well, as overjoyed as the wooden Norris can offer). Max says he’s going to get him down. Leo in turn calls him stupid, and says he never listens to anything he says. Leo, I think the phrase you’re looking for is “Thanks Max, but hurry, the guy who did this to me is waiting for you.”
Max wonders how Leo got up there, but then decides it doesn’t matter. Uh, Max? He didn’t get up there himself. I think it does matter. Sure enough, Coyote appears on a platform above and behind Leo. “Welcome, brave one,” says Coyote. He has the rope holding Leo up, and orders Max to throw the gun in the water. Meanwhile, Patricia identifies Coyote as the “Cyclops.” Get it? He only has one eye! Actually, we know he has two because the eyepatch keeps moving, but anyway.
Coyote lowers Leo close to the water. Now, the water is bubbling, but that could simply mean that there’s a source of oxygen leaking beneath it. Since Leo is literally inches away, and there’s hardly any steam, I’m guessing that water isn’t actually hot. Max throws the gun in the water anyway, even though Patricia had it a moment ago.
“You have something of mine,” says Coyote. He wants the dagger in exchange for their lives. Max agrees. Coyote says he doesn’t care about any of them–just the dagger–so Patricia can even leave now as an apparent act of good faith. She does, and the door closes behind her. You know, I wonder how Coyote does that? Does he have a hidden garage door opener somewhere?
Coyote gloats that they have brought Patricia right to him. He intends to sacrifice her to gain the power of the Firewalker, and go to the sun. He laughs evilly. Max throws the dagger at him, but Coyote catches it. Coyote sourly says it has the powers of his ancestors, but all they could see was the treasure. He also says that if not for the dagger, he would have killed them along time ago. You can interpret that in two ways. Either Coyote could not kill them because the dagger protected them, or he chose not to kill them while they had it. Since Coyote made a few attempts on their lives, neither interpretation makes a whole lot of sense.
Laughing, Coyote leaves Leo and Max as the water starts to rise. Cut to Patricia in the corridors, wandering fearfully. She must have gone into the water for the gun when we weren’t looking, because suddenly, she has it again. Yes, it appears to be the exact same gun. This movie’s continuity is so bad that I expect any second now she’ll be wearing Coyote’s eyepatch.
Back in the flooding chamber, Max jumps onto Leo, and they begin swinging back and forth. Cut back to the cave, where Coyote ambushes Patricia. She pumps him full of bullets and he drops dead. Oh wait, that’s what should happen. What really happens is that she screams instead of shooting, and is soon in Coyote’s clutches.
Next, some more cross-cutting between Leo and Max swinging back and forth, and Patricia being prepared for sacrifice. She is put into a trance by some synthetic hypno-music on the soundtrack, and is forced to wear a white robe. Meanwhile, Leo is bitching “Did I mention this is a stupid plan? Did I mention this is all your fault?” Max cuts him loose, letting him die a horrid death in the boiling water below. Oh wait, that’s what should happen. Instead, the rope eventually snaps, just as they are swinging towards the floor of the cavern where Max and Patricia came in earlier. Very good timing, Max. Suspiciously good. They climb the walls to the platform Coyote was on, and go in search of Patricia.
Coyote has Patricia laid out on an altar. He’s doing some “ho yo yo yo yo” ritual chanting stuff. Out in the cavern, Max and Leo find Patricia’s gun. You hope Max will say “Funny, I thought I threw this into the water.” Instead they say “He’s got Patricia” and run off.
In the sacrificial chamber, Coyote says “I have waited long. I will wait no longer.” He instantly plunges the knife into Patricia’s heart, and is granted the power of the Firewalker. Oops, that’s what should happen. Instead, he slowly he raises the knife high above his head, taking his sweet ass time so he can be stopped at the last second by Max and Leo. Bang, they burst in, and Max shoots Coyote right in the chest, with the first shot. “I hit him!” cries Max. “I don’t believe it,” says Leo. Max hauls Patricia up and slaps her to get her out of the trance. She slaps him back. She should have done that for the “virgin” crack earlier in the movie.
Anyway, time to search for the treasure. While they fiddle with an image of the sun, she takes the dagger and inserts it into a slot on the altar. The altar slides away, and below is a chamber with all the treasure, which exists after all, despite the total lack of evidence. Said treasure consists of a huge pile of fake-looking gold trinkets. And this is all here because why? Because the Aztecs and Mayans went North? Because the Firewalker liked to hang out in the sun? Oh, never mind.
A side note–according to Roger Ebert’s review of this movie, you can spot painted Tupperware in the pile of gold. Personally, I was too bored to verify this, but there’s something for bad movie fans to watch out for. Our heroes looked stunned. They’re probably realizing for the first time that they have absolutely no means to get this out of here.
Still, they fill a couple of bags anyway, and are leaving the temple. Suddenly, Coyote lunges out of nowhere and kicks Max from behind. Hey, that’s different. They killed the villain, only he wasn’t dead, and he reappears for a tense final conflict. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.
Leo attacks Coyote, and Patricia jumps on his back, but they’re soon subdued. Coyote tries his mysterious killer face grab on Leo. Max gets up and challenges Coyote. “Let’s see how tough you are,” he says. Max tries a few attacks, but Coyote doesn’t flinch. Now Coyote puts the face-grab on Max. We can finally see what’s supposed to be so lethal about this move. Coyote’s hand is clamped over his mouth, and his fingers are pinching his nostrils shut. It might be a little more efficient to direct that brute strength at his neck, Coyote.
Patricia grabs the dagger, and slams it into Coyote’s back. Coyote has no visible wound from his earlier gunshot, so I wonder how he’ll take this. Coyote lets go of Max and comes after her. Max hits him with a flying kick, and Coyote lands on the altar, dead.
Leo and Max go to leave, but Patricia thanks Tall Eagle, then takes out the charm he gave her (which did a world of good protecting her from evil), and pours the contents all over the body. “Goodnight, Coyote,” she says, we hear one of those Star Wars blaster sounds, and the body bursts into flames. I guess a Storm Trooper shot him when we weren’t looking.
Cut to sailboat (Jack Coltan’s must be nearby), and zoom in on a large resort. Max is telling Patricia a story about being strung up by a voodoo witchdoctor. But the trio says there will be no more of that (yes, a sequel is definitely out of the question). “To the future,” they toast. Maybe they intend to go looking for The Jewel of the Nile next.
“Life is going to be one big piece of cake,” predicts Max. Oh no, what now? Well, zoom in on the bar, where the General is standing. “So gentlemen, we meet again,” he says, and then laughs like he’s on happy pills. Of course, if he’s gone from General to bartender, I wouldn’t be very worried about his capacity for revenge. More bad synthetic music, and the credits roll.
Not much to say about this baby. It’s a cheap clone than doesn’t have the grandeur (or the money) to measure up to anything it imitates. Chuck Norris fans hoping to see him kick butt are also disappointed, because with all the “romance” and “comedy” he doesn’t get to do much. Since fights are relatively cheap to stage (as opposed to a big car crash and demolition derby), you’d think they’d try to get in more of this. Norris’ few martial arts scenes are badly directed, giving them very little fluidity or life. Instead, they require him to act. Not a wise decision.
The cast is actually decent, and that’s probably where the money went, getting JRD and Louis Gossett, Jr. to embarrass themselves. Other weak Indy clones have managed to drag in better actors to embarrass themselves–Jake Speed somehow managed to get John Hurt to compromise his dignity.
This was not Cannon Group’s only effort to get a piece of the Indiana Jones pie. They shot the doomed rip-off King Solomon’s Mines starring pre-fame Sharon Stone, Richard Chamberlain, and yes, John Rhys-Davies (this time playing a “cheap-suited camel jockey”). Cannon predicted that everyone who loved Indiana Jones would love to see that movie, so they simultaneously shot the sequel Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold.
If Firewalker is Exhibit A at Cannon’s bankruptcy hearing, those two movies are Exhibits B and C. It should also be noted that that King Solomon’s Mines was directed by J. Lee Thompson, who also directed this flick. In happier days he was directing stuff like The Guns of Navarone. He ended his directorial career directing Charles Bronson-shoots-everybody movies like Kinjite and Death Wish IV.
Where is the cast now? Chuck Norris has his own TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger; Louis Gossett Junior gets a mixture of good and bad roles (see The Punisher possibly coming to Jabootu soon), and Melody Anderson? The odd TV project and soaps operas, it seems. If anyone knows what she’s up to, please drop us a line.
You know, there was absolutely no fire walking in this movie.
Man, I gotta get me some of what he’s trippin’ on:
Max: “But there’re no bears in the Himalayas. So it must be Bigfoot. So I figure it’s him or me. Now a female lion, she’ll stalk you for days…”
A line Max speaks while helping Leo up after a brawl raises the question: Just how close are Max and Leo anyway?
Max: “I never realized what a spunky devil you are.”
Jabootu Foreign Correspondent W. Reborg sends this dispatch:
“I have recently read your review on Firewalker.
This is just a side note, but one thing that mostly goes unnoticed, is how inaccurate anything about Africa is portrayed. It seems that no one goes to the trouble to read WindowsEncarta, to find information on the various nations, cultures or people.
I live in South Africa, and here we have 13 different indigenous nations, and 11 official languages (one is English though).
in the review you mention:
“Later, Max is trying to tell Patricia a story about “Zulu pigmy cannibals” until they get to a river. They stop the car and decide to make camp. Patricia wants to take a bath. ………………………”
First off, pigmy’s are from Central Africa – Congo, and are diminutive in stature, and kill monkeys with poison arrows for food. I doubt if they were cannibals, or ever were.
Now, on the other hand, Zulu’s are something entirely different. They are from a proud and feared worrier nation, that to this day, have their own King, with many wives, and Royal Household. The South African Government, gives the King a grant of several million dollars per year, to keep him in luxury, and out of mischief.
History confirms that the Zulu worriers (called “impi”) on many occasions sent the British colonials packing. They could muster an army of several thousand. They were ruthless in protecting their land, and to this day, the province of Natal is mainly occupied by them. Although docile these days, they frequently killed all and sundry if provoked – or if any other tribe had cattle (and women) they wanted.
Even today, they would wear their traditional dress of occasions of importance. You might see several impi perform a traditional war dance, when an international rugby match is played on South African soil. It is done in answer to the New Zealand rugby team’s “HAKA” war dance. I’ll bet the Americans will love to see that.
Lastly, the Zulu were never cannibals. They never needed to be anyhow, as they were a nation of cattlebreeders, and your wealth was measured in the head of cattle you possessed. Incidentally, you had to pay the father of your bride several head of cattle to be able to marry her. Depending on her fertility, status and beauty, it could be several hundred!
It needs to be mentioned that even today, research in regards to everything African, is regarded as sufficient (as far as movies goes), if a few African names are tossed into the mix to add color. It seems that the same is true of Native American culture as well. Indeed a sad state of affairs, but we are talking of B-movies after all, and the scriptwriter is most likely a neurotic apartment dweller.
I know the reference is not an important part of the movie under discussion, but I thought you needed to know this titbit.”
Thanks to Mr. (?) Relborg and all our diligent correspondents.