Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jungla Mortal (1985)

(If you believe the IMDB aka Abriendo Fuego)

Professor Ruger (Arturo Martinez) gives his last penny to acquire a peculiar golden artefact that he thinks to be the key leading to a temple made of pure gold somewhere in the jungles that now cover the former Mayan Empire. Before he can do anything about his find, he is gunned down by the Bedouin attack troops of evil, somewhat non-middle-eastern-looking sultan El Holkan (Mario Arevalo). Fortunately, the old coot was able to give the artefact to his daughters Lucia (Alejandra Vidal) and Sonia (Imperio Vargas) and his student Esteban (Arturo Martinez hijo) with strict instructions to bring it to his old buddy Professor Sagan (the film's director Rodolfo de Anda showing off that he's as mediocre an actor as he is as a director).

When first they meet him, Sagan is in the process of getting his arse kicked by a little girl in a game of telekinetic chess, probably a typical game for a scientist to play. After studying the artefact, he explains to the sisters and their friend that he takes their father's theories for rather ridiculous nonsense. Surely, there's no pyramid made of pure gold somewhere in the jungle! It's quite obvious that the pyramid is the key to a stranded spaceship.

Thanks to his psychic powers, Sagan will be able to lead the trio there, their utter incompetence in outdoor survival notwithstanding. Of course, Sagan won't hire anyone except an old friend of his (Gilberto de Anda) to help them. That would make sense, as would going to the police when your father is murdered by armed bad guys, so we really can't have it.

The expedition turns out to be quite difficult - apart from a rude witchdoctor and his people, there are also magically angered rubber bats and other natural phenomena to fight; and the all-knowing Holkan is following the expedition's every step. That jungle business has its perks, though - Sagan will later safe a psychically powered virgin in a classical golden stripper bikini from being sacrificed, and she'll take a real shine to him.

But will that be enough to find the very tent-and-wood-like UFO?

If there's one thing you can always count on in the world of cheap and rather trashy cinema, it's an unending hunger for things to rip off. When I think "Indiana Jones" rip-off, I do of course think of Italy first, and especially of some very entertaining films made by beloved director and friend of David Warbeck Antonio Margheriti (and try to forget a lot of less entertaining films not made by him).

Italy of course wasn't the only country with a genre cinema industry hungry for money made on the backs of other people's successes, and that leads me to Mexico - a country whose filmic output I have learned to love dearly - and this particular Indiana Jones cash-in by Rodolfo de Anda, a guy who did more work as an actor than as a director, but still has more than one film to take responsibility for.

Comparing Jungla Mortal to Margheriti's adventure movies is rather cruel. Where Margheriti has a deep love of and understanding for the serials the Indiana Jones movies themselves ripped off, de Anda has the crappy imagination of a guy who has watched one or two movies and read one or two books by Erich von Däniken and is now desperately trying to throw half-digested elements from both together until they become something an audience could confuse with an actual movie (very much like the fourth Indiana Jones film, actually, just with better special effects). De Anda's tactic even works somewhat. Although the director doesn't have much of a hand for the staging of action scenes, or characterization (I suspect the actors would be quite overtaxed by that anyway) or anything else to do with, well, the art of filmmaking, he is certainly trying.

This is not the sort of cheap, tacky movie unwilling to show its audience something, it is rather the sort of cheap, tacky movie that tries to throw a lot of ineptly realized stuff at its audience, possibly in the hope of entertaining it. And lo! The attempt at being entertaining by plain persistence did its magic on me. After all, there's a lot of traipsing through the jungle - without library footage! - and some semi-impressive real ruins, there are rubber bats and girls in gold bikinis and ridiculously howling "natives" who are murdered in their dozens by our so-called "heroes", without a single thought about the morality of their deeds, weird scenes between the evil sultan (who has a completely unnecessary backstory with Sagan) and his possibly even more evil girlfriend in which they congratulate each other for their greed and evilness, some hilarious attempts at tragedy and a very golden UFO with a very golden alien inside.

That not a single one of these elements is realized in a way worth a damn is of no importance; they are there, singing their siren song of stupidity with the conviction of the idiotic until one can't help but love them a little, even if they will later turn out to have the lower bodies of fishes.

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