Monday, February 9, 2009

Review - Treasure of the Four Crowns (1983); AKA "Raiders Impossible"

Back in the 80's, there was a movie production company called Cannon Films. They were kind of like the low budget little brother to the bigger Hollywood studios, and anything Tinseltown could do, Cannon could do better!(but not really) They mostly imitated whatever trend was popular at the time. For example, Stallone and Rambo drew "First Blood", but Cannon had Chuck Norris "Missing in Action." For every "Dirty Harry", there was a crappier "Death Wish" sequel.....and so on. It's no surprise that when "Raiders of the Lost Ark" became a box office smash and introduced us to Indiana Jones, Cannon jumped on the adventure bandwagon with 1983's "Treasure of the Four Crowns" The lost ark might have had Nazi face melting, but Four Crowns had laser head explosions blasting at you in "Wondervision 3-D" top that Indy!

Snakes...why did it have to be 3-D?

The big boys had Harrison Ford, but Cannon had Tony Anthony as J.T. Striker. (they named him Striker because B.J. Ballsmasher was unavailable)He's a treasure hunter and soldier of fortune whose quest has him putting together a team of thieves to steal some magic crowns from an evil cult leader named Brother Jonas. The good guys have one was destroyed centuries that leaves two for our heroes to nab. The museum wants the remaining two crowns in their collection because legend has it that they contain a power that can either cure the world of all disease or unleash an unholy force that will put Hell right smack on Earth!

Indiana had bigger balls......

But Striker's balls were on fire!

The heist section in the third act is where "Crowns" really shines. Doctor Jones had to pass through booby trapped passages with spikes, arrows, and self destructing temples to get the golden idol....ha....a piece of cake compared to what Striker's party must overcome. Their only advantage is that the cult is being distracted from crown security by their annual recruitment ceremony, so this gives them easy access to the chamber where the treasure is being stored. Once inside the chamber they must cross a pressure sensitive floor, an electric gate in the middle of the room, laser alarm beams, and a booby trapped pedestal. How are they supposed to pull this off when they can't even touch the fucking floor? Each of the team members comes with a unique skill. There's Rick the climbing expert, Liz the trapeze artist, and Socrates the circus strong man. During the planning stages they figure out that there is just a precious few feet of safe space close to the ceiling that will allow them to bypass the security. It's actually a pretty cool sequence, and they did it years before Tom Cruise dangled on wires in "Mission Impossible."

Striker on wires during the "impossible" mission...

Of course there is a price to be paid for disturbing the treasure and using it for evil purposes. The climactic climax unleashes hellfire on all the bad guys.....and some of the good guys as well! Now FX wise......some of it is not that impressive. You can clearly see things floating around on visible wires and Cannon didn't have the budget that Paramount had with "Raiders." But, if you were able to see this in 3-D with all the crap popping off the screen, you would have been entertained. 3-D can make a bad movie enjoyable (see the Friday the 13th part 3-D dvd), and when you have a stuntman with duel flame throwers slathering fire all over the place, that's pretty damn awesome....third dimension or not!

Punishment for disturbing the crowns...

Striker and the duel flame of doom.....

an evil cult leader who just can't win!

Now I'll freely admit that "Raiders" is the far superior film, but this is an entertaining slice of lowball cinema. It was directed by Italian director Ferdinando Baldi, who was responsible for quite a few spaghetti westerns back in the day. As far as the musical score goes, it has the honor of being done by the legendary maestro Ennio Morricone. That alone gives it high marks in my books! I wish there was easier access to this film for those who might be interested. Unfortunately all I have is a bootleg VHS copy and I could'nt believe that it still played after sitting in a garage for twenty years. Perhaps a new Indiana Jones film could see the leather jacketed hero rescuing "Treasure of the Four Crowns" from the vault of video obscurity doom! Hell, it couldn't be any worse than his last adventure.

Liz agrees and gives "Crowns" the thumbs up!

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