Whew!! Our whirlwind globe-trotting March “Thrilling Adventures!!” Movie Review Festival continues with a quick layover in Australia for a look at 1986’s “Raiders” spunky Aussie wanabee “Sky Pirates” (or “Dakota Harris” as it’s known in German releases). 😉
Synopsis anybody? 😉 “WW2 Australia, August 1945. Flight Lieutenant Dakota Harris is called upon to fly a classified mission in an American DC-3 transport from a secret Australian airbase to Washington DC. On board is an American General and archeologist Reverend Mitchell along with one-third of an ancient stone tablet. The plane gets caught in a mysterious electrical storm and crash-lands in a sea, filled with long-lost ships. Rescued and brought back to Australia, Dakota finds himself court-martialed due to a false testimony by his co-pilot Squadron Leader Savage. Dakota escapes and gets help from Mitchell’s beautiful and feisty daughter Melanie. Together they set out to stop the evil Savage, who is after the 3 pieces of the stone tablet and their enormous power when combined together. A power which can be used for good… or for evil.”
World War 2… ancient astronauts… lost civilizations… the eerie heads of Easter Island… the powers of alien antimatter… daring aerial action… two-fisted wise cracking hero… and a pretty female sidekick. Yep. This sounds about right. So what the heck are we waiting for? Adventure awaits!! 🙂
Seems to me I remember this one vaguely from back in the day. I must have been 14 or 15 when it showed up on HBO or Cinemax and it certainly sounds like a movie a certain crazy girl would have watched back then, but my memories of it were pretty slim when I bumped across the DVD for this months Festival. Not the usual for it either, but of all things the Region 2 Danish release, given that this one hasn’t made it to anything but ancient VHS here in the States. Finding it was perfect timing too, given our Festival theme this month… sometimes the Movie Faries are kind to a certain lil’ Catgirl. 🙂
Our story gets right to it with a quick lil’ intro voiceover explaining that ancient astronauts did indeed visit earth waaaay waaay back when and before those Space Gods left, they bequeathed the early human race with a mystical stone tablet that contained the secrets to manipulating the almost unthinkably powerful material antimatter. Yep, antimatter… you know… that stuff that makes all the spaceships go all “whoosh” on “Star Trek”. Oh yeah…. Just the sort of stuff that ought to show up right around WW2… Oh yes… I have to admit…. about then I was soooo expecting the Nazis or Japanese to pop up and try to snag this treasure… but nope. The Allies are pretty interested in it though, and our movie’s hero… rough rugged Flight Lieutenant Dakota Harris (played by John Hargreaves) of the Australian Air Force gets called in to fly a top-secret delegation of American and Australian experts on a “hush-hush” mission to recover all three pieces of that ancient stone widget so they can do whatever it is army guys want to do with such dangerous items. (Hmmmm? Blow stuff up, maybe?… 😉 )
Naturally Harris, daring pilot that he is, is the only guy they’d even consider for such a dangerous and important mission. Ahhhh and just as naturally of course he also gets to find an old rival, Flight Squadron Leader Major Savage (played by Max Phipps) in charge of it all. You just know the sort of guy he is… pompous, mean-spirited, and a general all around a-hole of the first order. He absolutely hates our hero… and in return Harris just sees him as a royal pain in the butt and ultimately not worth his time even worrying about. That’ll come back and bite him in the butt…
They take off with an American General named Hackett (played by Alex Scott) and an archaeology expert Rev. Mitchell (played by Simon Chilvers) along with a mysterious box said to contain apiece of “the worlds biggest jigsaw puzzle”. Harris is curious, but he’s a simple pilot and all he really cares about is flying… well that and trying to catch the eye of the Reverend’s pretty daughter Melanie (played by Meredith Phillips) there to see her father off on his journey. Oh yes… you just know pretty Melanie is our story’s love interest, but at first there’s the usual “Girl meets Boy… Boy lusts after Girl… Girl thinks Boy is a complete childish idiot…” to work through. 😉
Nope. At some point, a curious airman decides to take a peek at the mysterious cargo and sets it off, causing a weird light show and electrical storm to rip the DC-3 out of time and space and causes it to crash in some freaky Sargasso sea of lost ships. Before the plane sinks, the everybody still alive manages to make it to a life raft, and Harris pisses Major Savage off by unceremoniously dumping the box containing our ancient widget overboard to make room for survivors. Yep… you just know an asshole like him will make trouble about that once they get rescued…
For a little flavor we get to visit one of the ships… the USS Indiana, supposedly one of the two ships that took part in the famous “Philadelphia Experiment”. Yep… more messing around with antimatter that apparently caused the ship to tumble into a space/time warp and end up here with phantasms of the crew endlessly reliving the final moments over and over again. Oooohhh, creepy!!
Not wanting to end up trapped here forever like the Indiana, Harris decides to take the raft to land on a nearby island, barely visible through the freakish mists… an island whose giant stone heads can only be on place on Earth… Easter Island. They never make it there though… as once they get underway, the island fades away mysteriously and the raft is inexplicably returned to the sea near Fiji, back along their original flight plan. Eventually… as luck would have it, they get picked up by a passing ship. Yay!!
Or maybe not… Once they get home, there’s a military inquiry and Major Savage uses it to place the blame squarely on Harris, telling everyone his crazy story is nothing but a pack of lies to cover up his own incompetence and cowardice. With the Reverend suspiciously nowhere around to back his story up, Savage gets his revenge and our hero gets sentenced to 10 years in military prison. Crap!! That’s not fair!
Not that he ever makes it to prison, mind you. Nope… our hero’s one of those rough tough guys more than willing to slug a couple of guards and jump out of a movie jeep to make his escape and threaten a superior officer at gunpoint to discover Savage’s plan to keep the mystical stone tablet for himself at any cost. Even if it means killing everybody who knows of its existance. Like pretty Melanie. 😦
Harris saves her naturally… from a rather goofy murder attempt by savage at the museum where she works. He tries to kill our girl by rolling a fragmentation grenade into an elevator she’s riding. A freaking grenade? Yeah… one that blows the heck out of the floor in that tiny elevator sending a nameless cleaning lady plummeting to her death, but somehow leaves nary a scratch nor smudge on Melanie. Some “anti-personnel” device… That puny explosion had both me and Carolyn shaking our heads in disbelief.
From this point forward it’s off to find Melanie’s dad, the Reverend at his research lab at Ayres Rock. We get that prerequisite sleazy bar scene and a game of Russian Roullette with some nasty guy to find out he’s already been kidnapped by Savage and his partner. There’s a good old fashioned bar brawl… Melanie gets kidnapped… we get a cool truck chase reminicent of the one in “Raiders”… and then it’s time to steal a plane and fly off to Bora-Bora to see if the Reverend’s collegue can help.
All along the way, we get that clever banter as Harris and Melanie do that teasing little dance that hero and heroine always do as they flirt and get closer in one of these stories. We get some really nice stuntwork here as the plane gets attacked and set ablaze forcing Harris to do some wingwalking to put out the fire. It’s simple, but nicely done, and probably the biggest single piece of stuntwork done for the film. Very effective and proffessionally done too.
One by one, Harris and Melanie find the parts of the tablet, and of course that means eventually Savage will swoop in to steal away the prize… and the heroine… to make his big move to grab the final piece in the secret chambers beneath Easter Island. Yep… our big climax is coming… 😉
And yes… if you saw “Raiders” then you wont be surprised here either. The pieces come together… Evil proves unable to hold such awesome power… terrible death ensues and the secret chambers collapse burying the tablet forever… or at least until mankind is better able to deal with such terrible power. “Boy saves Girl… Girl finally fancies ruggedly handsome Boy… Kisses are exchanged… and you just know somebody’s getting lucky tonight… Hehehehe!!”
That’s pretty much it then. A fairly simple little story, done fairly well on what is apparently a miniscule budget compared to “Raiders”. It’s definitely nowhere as slick or polished a film, and the story leaves a bit to be desired, but all in all it’s an effective little “B” movie version of “Raiders” done with some style and panache that is in no way an embarrassment. John Hargreaves has the right look and carries himself well throughout as a credible “intrepid adventurer”. Meredith Phillips is good as our heroine and the chemistry isn’t bad, although again, the story is done at an awfully frantic pace to allow any real character development to sell the relationship completely. Ahhhh…. and the “period look”…. very credible. I have to confess, I’ve always liked that “vintage” movie setting for a story like this, and “Sky Pirates” manages that nicely, even with its small budget.
I like this one, even if I don’t remember much about the first time I saw it. Seeing it now was pretty much like catching it for the first time, and I honestly don’t know why it didn’t make more of an impression on me all those years ago. I give it a fairly well-earned 3 “Meows” out of 5. It’s a fun film that doesn’t take itself too darn seriously, makes only a couple of minor continuity and common sense flubs here and there that are easily overlooked for a great little evening’s movie watchin’ fun.
The DVD? Well… I’m told there’s a budget French release out there, as well as a German one. But I managed to find it on a Danish Region 2 one. It’s a full-screen version, suffering a bit from the cropping of the image, but suffering more from the somewhat fuzzy and dark source this one was mastered from, an old VHS release from the look of the image. Not the best way to see this film, but currently the best one available. If you are interested o’ Gentle Visitors, you ought to be able to scare up a copy for right around 20$ US or so.
Trailer? Unfortunently as hard to find as the DVD… but here’s a look at the Polish one for this anyways… Polish? Yep… 😉 Enjoy!!