Time to swing by Mexico for a peek at 1985’s Jungle Adventure exploitation classic “Treasure of the Amazon” by Mexican director René Cardona Jr., the latest addition to our March “Thrilling Adventures!!” Movie Review Festival. Deadly jungle action, topless Amazon women, headhunters, poison darts, a sadistic ex-Nazi on a hunt for gold, a river of diamonds full of piranhas and killer crocodiles, and all the other exploitation film goodness you’d expect in a good 80’s “B” movie… 😉
Our synopsis reads: “In the depths of the lush, steamy Amazon jungle, rife with exotic and dangerous wildlife, a group of adventurers embark on a quest to discover a legendary river reportedly filled with diamonds “the size of your eyes” as well as precious jewels and gold, and in the process finds itself enveloped in incomprehensible barbarism. At the mercy of this mysterious jungle labyrinth, the treasure hunters are forced into fierce battles with vicious ruthless headhunters, ferocious alligators, piranhas, a tribe of topless female warriors, and, equally disturbing, the greed of their own colleagues, raising the question “Which is more treacherous, the greed of man or the perils of the jungle?”
Yep… a steamy impenetrable jungle… a treasure… deadly dangers… and perilous adventure. Sounds like this one fits our bill. Throw in some topless Amazon women and a nasty Nazi fugitive and I’m thinking they are really shooting to cover all the bases… Hehehe!! But seeing is believing, so let’s get to it then, shall we o’ Gentle Visitors?
Our story gets underway with one of those “This story is based on actual events” blurbs… but having seen it, I’d have to say it’s probably pretty loosely based on any real story… probably one with far less topless ladies roaming around a jungle. 😉
We see a riverboat chugging down a river, the Amazon, I’m assuming, but given the budget here, it’s probably some river in southern Mexico. Still, it looks “jungly” enough, and aboard our little riverboat we have the usual list of passengers… a few natives, some sketchy “solider of fortune” types, a jesuit priest, and Stuart Whitman doing his best “down-on-his-luck” adventurer burned out by one too many years in the big ol’ jungle for his own good. His name is “Gringo”… yep. And along with looking a bit old, and a little ragged and crazy around the edges, he’s more than a little paranoid about his stuff as one poor light-fingered native discovers when our hero chops off one of those fingers for getting a little to grabby with Gringo’s gear. Ouch!! Mind you, one scuffle later, and a missing finger is the least of that poor guys problems as he falls overboard into a school of voracious piranha. yeah… that has a way of just plain ruining your afternoon but good.
But that neat little scene sets the tone for this one fairly well. It’s another story about basically greedy people all conniving and conspiring to find the local treasures for themselves and the levels to which they are willing to sink to keep those treasures once they find them. What would those treasures be? Well… gold for one, but even more valuable is the rumors of a river tributary who’s shallows are filled with uncut diamonds. Yep, now there’s a treasure.
Our various players in this hunt for fabulous wealth? Well there’s Gringo… who found that treasure once, but lost both his companions and a little of his mind out in that hellish green wilderness thanks to the headhunting Jivaro tribe. Then there’s Klaus (played by Donald Pleasance), ex-Nazi on the run, with his topless loyal native guide Morinba (played by Sonia Infante), looking for that big score that will let him leave the jungle a rich man so he can fund the 4th Reich. Or how about Zapata (played by Pedro Armendariz Jr.) and Jairo (played by Jorge Luke) a couple of low rent goons looking to follow some gold prospecting gear to whomever ordered it with the lame idea of then taken that gold for themselves, some great guys, eh? Well, that about Oil company scouts Clark (played by Bradford Dillman) and his partner Dick (played by Clark Jarrett) who manage to find a few tantalizing diamonds along with some headless human remains while surveying. They figure where there are a few gems, there must be more… all the while conveniently ignoring the whole “headless human remains” clue… Naturally they’ll hook up with a weirdly out-of-place beauty named Barbara (played by former “Miss World” Ann Sidney) and go bumbling about in the jungle woefully unprepared. At least the final man with his eyes on the prize, Tacho (played by Emilio ‘El Indio’ Fernández) has the common sense to stay put in the trading post playing local “godfather” to the tribes and government representative to any of the white guys passing through all the while waiting for the others to find something and bring it out so he can strong-arm them and take most of it for “taxes”… yeah, right.
One by one these guys all venture forth into the jungle, and their paths cross now and again as they contend with the usual hazards of safari travels… quicksand, venomous snakes, crocodiles, leeches, flesh-eating land crabs, and vicious headhunting Jivaro tribesmen with their poison blowguns. Most of these guys all die… in some fairly gruesome ways… before this one is over, but like most treasure hunts, somebody’s gotta win, and you’ll figure out pretty quickly that our boy Gringo’s not as completely nutty as he first seems, has all the right woodland skills to stay alive, and a healthy dose of paranoia to keep his fellow hunters from sticking him in the back with something sharp and pointy. He’s definitely the front-runner to come out of the whole thing alive… and maybe… just maybe… manage to get a hold of the treasure too.
As an “anti-hero”, I suppose Gringo would be OK… but he’s hardly somebody I found myself rooting for, and even when he ends up saving our beauty queen Barbara, it’s more because he’s sorta horny from being all alone out here in the jungle and figures he can buy her affections with a split of the loot. The one character I did warm to, Morimba, wastes her excellent survival skills, translation and local knowledge, and sneaky jungle girl skills with a knife protecting slimy villain Klaus the Nazi, who only treats her like a loyal dog. Heck… after all her help, he even machineguns her down without a second thought just so her corpse will distract a bunch of piranha during a river crossing. Darn shame. I was soooo hoping she’d get fed up with his dumb Aryan ass and go all Xena, Warrior Amazon on his butt to get the money she needed to buy her daughters away from icky Tacho. Sigh…
The action is well filmed all-in-all, and our story makes better sense than I expected, but isn’t anything novel or new. There were some cool unexpected bits… like the finger chopping scene in the beginning, and Pedro’s nasty death in cave, tied up and eaten alive by a horde of crabs… that were nice. The headhunters really only get to behead a couple of guys, and we never get to see them do this “shrinking” thing with anybody’s noggin, so the gore really isn’t approaching the levels of say, an Italian Cannibal film, but the violence is pervasive throughout with almost none of our cast displaying much mercy or belief in the inherent sanctity of human life. In fact, the whole movie has more the feeling of one of those “made for TV” thrillers than an actual feature film… just my feeling, but carolyn kinda got that vibe too remarking that “this one was pretty tame”. (I really must have shown her some nasty films already since we’ve been together, if she’s got that opinion…. 😉 )
Overall I’d say we had fun with this one, but it’s still basically a pretty forgettable film. definitely nowhere the caliber of “Raiders” in any way or shape. It’s a movie I’d have enjoyed watching on TV back in the day, but I don’t think I’d have rushed right out to see it at the theater. That would put it at a tepid 3 “Meows” out of 5. Another film not bad enough to be truly bad, but not “bad enough to be good” either. If jungle movies are your thing, and you haven’t yet seen it, hey… it’s easy to find on DVD for around 10$ US and you could do worse. Just make certain you watch it on the cheap…. 😉
What’s that? Our Trailer? But of course! I’d never leave without one. 😉