We live in strange times, my friends. It’s like Bizarro World, sometimes. Big name directors dump tens of millions of duckets into producing movies that are supposed to resemble trashy exploitation flicks. There’s a whole stable of these guys! It is their mission in life to pay homage to the films that crafted them. They cast them with relatively big names, pack them with great special effects, license swanky music to accompany them with an appropriately nostalgic feel and then they do everything they can to make the film print look damaged, fuck up the sound and sell it like it’s some cheap ass exploitation movie. The real deal looked and sounded a distinctly grindhouse way because the budgets used to make the real thing were fractions of fractions of whatever Quentin Tarantino is making. Dig?
Say what you want about The Asylum. They are the greatest contemporary example of exploitation filmmaking that I can think of. Plain and simple. No one holds a candle to these guys. That Austin Movie Mafia, the indie gone big-time crew, go to great lengths to make grindy flicks but even though they pay homage (and make fun movies) they’re missing the point. The Asylum has it right. There’s nothing self conscious about the movies they make. At no point during Transmorphers does it ever seem like they wonder if they got the lighting right or if the dialog was going to work. Their only concern is whether or not their sci-fi mockbuster has what it takes to appeal to the people who loved Transformers. All they want to do is kick out a cheap-ass movie that looks close enough to a big time blockbuster flick in the movies at the time in the most efficient manner possible. I commend them but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they make good movies.
Lady Anna and her wimpy sidekick brother, Sir Henry arrive in South Africa with half of a map to the legendary treasure of King Solomon, on a mission to find their missing brother who disappeared with an expedition looking for King Solomon’s Mines. The other half of the map is in the possession of one down and out hunter/tracker, Allan Quatermain who is trying to sell it to the villainous Hartford. I guess he’s supposed to be a Nazi. Of course, Anna, Henry and Allan hook up and Quatermain by way of handsome commission, agrees to take the pair to the mines to look for their missing brother.
Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls is, largely, a movie about people walking around the savannah. Vaguely defined danger lurks over the next hill but never really strikes. Occasionally Quatermain will halt the group and everyone will look terrified at stock footage of a rhinocerous or a yak but then it wanders off and everyone is back on track.
For a good third of the movie we watch everyone walk, wearing scowls and looks of concern. Very rarely does anything ever happen. Occasionally, Hartford shows up, sucks on his upper teeth, sneers and attempts to make deals with the group for their half of the map but he usually just walks away, shouting over his shoulder that they’ll be sorry. He spends the entire movie one step ahead of Quatermain and his group. It makes me wonder why he needs the map in the first place.
Even by Asylum standards, Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls is a dog. Asylum movies have a tendency to be so bad they’re good but this one misses by a mile. It’s packed with filler to the point that twenty minutes of the ninety seven minute running time is actually story, the rest is nothing but filler. You get a lot of footage of people walking, people glaring at one another, an awkward ending where everyone kneels and smiles at Umbopa, Quatermain’s Zulu housekeeper, not to mention the dead-end cultivation of a romantic angle between Quatermain and Lady Anna. I have to tell you, I was really looking forward to this one so I could lay the funny down and bag on the movie but it’s such a vacant experience that there’s not really much to talk about.
I suppose the sudden National Geographic grade nudity was something to talk about. It says it right on the box. A warning about violence and nudity but this wasn’t exactly what I was anticipating. There isn’t a drop of blood in the movie and the action scenes that are violent are so pedestrian that a warning on the box about violence is almost a waste of ink. I can only hope that they’re not using oil-based inks to print the package the way that stuff trades these days.
As the credits rolled, it occurred to me that nobody really said much in this movie. Dialog is absolutely minimized. Sean Cameron Michael plays Quatermain as this haunted guy who spends most of the movie simmering, professionally not giving a shit but there’s really no explanation offered. Something about the price of tuition for his son’s schooling.
the Asylum has done a lot better in the past. When watching their movies you have to adjust your tolerance for bad movies if you plan on enjoying the experience and there’s usually something to like about their crappy flicks. Unfortunately, Allan Quatermain, in a rushed attempt to cash in on the return of Indiana Jones (an equally vacant experience from what I’m told) misses the mark, entirely. It’s outfitted with sleepwalk pace action scenes, nothing that really qualifies as acting but at least it has some very nice footage of South African plains.