Raiders of the Lost Ark has to be one of the most copied films of all time.
You don’t have to look too hard to find copies made in the US — offhand one thinks of The Jewel of the Nile, King Solomon’s Mines and High Road to China, but it isn’t much harder to find copies made in Italy (The Raiders of Atlantis, Top Line), Hong Kong (The Legend of Wisely, Magic Crystal, The Armor of God), India (Hero), and even the Soviet Union (The Curse of Snakes Valley).
So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Australians gave us their version of the classic adventurer, who comes complete with a name that combines the name of an American State with a common last name: Dakota Harris (the film actually appeared under this name in some markets!).
There’s a lot of talk about ancient aliens, and the mysterious slab they left on Easter Island, which can summon up vast amounts of power. It broke into three parts, which have been scattered about the world. A World War II pilot has to take a secret cargo to Boa Boa, but never makes it because his cargo is a piece of that slab. Bizarre things happen, the plane crashes and they find themselves in a sea of abandoned vessels, 5000 miles off course.
Only they are found not far from where they should be, and Dakota is falsely convicted of dereliction of duty. He escapes and sets out to prove his innocence with the help of the usual girl found in these things.
This is one of those films that made a brief VHS appearance in the US and was remarkably hard to find for a long time, until copies started showing up on Youtube. Which is A.) not much of a surprise as it doesn’t star anyone you’ve ever heard of, and B.) a bit of a shame as it is a breezy and entertaining little film, which was never meant to be anything other than a fun little B-Movie. But where else are you going to find time and space warps, mysterious regions like the Bermuda Triangle, aliens , melting bad guys and those giant Easter Island Moai (i.e., big stone heads) all in one movie?,
If you can think of another one, I’ll gladly watch that one, too.
I’ll admit we’ve seen way too much of the whole Von Daniken, Chariots of the gods thing, but we really don’t get the dreaded “the gods were aliens” spiel so much as a “the aliens stopped by and left their slab behind.” That’s a plus.
The action scenes are quite well done, as are the effects. I’ll confess I’m just a tad bit disappointed that we don’t ever get to see any flying saucers, but you can’t have everything. Although I’ll admit that I wish Toho had made this one, complete with flying saucers and walking Moai shooting lasers out of their eyes.
But then, that would help a lot of SF movies.
John Hargreaves just isn’t Harrison Ford, but even if he isn’t brilliant he at least does an adequate job. You can also strain your eyes trying to spot Hugo Weaving who has a bit part as one of the bad guys. But you probably won’t spot him either.
However, the sequence where Dakota climbs out on the wing in mid-flight to make a repair is just plain absurd. While the action in these sorts of films usually is, there has to be some effort to make it seem more or less plausible. Surely even the people making this thing must have been saying “Yeah. Right.”
I blame Raiders, though, for the totally unnecessary truck pursuit sequence. For some reason that is never explained, a minor character refuses to help Dakota, is pressured to do so in a very strange sort of way, then goes on a crazy revenge rampage for no discernible reason. Frankly, I think it is there because they felt the need to put in a big action set piece like the one in the first Indiana Jones film. Unfortunately, it leaves a bit of a sour taste as the pursuer’s death seems badly disproportionate. It was more of a “hit in the face with a pie” moment.
And he could just as easily have jumped off the truck before it blew up.
This is not a great film. It is, however, a reasonably entertaining sort of film, moves quickly and has its share of good moments. There’s something to be said for that.
After all we can always use another midnight movie.
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John Hargreaves is also in Long Weekend (1978) an Australian thriller about a couple who holiday near a deserted beach where strange things start to happen. He won the best actor award at Sitges even beating Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of Nosferatu.