Philippine War Week: Raiders of the Magic Ivory (1988)

And you thought, after two Teddy “Chiu” Page flicks with Romano Kristoff and Jim Gaines back to back in one day — Black Fire and Jungle Rats — we were doing another one? Gotcha!

As with Kristoff and Gaines, Jim Mitchum — the eldest son of Robert Mitchum (Thunder Road) and older brother to Chris Mitchum (who did his own share of Philippine-schlock with Aftershock, SFX Retaliator, and The Serpent Warriors) — jumped into the Sulu Sea as his career cooled off into a series of Phillipine-based actioners to close out his career. Jim was best known to U.S. audiences for starring in the theatrical inspiration to TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard, Moonrunners (1975). But you’re part of the B&S crowd, right? So you know Jim Mitchum best for his work alongside Richard “Captain Apollo” Hatch and Daniel “Paco Querak” Greene (know your ’80s apoc anti-heroes) in Sergio Martino’s Beyond Kilimanjaro: Across the River of Blood (1990). (Check out our “Ten Sergio Martino Films” featurette.)

Jim Mitchum’s co-star, Christopher Ahrens, is our (well, moi) “Michael Sopkiw,” if you will. Sopkiw made it through four movies before hangin’ up the clap board (2012: After the Fall of New York will get you started): Ahrens also stuck around for four leading-man roles: Raiders of the Magic Ivory being his debut, along with (Do we love this movie or what?) his role as Samuel Fuller in Bruno Mattei’s Shocking Dark (1989), third-stringing with Dirk “Starbuck” Benedict and Ted McGinley (from friggin’ Happy Days?) in the Top Gun-cum-Blue Thunder smash-up Blue Tornado (1991), and Beyond Justice (1991) with Rutger Hauer. As with Mr. Sopkiw and Mark “Trash” Gregory: we wished Aherns stuck around for more flicks. (If I had the money of a producer, I’d pull all three out of retirement and make an action movie . . . but I digress in my fanboy-dom.)

Now . . . before we get to the plot, we must discuss the all-too-brief directing career of Tonino Ricci and his bastard pup of Jaws-ness that is Night of the Sharks. Yes, even Treat Williams, who’s a really fine actor in his own right, when needing a paycheck, can be suckered into the ripoffness of the Spanish and Italian film industries. (See, now I’m the guy who, if I had the chance to interview Treat, I’d could give two shites about Hair; I’d go straight to Night of the Sharks with my first question.) Across his 22 credits, Tony R. gave us a couple of underwater adventures with Cave of the Sharks, aka Bermuda: Cave of the Sharks (1978) and yep, more Atlantis-shenanigans with Encounters of (in) the Deep (1979). And since we’re in Namsploitation territory: the one, two, three precursor Rambo-punch of Bruno Minniti as Rush in Rush, (1983), its sequels, A Man Called Rage and Days of Hell (1986). (Yeah, I know Big M’s character name-changes from Rush to Rage to Williamson . . . and the first two are technically post-apocs, while the third is in set modern-day Afghanistan, but if you watch the movies . . . hey, don’t argue the point with me: they’re “Rambo” “sequels,” so let it go.)

Does the fact that I’m the only person you know that’s seen seven Tonino Ricci films in my ’80s VHS travels concern you? That I’m the only person you know — maybe besides Sam the Boss at B&S (I doubt it, though) — that’s seen more than one Bruno Minniti film? And that I’d add Bruno to my own “Expendables” knockoff with Sopkiw, Gregory, and Aherns?

It should. Be very afraid.

Yeah, yeah. I know. The plot.

Oh, yeah. We know that this is an Italian production shot in the Dominican Republic — but the jungle Rambo-ness is oh, so Filipino. And besides, for all of our favorite B&S actors: when the Italians stop calling, you head to the South Seas.

Anyway, a Chinese businessman contracts Mitchum and Aherns’s mercenaries — for a cool and easy $250 K — to find that ubiquitous magic trinket that everyone seems to be after in these films, in this case: a rare ivory tablet lost in the deep jungles of North Vietnam. So, yes . . . we’ve just smushed our Raiders of the Lost Ark peanut butter into a bar of Namsploitation chocolate. Now, before you say “piranha” or “sharks” are swimmin’ around the treasure: this time we’ve got still-fighting-the-war Vietnamese soldiers, cannibalistic monks, and witch doctors. For the life of me, I don’t know, nor care, if this is set during or after ‘Nam. I just want action. So what’s with all the contemplating and yakity-yak? Friggin’ kill somebody already.

So what’s the dealo with the tablet?

The “evil” Lee Chang — like Lo Pan in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China — will be cursed for the next 2,000 years, or something, without it. (Of course: he’s a lying bastard with something up his sleeve.) And we need a damsel, and, just like with the cute Chantal Mansfield in Black Fire (reviewed this week) sticking around for only one movie, we have a kidnapped Clarissa Mendez in need of rescue from a black magic jungle cult. (POOF! Clarissa’s gone.) And, for that Rambo pinch: there’s LOTS of explosions and guns with a ridiculous, never-ending-supply of bullets. (There’s so many one-film-and-they’re-gone actresses in these Filipino films . . . did they give away film roles as prizes in Philippine modeling contests or beauty pageants? Crazy!)

So, yeah. It’s just a whole lot of bad-of-everything encased in better-than-the-movie-cover art that screams: RENT ME. And, back in the 5-5-5 days of home video stores and .49 cents Phar-Mor rentals, I gobbled up as much of it as I could. Seriously, how can you pass up a movie that gives the term “everything and the kitchen sink” new meaning?

And you can gobble it up for yourself on You Tube. Or — after reading my near 1,000 word dissertation (about 800 more words than it deserves) — watch the minute-long version.

The hilarious, ingenious minute-long edit of the film would be embedded here . . . if You Tube didn’t delete the user’s account before we went to press. Sorry you missed it.

About the Author: You can find R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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