Based on the Alistair MacLean novel, this Cannon Film has a pretty great cast, including Herbert Lom, Robert Vaughn and Donald Pleasence. Director Steve Carver (The Arena, Big Bad Mama, Lone Wolf McQuade) said that “These guys were professionals. They would carry the equipment up the mountainside with the crew. Fantastic actors. You would tell them something, give them changes in dialogue and – boom! – they know it in seconds. You never have problems with these actors.”
Shot during apartheid in South Africa — like many Cannon projects of the time — Carver would be fined by the Directors Guild of America yet remains unapologetic, teling Flashback Flles in 2020: “I had ignored the apartheid, because I am not political. I couldn’t give a damn about their apartheid at that time.”
Produced by Avi Lerner — whose Millennium Media feels cut from the cloth of Cannon — and Harry Alan Towers, this is the story of adventurer John Hamilton (Michael Dudikoff, taking over for either Christopher Walken or Michael Gintry, who were noth in the original ads), who has been hired to lead investigators on a search for the cause of a deadly plague. There’s also the matter of Heinrich Spaatz (Pleasence), a man who has vowed revenge on evil German doctor Wolfgang Manteuffel (Vaughn). Oh yeah — Wolfgang’s lab is filled with plenty of authentic Third Reich flags, which were borrowed from local groups, so you know — I guess apartheid really wasn’t political as Carver said in that quote.
There’s also a lost city and river pirates, L. Q. Jones shows up and there are even some Nazi hunters thrown in the mix. It’s Dudikoff playing Indiana Jones with an old school cast and while it never achieves greatness, it’s still got some fun setpieces.
You can watch this on Tubi.
You can listen to The Cannon Canon episode for River of Death here.