Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - WITHOUT A CLUE and ALLAN QUARTERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OFGOLD on Blu-ray ""

Friday, April 3, 2015


WITHOUT A CLUE (1988; Thom Eberhardt)
Thom Eberhardt should be a name that is familiar to you genre fans out there. He's the director of things like NIGHT OF THE COMET, SOLE SURVIVOR and even the AFTER HOURS-ish comedy THE NIGHT BEFORE (with Keanu Reeves & Lori Loughlin).
This film offers up a neat twist on the Sherlock Holmes legend in that it posits a world where Watson is in fact the genius behind Holmes and he is kind of an idiot. It takes that idea one further though and shows Holmes as a character that has been entirely created by Watson (played here by Ben Kingsley) who has gone so far as to hire an actor (Michael Caine) to play him in real life. It's a wonderful conceit and well played by the two leads who have quite the bickering back and forth kind of rapport that is quite entertaining. It's a simply delightful thing to see Caine in this kind of role. I find many of the "Michael Caine playing an actor" movies (NOISES OFF and DEATHTRAP for example) to be quite good stuff in general. Being  the spectacular actor that he is, it is quite a treat to see him play a hammy, drunken buffoon of a thespian who lives up to this particular film's title. Keep in mind that this was also the same year Caine made the now somewhat classic DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS and 1988 looks like a banner year for him (among many banner years). In another wonderful bit of casting, Paul Freeman (best remembered as "Belloq" from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) was tapped to play Moriarty in WITHOUT A CLUE and he is of course quite perfect. Beyond that, the cast includes Jefferey Jones (Ed Rooney from FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF) and the lovely Lysette Anthony (from KRULL) as well as Peter Cook and Nigel Davenport. The music by the great Henry Mancini is very much a bright adventurey bit of business that is not like a lot of his usual jazzy sounds, but is nonetheless quite nice.
As much as I had certainly heard of this movie, I was quite baffled by the fact that I had never gotten around to seeing it until now. I am certainly an admirer of Sherlock Holmes movies and especially the more offbeat ones. Things like THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION and MURDER BY DECREE definitely have much appeal for me and WITHOUT A CLUE slots in nicely with that group. It's really a gem of a film that fans of good movies should take a peek at.

It's interesting that this follow-up to KING SOLOMON'S MINES (the first appearance of Richard Chamberlain as the titular Allan Quatermain) is getting a Blu-ray release before it's predecessor, but that's how things go sometimes. I've certainly spoken of my enjoyment of knockoffs of popular film franchises before and this one is kind of a copy of a copy. KING SOLOMON'S was of course made on the heels of the great success of the INDIANA JONES films and even went so far as to cast John Rhys-Davies and to make pretty deliberate fun of the INDY films. The score (by the great Jerry Goldsmith) is even a near-ripoff as well. That's just how Golan & Globus (Cannon Films) roll though. So Allan Qautermain as a character comes from Henry Rider Haggard's 1885 novel KING SOLOMON'S MINES and that first film with Chamberlain was already the 3rd movie made from the property. LOST CITY OF GOLD would be the forth and it would include not only a returning Richard Chamberlain, but also a returning Sharon Stone. I think a lot of folks forget Stone was even in these movies, but they were early efforts that certainly lead to her later more fruitful career in Hollywood. The rest of the cast is pretty neat too and includes the likes of James Earl Jones, Henry Silva and also Cassandra Peterson (Elvira herself).
This movie feels a bit like TEMPLE OF DOOM in some ways, from Sharon Stone's Capshaw-like hysterics, to some disgusting creatures and gore as well as some racist Indian stereotypes amidst a familiar adventure plot. There's even a short bit with Qautermain and a giant golden gong. That said, this movie endears itself to me just enough to be enjoyable. Whether it's the couple decent moments they give James Earl Jones, or Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) swinging  a sword around and looking quite lovely doing it or even Henry Silva's grumpy high-priest type dude with his crazy hair-fro, the film squeaks by with enough charm to make me smile. Fans of second-tier 80s adventure movies may get the same nostalgic satisfaction that I did.

Bonus: A German TV interview with Richard Chamberlain from 1986:

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Richard Brandt said...

I like the twist in WITHOUT A CLUE in which Caine is left on his own to tackle a case, and does it by going Method: He tries to BE Holmes, as an actor playing him. And it works! Even though it turns out all his deductions were incorrect, because he's no Sherlock Holmes.

Stan said...

I was planning on grabbing Without a Clue as soon as it drops around the $16 mark, but your review sold me on Lost City of Gold as well. However, unless I find it on Amazon included in a $12.99 offer I may wait till Mines sees the light of blu ray.

Now that being said, I am not a Facebook or Twitter person and have only discovered your amazing site recently via the "Off the Shelf" podcast so this is my only forum to ask you a VERY important question. ;-)

My wife is buying me a region free blu ray for my birthday and I need suggestions...something in the $200 range off of Amazon that doesn't require any code entering or work on my part...I am not tech savy at all.

Thanks for what ever help, if any, you can provide....soooo many AmazonUK blu rays are calling my name ;-)