Color, 1979, 93m.
Directed by Mark L. Lester
Starring Bo Svenson, Anita Ekberg, Donald Pleasence, Richard Romanus, Bob Minor, John Sarno
Code Red (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Image (US R1 NTSC)
Though you'd never guess it from that cast, Gold of the Amazon Women was intended as an all-star international television production in the late '70s, apparently in a bid to bring the scale and star power of big screen productions to the cathode tube. What viewers got instead was one of the most unintentionally hilarious chunks of jungle cheese imaginable, a companion piece to exotic romps like Hundra and Mighty Peking Man.
We begin in a modern day city, apparently meant to be New York, where a couple of feisty Amazon women are running rampant across the rooftops and causing all sorts of mayhem. Eventually they wind up dead thanks to a handy crossbow, but there are more where they came from. Evidently a group of amazons guard the prized city of gold, El Dorado, and it's up to two intrepid explorers, Tom (Buford Pusser himself, Bo Svenson) and Luis (TV staple Romanus), to cut through the miles of wilderness to reach it. Along the way they encounter various jungle adventures, mostly involving one or both of them getting tossed into bamboo cages and having encounters with scantily clad women, while another nefarious rival explorer, Clarence (Pleasence), searches for the golden city with his two bubble headed sidekicks. The amazon queen, Winnina (Ekberg), proves more receptive than expected to the great American hunters, and much low-grade mayhem ensues.
You'd really be hard pressed to find a more peculiar mix of actors stranded in a goofier project. Well past her prime, Ekberg looks less than flattering in her revealing, strapless dresses, while Romanus seems tired and cranky. On the other hand, Pleasence livens up his relatively brief screen time, bouncing around and cackling with glee, while Svenson keeps his jaw squared even when covered in face paint. Nothing terribly violent or sexy ever happens, this being a TV movie and all, but the kitsch piles on fast and furious. Directorial chores were handled by Mark Lester, who later hit his stride with '80s actioners like Class of 1984, Commando, and Firestarter. Still young but with some fun credits under his belt already like Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw and Roller Boogie, he probably won't ever cite this as one of his best films, but hey, he got a trip to Trinidad out of it.
Various video companies like Embassy tried to market this puppy on VHS under titles like Quest for the Seven Cities, but the DVD era has preserved the original title. The first DVD from Image in 2001 has a flat, slightly cruddy look prevalent in '70s television films, particularly during the opening scenes, with brightness boosted a few notches too high. The mono audio is about the same as it's always been, with the bombastic score by Gil Melle (best known for his work on Night Gallery) trying desperately to keep the action going.
As with most projects from producer Alfredo Leone (best known for '70s collaborations with Mario Bava), this one was destined for a reissue; surprisingly, the 2013 Code Red edition makes this look like a real movie with a radically improved new HD transfer. It's still stupid beyond belief, but the gorgeous colors give it a bit of actual production value and the 1.78:1 framing restores some sense of composition. The feature runs over three minutes longer as well, though that may simply be due to a PAL master being used for the prior disc. That said, the real reason to upgrade this one is the hilarious, often jaw-dropping 13-minute video interview with Leone (justifiably labeled as "candid" on the menu screen), in which he launches into a no-holds-barred recollection of the shoot. You'll hear about the writer's disdain for his own dialogue, Bo Svenson's rampant misbehavior on the set (leading to a forfeited jail bond), Donald Pleasence's booze binges after hours, and the reason an actress signed for the entire film got picked off with an arrow at the beginning instead. The theatrical trailer is included, too. Grab a six pack and prepare to have your sanity tested to its limits.
Buy from Diabolik DVD
Updated review on August 27, 2013.