Hello to you, movie lovers.
Today we travel to the Latin American republic of "Corteguay". It's home to majestic mountain ranges, rolling green hills, sunbaked deserts and lush tropical rain forests. It's also home to little Dax Xenos (Loris Loddi), son of progressive lawyer and human rights activist Jaime Zenos (Fernando Rey).
One spring day in 1945, little Dax is happily frolicking with his pet dog in a green meadow. A butterfly flits past. Flowers dance in the gentle breeze. Then shots ring out and blood starts squirting from the neck of Dax's pooch,
Cold hearted Col. Gutierrez (Sydney Tafler), loyalist to Corteguay's ruthless dictator, has amassed a goon squad to kill the Xenos family, who have all been declared "traitors"--even their dog!
Dax runs home to warn his family. They lock the doors, shut the windows and head for the safety of the cellar. In the dark, Dax's mom, sister and female staff pray in silence. Then Crash! Boom! Bang! Col. Gutierrez's goons kick open the cellar's door and viciously beat, rape and kill every female they can find. Amid the deafening screams of his loved ones, Dax escapes to find help.
Jaime Xenos soon arrives on horseback, with Gen. Rojo (Alan Badel), another freedom fighter. But they are too late. All the women are dead. Dax and his father are devastated.
Gen. Rojo, however, is more matter of fact. He lines up the goons, pronounces sentence and hands Jaime a gun to shoot them with.
"I am not an assassin," the elder Xenos insists.
"Then let me do it!", Dax declares.
With Rojo's help, Dax yells, "For my mother, my sister and for Corteguay!" and showers the thugs with bullets. Afterwards, Gen. Rojo kisses Dax on the lips---EWWW!
And that's just the opening seconds of "The Adventurers" (1970).
Based on the bestseller by "the dirty old man of American letters" Harold Robbins, "The Adventurers" vacuum packs more sex, violence, sleaze, murder, booze, assasinations, revolutions, fashion shows, polo games, jet setters, shady businessmen, prostitution and betrayal in its 170 minutes than all the works of Jackie Collins, Jacquline Susann, Grace Metalious and Judith Krantz combined.
The end result is a flick (directed by Lewis Gilbert) so awful, Variety dubbed it "a monument to bad taste" and critic Leonard Maltin called it "an incredible mess." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the flick one star out of four. Bad Movies We Love, meanwhile, deemed the flick "hilariously demented."
Naturally, this south of the border potboiler has earned an esteemed place in the Junk Cinema Hall of Shame--or I wouldn't be writing about it.
Back to the action.
Young Dax is placed in the care of loyal soldier Fat Cat (Ernest Borgnine). It's he who takes the tyke to the home of Gen. Rojo, where his wife and children will protect him until to revolution is over (quick hint: the revolution is never over, at least not in this movie).
At Gen. Rojo's home in the mountains, Dax meets Amparo, the general's daughter. She's a sweet little thing who wears pink dresses and carries around a doll. After being introduced to Dax, Amparo says, "You may kiss me." After that, the kids scamper off to play in the woods. It's there they stumble upon Fat Cat and a naked lady splashing around in a stream before heading off into the bushes. When Amparo asks what the couple are doing, Dax flatly replies, "He's raping her."
"Let's do it," Amparo says.
"No," Dax firmly states. "You are too young. And I think I have to kill you afterwards."
Which is worse: The movie or the book? Personally, I think it's a tie.
Clearly this scene was meant to demonstrate how recent events have affected Dax. If you guessed the poor kid will grow up to have unhealthy views on women and sex, you're correct. But this is Harold Robbins, remember: everybody has unhealthy views on women and sex.
Night falls and Dax goes to sleep, happy that he has found a safe new home...but not for long. Out of the darkness emerge more goons loyal to the country's dictator. They set the Rojo house on fire, trash their barn and stab/shoot/maim/kill anybody that moves. Amid all this chaos, we see little Amparo in her night gown wailing, "Mama! Mama!" We also see Dax dodging bullets and calling out, "Fat Cat! Fat Cat!" The children meet up and hide in the bushes until the bad guys ride away.
The next day, the kids decide to walk to Corteguay's main city, which is never named. So we're treated to the sight of Dax and Amparo trudging though forests, sloshing in the rain, scaling rocky cliffs and walking, walking, walking. If you didn't know any better, you'd think "The Adventurers" was a kiddie version of "The Walking Dead." When night comes, Amparo refuses to sleep by Dax because "we aren't married." The exhausted Dax tells to to get a grip and go to sleep.
Finally the children reach Corteguay's capital. The country's dictator has been overthrown and the citizens have crowded the streets in celebration. Jaime, Gen. Rojo and El Condor (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos), another rebel leader, wave to the joyful people from the balcony of the dictator's old house. Dax and Amparo stumble thorough the throng of cheering people when suddenly Dax yells out, "Fat Cat!" The loyal soldier managed to survived the attack at Gen. Rojo's. He races to embrace the children and takes them to their fathers.
Gen. Rojo is named the new president of Corteguay and Jaime Xenos is its new ambassador to Italy. Everybody pledges to create a government that is democratic, with liberty and justice for all.
"Dumb Enchanted Evening": Dax and Caroline get busy.
In Italy, Dax is sent to a fancy all-boys school where he meets his two closets friends, Sergei (the son of an exiled Russian count now working in a hotel) and Robert (the son of Rossano Brazzi, who is the Baron de Coyne). The elder Xenos, meanwhile, has his hands full at Corteguay's embassy. Turns out the last ambassador was a (gasp!) crook who embezzled millions from the country. While Baron de Coyne offers financial assistance to the fledgling democracy, he has Marcel Campion (Charles Aznavour) keep an eye on Jaime. The shifty Campion is the right man for the job, brokering secret deals and making himself very rich. Later on, he will marry a clueless heiress and take a famous opera diva as his extra marital cuddlemate. Hmmm, who does that remind you of?
Years pass and Dax grows into Bekim Fehmiu, an actor from the former Yugoslavia. He has craggy features and a muscular build, but all the charisma of a paper cup. Never the less, junior Xenos is a jet set wonder boy, loving polo, fast cars and faster women. While his father travels to Corteguay to visit his wife's grave, Dax and his buddies drive over to Baron de Coyne's "house" (a villa the size of Monaco) and throw themselves a good old fashioned orgy. It's there that Dax and Robert's sister Caroline (Delia Boccardo) take a nude swim and then head off to the garden to have sex.
Director Gilbert must have wanted this interlude to show yet again how the violence of his childhood continues to affect Dax. So, as our cuddlemates get busy, Gilbert switches back and forth between shots of the humping humans and garden statues. Some of the statues have creepy expressions on their faces and one in particular has a rather large member. Then, so the audience can "experience" the waves of passion between Dax and Caroline, the director has the cameraman zoom in and out, quicker and quicker, to match Dax's...uh..."exertions"? Finally, in the middle of all this activity, Dax has flashbacks to the rape and murder of his mother and sister, which then "dampens" the mood, so to speak.
Once it's over, the sweaty Caroline tells Dax that he "makes love at a woman, not to her." Does this mean Dax is all biology, but no chemistry? That his "performance skills" are robotic, not authentic? While Caroline may yearn for her cuddlemate to be more sensitive and emotionally involved while they're doing the nasty, it doesn't stop her from jumping in the sack with him every chance she gets.
"I Don't Know how to Love Him": Caroline (Delia Boccardo) wonders why her cuddlemate Dax is hot in the saddle, but cold in bed.
The elder Zenos is having personal problems of a different sort. On his arrival at Courteguay, he's horrified that Gen. Rojo has become a vainglorious dictator with a taste for ornate uniforms and goofy hats. Worse, he's torn down hundreds of houses and shops to create a gaudy "Presidential Palace", complete with a cobblestone "public square" where he salutes his goose-stepping troops. All of this was paid for by money Jaime secured from overseas to build schools and infrastructure. When Jaime complains, Rojo waves him off, insisting "the people" demanded he build his palace, saying, "Instead of houses for many people, I have built one house for all the people!"
Ambassador Xenos isn't happy. This is not what they fought for! This not what their wives died for! Miffed, Gen. Rojo, becomes paranoid that his former comrade will hook up with old pal El Condor (who also has a bone to pick with Rojo) and over throw his regime. "A bandit by himself is nothing but a bandit!" the general thunders. "A bandit and a lawyer--that's a revolution!" So Rojo cooks up a fiendish plan with the help of Col. Gutierrez--remember him? He shot Dax's dog. It's Gutierrez who arranges for Jaime to die in a fiery explosion while riding a tram.
Dax is notified of his father's assassination while in the sack with Caroline. He and Fat Cat travel to Corteguay to attend the official funeral. While Dax observes the marching troops on the viewing stand with a dejected scowl, Gen. Rojo blathers on about revolutionaries hiding in the hills and how El Condor, once his ally, is now leading the opposition against him. He begs Dax to help broker a cease fire so he can fulfill the promise of the revolution. To get the general to stop nagging him, Dax wearily agrees.
Accompanied by Fat Cat, Dax finds El Condor hiding in the mountains. The rebel leader is horrified by the elder Xenos' death and disgusted that his one-time ally is now a dictator parading around like a South American Liberace. Yet he is at a loss about what to do. "I am not a politician," El Condor reminds Dax. "I am only a simple murderer." However, El Condor is also tired of the endless fighting and blood shed. Of his 11 children, only his son Jose remains alive.
"If you will guarantee the safety of my son," the rebel leader declares. "You, personally, swearing on the soul of your father AND the cross, then I will accept El President's offer."
"I swear," Dax intones.
Soon after, Dax is reunited with Gen. Rojo's daughter, Amparo, now played by Leigh Taylor-Young. Not only has Amparo turned into a looker, she's also lost her accent. She congratulates Dax on negotiating the cease fire and asks him to stay in Courteguay to help steer the country to democracy. Dax begs off saying, "I don't feel involved." Then in one of the nuttiest scene in a movie full of them, Amparo opens her hope chest and hands Dax the gun he used to kill the goons who murdered his family.
Dax is disgusted by Gen. Rojo's goofy head gear.
"Like it or not, you are involved," Amparo insists.
Dax puts the gun on Amparo's bedroom dresser and the two happily reminisce about the time Amparo wanted Dax to "rape" her. EWWWW.
"We were very young," Amparo smiles before she slips off her housecoat to show Dax how much she has, uh, "grown". The corker? Dax's gun appears to watch over them as they do the nasty. EWWWW.
Once the cease-fire has been finalized, the people of Courteguay rejoice. Music fills the air. Singers warble folk songs. Couples dance in the streets. Wine flows. Fat Cat, Dax and El Condor watch the festivities approvingly; peace at last!
Uh, not so fast, guys. While the citizens of Courteguay party like it's 1955, Col Gutierrez emerges from the shadows. He orders his troops to open fire. In horror, Dax watches as men, women and children topple over like bowling pins. People run wildly to get away, resulting in chaos. Realizing he's been duped, Dax throws himself on El Condor to keep him from getting shot. Then, he and Fat Cat rush to get the rebel leader out of the city. Unfortunately, Col. Gutierrez is waiting for them and shoots El Condor. Quick thinking Fat Cat throws a knife at the Colonel, seriously wounding him. Then Dax slowly walks up to the man who killed his dog. As Gutierrez pleads, "I have my orders!" Xenos yanks the knife out of the colonel's arm and thrusts into into his gut, twisting it for good measure. The meanie Gutierrez goes "ACCCKKK!" and slumps into a bloody heap.
"Same as it Ever Was": Corteguay under dictatorship again.
Back at the presidential palace, Gen. Rojo cheerfully admits he set Dax up to purposely kill El Condor.
"A man must use what weapons he can to defend his country," the dictator explains.
Dax isn't buying it. He rages at Rojo, "I trusted you! I would have done anything for you!" The dictator could care less. "Until you learn that evil and politics must tolerate each other, there's no place for you here," he coolly replies.
Dax announces he's leaving for Europe; Amparo pleads to go with him. Rojo refuses to let his daughter go, but urges Dax to leave "while you still can."
Sitting next to Fat Cat on the plane to back to Italy, Dax looks out the window at Courteguay. "Such a small country," he murmurs. "So much blood..."
Dax gives Gen. Rojo a piece of his mind--not too big a piece, I hope. He hasn't got much to spare.
And this is where I leave you, movie lovers. For now, anyway. I figured after what's already happened, we could all use a break. I'm already hard at work on "The Adventurers, Part 2" which answer all your questions, such as:
* Does Gen. Rojo ever stop dressing like an extra from "Barbarella"?
* Does Dax ever manage a facial expression?
*Will El Condor's son Jose take up arms to avenge his father's death? Will he blame Dax for betraying his father? Will Jose believe Dax when he says Gen. Rojo tricked him?
* Is the character played by Candice Bergen really based on Barbara Hutton? And did Bergen really say she did this movie "for the money"? (If true, she wasn't paid enough.)
* Does Olivia de Havilland appear in this movie--and in a nude scene? If so, how much was she paid?
* How come a movie set in South America has a cast of largely European and American actors?
Until we meet again, SAVE THE MOVIES.