Monday, April 6, 2009

Sergio Martino's Beyond Kilimanjaro, Across the River of Blood (1990)

Richard Hatch is Tony La Palma and he's hiding out in Africa. He doesn't like the ivory poachers and helps a young boy who's been orphaned after his parents die of leprosy. He's also sleeping with casino-lounge singer, Giulia (Eleonora Brigliadori), another expatriate, who loves La Palma, although she doesn't know much about his past. That is until baddie David Brandon as Jagger appears on the scene--he knows about La Palma's past and is about to disrupt the party.With more continent hopping than Crocodile Dundee (1986), the legendary Sergio Martino delivers a film with a terrific title, Beyond Kilimanjaro, Across the River of Blood (1990).Other than that, this one's terrible.

Beyond Kilimanjaro, Across the River of Blood had its origin in a story by Sergio's brother, the legendary Luciano Martino, who produced not only many of Sergio's most notable films of 70s Italian genre cinema (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971); All the Colors of the Dark (1972); Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972); and Violent Professionals (1973)) but a number of other notable Italian genre films (Romolo Guerrieri's The Sweet Body of Deborah (1968); Umberto Lenzi's So Sweet... So Perverse (1969); Duccio Tessari's Tony Arzenta (1973); and Umberto Lenzi's Almost Human (1974)). Sergio had also directed a couple of wonderful 80s low-budget films, the post-apocalyptic 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983), with Michael Sopkiw, and Terminator-riff, Hands of Steel (1986), starring Daniel Greene, who also appears in Kilimanjaro.

The most apt word to describe this film is sputtering: Kilimanjaro starts up, makes a lot of noise, surges forward a little bit, dies, and then repeats. For example, Jagger blackmails Giulia for fifty-thousand dollars or he'll reveal La Palma's whereabouts to the wrong people. Giulia hooks up with another expatriate, an ex-gambler from Las Vegas hiding out in Africa, who works in the casino, and the two conspire and come up with the money. Giulia pays Jagger. Of course, Jagger doesn't go away and the small episode is only a segue way to another one, the flashback to La Palma's past.

Richard Hatch spent the majority of the 70s and 80s in American television, his most notable role being Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He bears a strong resemblence to Tim Matheson. Eleonora Brigliadori's and David Brandon's subsequent work to Kilimanjaro, for both, has been in European television. Brigliadori had made a previous appearance in Lucio Fulci's The New Gladiators (1984) and Brandon had previously appeared in Lamberto Bava's Until Death (1987) and Delirium (1987). He would make a very notable appearance as the scummy stage-director in Michele Soavi's wonderful Stagefright (1987). Hatch, Brigliadori, and Brandon give competent performances with the shallow script. There's no real character development, and it seemed as if each got into character on the morning of each day of shooting.La Palma's past is in the Mafia, and the film flies to New York to introduce James Mitchum, mafia-boss Frank, and a brief appearance from Luigi Pistilli. Mitchum, son of Robert, looks more like his father than his brother, Christopher, and Mitchum had previously shot-up the screen in Tonino Ricci's tons-of-fun, jungle-actioner Raiders of the Magic Ivory (1988). Pistilli is a familiar face in Italian genre cinema, highlights being roles in Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971) and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. La Palma escapes the mafia war on the streets of New York to Africa.
Cut to Rome. The mafia war ain't over. Frank can't do a whole lot for La Palma. Back to Africa and enter mafia hitman, Jake (Daniel Greene). Soft-spoken, muscle-bound Greene who tore up the screen in Hands of Steel can't save this one. Jake's entrance is about halfway through the film and like the rest of it, it heats up for a minute or two, especially the scenes with Greene, but it continues to fall flat. Greene made notable appearances in Pierluigi Ciriaci's Soldier of Fortune (1987) and the elusive Hammerhead (1987) by Enzo G. Castellari. His most recent work is small appearances in almost every Farrelly Brothers film. Go figure.A lot of talent lies dead in the water in this one. Beyond Kilimanjaro, Across the River of Blood lacks the cool sleazy 70s vibe and the ridiculous excessive 80s vibe of Italian genre cinema. Kilimanjaro doesn't know what it wants to be, where it wants to go, and what it wants the viewer to see. This one is obscure and, rarely, rightfully so.

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