Thursday, 19 September 2013



3D cinema has never really caught on. The problems engendered have never been solved and all attempts to establish it as a mainstream film technique have withered: the monster movies of the fifties, the gloopy horrors of the eighties, and the current CGI spectaculars and animation movies, have all left audiences ambivalent at best. Quite apart from headaches and eyestrain (which I've never suffered as a result of 3D), it's utterly useless at making bad films any better, in many cinemas it costs extra, and post-production conversions look terrible. Personally I could do without it - it's not the Next Big Step after sound and colour, it's a marketing toy and there's yet to be a film that used it so well that it rendered plain old 2D obsolete.

Treasure Of The Four Crowns came out in 1982: a load of old sub-Raiders claptrap from Cannon Films, notable solely for its use of 3D, in which absolutely everything that isn't nailed down is jabbed remorselessly into the camera lens. Hands, knives, arrows, crossbows, rope, snakes, balls of fire, name it, director Ferdinando Baldi will try and have your eye out with it. Presumably he realised very quickly that the script and cast were terrible, so he decided to poke things at the audience because there was nothing else he could do with it. Stryker (Tony Anthony) is a charmless adventurer who acquires antiquities and relics for the right price; he's commissioned to put together a team to steal the legendary Four Crowns which will grant the owner magical powers and world peace or whatever. They're in the desert fortress of a dodgy religious cult led by a ranting egomaniac in a big hat, and the team have three hours to clamber around the lasers and pressure plates and electric gates by dangling from the ceiling like it's Mission: Impossible or something.

Because Baldi and producers Golan and Globus have seen Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the film opens with Stryker stealing a relic only to trigger dozens of booby traps including stone boulders, arrows, trapdoors and snakes, and inevitably concludes with the unleashing of the power of the Four Crowns complete with jets of fire, the hero's head spinning like Linda Blair, and the villain's head disintegrating like the Nazis' at the end of Raiders but with the loving detail of the climaxes to Brian de Palma's The Fury and Cronenberg's Scanners. In 3D, so bits of his scalp fly at you in slow-motion, while a dour Ennio Morricone score plays in the background. Such spectacle doesn't help the film one jot, though, because the basics of writing and acting are so thoroughly shoddy: there's no wit, no romance, no fun to be had. (Tellingly, the script is by Gene Quintano, who went on to three of the Police Academy sequels and Cannon's later Raiders-inspired version of King Solomon's Mines.) Stryker in particular is supposed to be the action hero but he has less charm and panache than one of Harrison Ford's old toenail clippings that's been stuck under the sofa for the last three years. And his gang - including Quintano - are no better: tedious cardboard cutouts of characters, to the extent that the revelations that one of them has a chronic heart condition and another is a hopeless alcoholic still aren't enough to make you give a damn whether they get the crowns or not.

But with no laughs, no style, no flair, no character and no thrills, Treasure Of The Four Crowns is utter garbage - except for the overused 3D effects of poking objects at the camera lens which of course are meaningless outside of a 3D cinema screening. Watched on the 2D videotape version that's been uploaded to YouTube - there's been no UK release commercially available since the Guild VHS tape - these shots now make no logical sense, but they're honestly the only thing the film has going for it. It's desperately bad.


No comments: