Treasure of the Amazon (1985)
As an opening title card informs us, René Cardona Jr.’s Treasure of the Amazon takes place in 1958 South America … yet the follow-up card states that the site of the story we are about to see is a “fictitious place.”
Okay, sooooo not in South America? Not along the Amazon? To what water-based landmark does this supposed Treasure belong? Help me out here, René!
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Cardona and co-writer Jacques Wilson soon distract you from those nagging questions by piling on undeveloped characters and storylines they won’t fully see through. Treasure of the Amazon is one of many old-school, serial-inspired adventure films that arose in Raiders of the Lost Ark’s whip crack of a wake. You want lucidity and motivation? Stick to Spielberg. You want the introduction to our hero be him purposely slicing off another character’s finger for reasons never fully explained? Cardona’s your hombre.
That “hero” is Gringo, played by Stuart Whitman, whose barking delivery is set at maximum-Nolte and whose Invaders of the Lost Gold from 1982 also falls into the Indy-wannabe sweepstakes. Grizzled, bloated and forever sweaty, Gringo is making his second sojourn into the jungle to hunt for diamonds, after the first try some years before resulted in all his pals ending up as shrunken heads. Also looking for these gems is … well, everyone, but among the notable are a tight-shorted adventurer named Dick, who looks like George Michael on safari (Clark Jarrett, Hot Moves); a Nazi anxious for a Third Reich revival (Donald Pleasence, who would play a Hitler acolyte again in 1989’s River of Death); and two beautiful women, one of whom goes the whole movie without a top (Sonia Infante, Cardona’s Beaks: The Movie) and the other of whom goes without nostrils (Ann Sidney, Performance).
Treasure is so underwritten, it somehow appears complex — meaning, if you whiteboarded all the disparate narrative threads that pop up, you’d end up with a bunch of straight lines running parallel, from left to right. This is the kind of action flick that’s all about the points along those lines — the points at which alligators eat the expendable slaves, at which white people are felled by poisoned blow darts, at which a man is ripped apart by crabs (the film’s highlight, as if guest-directed by Lucio Fulci). It’s a fungal jungle of spiders and snakes and natives who look like they just came from a paint party. —Rod Lott