I knew when I started reviewing crud cinema again that I'd revisit the Rene Cardona, Jr Fun Park. Although it's been a long time, I vividly remember struggling through "Tintorera" and "Guyana: Crime of the Century". How could I forget those two experiences? A frontal lobotomy performed with a sledgehammer wouldn't rid my mind of the images those two "classics" inflicted upon me. If you're not familiar with Senor Cardona's work, he's the sort of director who somehow managed to raise enough funds to populate his films with fairly well known actors and actresses. He convinced Susan George to appear in "Tintorera," and staffed "Guyana" with folks like Joseph Cotton and Stuart Whitman. I know what you're going to say, and you're right. Susan George was never a huge star, and Joseph Cotton's career trajectory was approaching its nadir in the 1970s. True. But it's still surprising to see the number of known faces Cardona put in his films. For example, check out "Treasure of the Amazon". We see Bradford Dillman, Donald Pleasence, John Ireland, and Stuart Whitman camping it up out in the jungle. Consider Cardona as a sort of past tense version of Uwe Boll.
Think about "Treasure of the Amazon," if you must, in the context of the 1980s jungle actioner. "Romancing the Stone," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "King Solomon's Mines"--you can see where this one's going. In Cardona's crudfest, we immediately meet a scruffy old coot named Gringo (Whitman). He's one of these jungle guides that take people into the backcountry when they're searching for something valuable. Needless to say, Zapata (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) and Jaime (Jorge Luke) hire him in order to find some gold. Amazingly, it's the same gold Gringo once looked for back in the day, only something went wrong with the expedition and he was the sole survivor. Also needless to say, the gold lies in an area infested with scary head hunting Indians. Then we learn that a German war criminal named Klaus von Blantz (Pleasence) is also heading upriver looking for valuable loot. With a half-nekkid native girl as a guide, Morimba (Sonia Infante), von Blantz hopes to find gold in order to reconstitute his beloved German National Socialist state right smack dab in the middle of South America. And we're supposed to believe that Gringo is the crazy one!
Wait a minute! We're not even close to being done here. Cardona also throws in another group of people, some oil company surveyors out in the sticks, so they can play a role in the proceedings. This trio of characters consists of Clark (Bradford Dillman sans the flannel he wore in "Piranha"), his buddy Richard (Clark Jarrett), and the always complaining Barbara (Ann Sidney sporting a southern accent so atrocious you'll need to drink a gallon of mint juleps to recover). They become part of the story when they unearth a few headless skeletons only to discover a few diamonds in the gravesite. Diamonds? In the Amazon? Must have something to do with that treasure referenced in the film's title. Soon we learn that there's a cave loaded with diamonds, as big as eyes according to one of the characters, and the gold seems to take a back seat to the unfolding hijinks. Expect to see a few decapitations, a hook through the tongue, cut off fingers, and some other nastiness before this one concludes. Also expect to see John Ireland in a small blink and you'll miss him role as a priest. Hugo Stiglitz, another Cardona regular, pops up in a very small role as a riverboat captain.
Whew! That's a lot of plot. That's also typical of Rene Cardona flicks. He figures if you burden down a movie with a ton of characters and subplots, you won't notice the cheese oozing out of the celluloid. And believe me when I tell you that "Treasure of the Amazon" is cheesy. Bad dialogue, idiotic character motivations, and hammy acting all rule the day here. The guiltiest party in the giant ham department is probably Donald Pleasence. His German accent coupled with a scene where he practices a little ethnic cleansing on the Indian population ends up ruling the day. His death scene, the result of lying to a corrupt custom's agent, is one of the highlights of the film. The Donald aside, not much else grabs a viewer's interest here. Cardona treats us to the aforementioned headless skeletons, diamonds in a cave, a cool death by crabs scene, and a "twist" ending that isn't very original. Most of the film consists of these groups plodding through the jungle trying to deal with the dangerous wildlife and the hostile Indians. Leeches attack! Watch out for the piranha! Snakes! Is that a crocodile in the river? You get the idea. Most of the animal stuff looks like stock footage anyway.
VCI releases "Treasure of the Amazon" with a decent audio and picture transfer. They aren't great, but they're head and shoulders above what you'd expect for a prime piece of schlock cinema. Extras are sparse, alas, but we do get a trailer for the film, a few biographies on the cast, and more previews for other Cardona classics such as "Cyclone," "Guyana: Crime of the Century," and "The Bermuda Triangle". I'm not sure how many more Rene Cardona films I can stomach. This is my third review of his stuff (with one more on the way for "The Bermuda Triangle"), and I'm fearful that I won't have the strength to get through "Cyclone". Oh, who do I think I'm kidding? Of course I'll continue watching this pap. I've got nothing better to do with my free time. Besides, it's worth it if I can warn off the unprepared. Only schlock lovers should give Cardona a spin; all others should stay far away.