One of the most excruciatingly half-baked films I've witnessed in quite some time, this Zambia-lensed comedy from director Peter Curran often feels more like a crudely-slapped-together tax write-off than a legitimate movie. Its disjointed excuse for a script -- credited to George Fowler (associate producer of Michael Winner's THE SYSTEM and Anthony Newley's HEIRONYMUS MERKIN) for its "original screenplay" and Curran for the "final screenplay" -- involves a missing space capsule, a power-hungry dictator, assorted spies, and painfully awkward romance, but what makes this preternaturally incompetent piece of shit so fascinating is that it also stars Oliver Reed and Peter Cushing! And while Ollie might've signed onto quite a few lousy films in his day, this could well be his most embarrassing... Reed (hard to believe, more visibly sloshed than usual) stars as bumbling Marine Captain Daniel Nelson, the too-eager underling of curmudgeonly General Spelvin (Keenan Wynn), who's in charge of the latest US space mission. But while Nelson is on liberty, this uptight dweeb is seduced by Natasha Alexandrovitch (Sylvaine Charlet), an undercover Russian sexpot secretly conspiring with the egomaniacal ruler of a fictitious African country. After the American space capsule is somehow diverted off course and kidnapped by Emperor Sumumba, with a $25 million ransom demanded, Nelson takes the reins in hospitalized Spelvin's place and heads to Africa to retrieve it. Trekking through the jungle, he enlists the aid of dotty British Commissioner Potts (Cushing, a last-minute replacement for ailing Terry-Thomas), who lives with a tribe of stereotypical natives and doesn't know World War II is over. Nelson is eventually captured and taken to Sumumba's palatial resort, and when he's not trying to romance Natasha, his boastful host shows off their high-tech, solar-powered weapons, including a disintegration gun and impervious force field enveloping their country. (Is any of this nonsense explained? Of course not. That would take minimal effort from its filmmakers.)... This inept trainwreck features such lackadaisical performances that you'd think the cast had been promised that this cinematic miscarriage would never actually be completed or screened. Reed mugs incessantly for the camera and spills drinks onto women's blouses so that he can inadvertently fondle their boobies while cleaning up his mess. Cushing wanders about with immense fake mutton-chops pasted to his face. Plus Curran must've had a major hard-on for Ms. Charlet, since he keeps cutting in gratuitous sequences of her taking baths and showers. So how's its sense of humor? Reed's character can't hold his liquor and drinks milk instead; old fogey Potts is continually baffled by modern technology; there's a running gag involving a flaming gay Tarzan and his partner Jan; plus Keenan Wynn actually slips on a fucking banana peel! Wilfrid Hyde-White also makes a brief, relatively-unscathed appearance as the head of British Intelligence, complete with a ditzy secretary named Miss Funnypenny. Hell, even its original songs are excruciatingly lame, with "A Touch of the Sun" and "No Secrets" composed by Peter Gage (from the '70s British R&B band Vinegar Joe) and Scobie Ryder (future songwriting partner with ex-Bay City Roller Les McKeown).
© 2015 by Steven Puchalski.