Invaders of the Lost Gold Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: June 22, 2021
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English HoH
Run Time: 88:05
Director: Alan Birkinshaw
In the last days of WWII, a Japanese platoon is attacked by headhunters while attempting to hide millions in gold. 36 years later, a grizzled guide (Stuart Whitman) is hired to lead an expedition into a jungle inferno of greed, violence, nudity and murder. (From Severin’s official synopsis)
Though its title may imply that it was a cash-in on Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Alan Birkinshaw’s Invaders of the Lost Gold (aka: Horror Safari and Greed, 1982) is actually a veritable cornucopia of early ‘80s cinema fads slammed together to appeal to dozens of international markets. Producer Dick Randall was nothing if not an opportunist. Basically a Brand X version of Roger Corman, he started his illustrious production career with Mondo shockumentaries in Italy, before jumping on the hicksploitation, blaxploitation, goresploitation, Bruce(Lee)sploitation, giallo, and slasher bandwagons, and everything in between. He is fondly remembered for his collaborations with Spanish schlocketeer Juan Piquer Simón, including gorefest giallo/slasher combo Pieces (Spanish: Mil gritos tiene la noche, 1982), and his oddball Philippines-lensed movies, like Eddie Nicart’s notorious Bond spoof For Y’ur Height Only (1981). While not the best Dick Randall movie, Invaders of the Lost Gold is kind of a culmination of a couple decades worth of his most ‘celebrated’ work. It’s a messy and indecisive mash-up that should’ve been shorn of 10 to 20 minutes of filler, but the constant promise of yet another incompatible genre twist waiting around the next corner makes it impossible to look away.
First and foremost, Invaders of the Lost Gold is a Filipiino “jungle action” movie, including the familiar local faces and locations you’d see in the Corman-produced women in prison classics to the later First Blood (1982) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) rip-offs (such as Bruno Mattei’s Strike Commando movies). Invaders of the Lost Gold feels more like a throwback to the serial era than those films, especially considering its comparatively quaint lack of sex and violence. It’s not a puritan exercise, but it’s wild to think Randall produced this the same year as Pieces. The vague Raiders of the Lost Ark similarities are almost certainly coincidental, because both it and Invaders of the Lost Gold were drawing from the James Bond movies – Oddjob himself, Harold Sakata, appears here in a featured role. If anything, Birkinshaw’s film has more in common with Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) than Spielberg’s action adventure. Randall’s kung-fu credentials also ensure a load of martial arts content during the first act. He and Birkinshaw deserve some credit for climbing aboard the ninjasploitation train a couple years before it broke out entirely in the home video market (even though they were almost certainly inspired by Menahem Golan’s Enter the Ninja ).
You’d also be forgiven assuming that Invaders of the Lost Gold was an entry in the Italian cannibal genre; after all, it features cannibals, some of those films were shot in the Philippines, it had Italian crew members on set, and it features Edmund Purdom, Laura Gemser, and Woody Strode – all non-Italian actors that found their greatest success while working in Italian B-movies. The plot is very similar to Slave of the Cannibal God (Italian: La montagna del dio cannibale; aka: The Mountain of the Cannibal God, 1978), Sergio Martino’s one and only foray into the genre that happens to also feature an ex-Bond actor in Ursula Andress. The internationally savvy Randall was definitely counting on the correlation, since Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (aka: Make Them Die Slowly, 1981) were doing good numbers in grindhouses at the time, but Birkinshaw isn’t nearly as bloodthirsty as his Italian counterparts and Invaders of the Lost Gold isn’t a horror movie (the gory bits are few and far between). Still, it wouldn’t be the first movie to cram (racistly depicted) indigenous cannibals into an unrelated adaptation/rip-off. The original Italian cannibal movie, Lenzi’s The Man From Deep River (Italian: Il Paese del Sesso Selvaggio; aka: Deep River Savages, 1972) was a backwards attempt at remaking Elliot Silverstein’s A Man Called Horse (1970, based on a 1950 story by Dorothy M. Johnson) and his second cannibal movie, Eaten Alive! (Italian: Mangiati vivi!; aka: Doomed to Die, 1980), was a tacky adaptation of the real-world Jonestown Massacre.
The New Zealand-born Birkinshaw isn’t the trash cinema name that Randall is, but he did direct a decent collection of notorious cult titles, including the Pete Walker-esque proto-slasher Killer’s Moon (1978) and a trilogy of Harry Alan Towers-produced literary adaptations: Masque of the Red Death (1989), Ten Little Indians (1989), and The House of Usher (1989).
Invaders of the Lost Gold was released on VHS via All American Video and DVD via Crash Cinema Media, but was still rarely seen here in the US. Severin’s Blu-ray debut comes fitted with a brand new 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer, itself mastered from a 2K scan of original materials. The advertising materials don’t specify exactly what source, but I assume it was a mix of negative and positive elements based on occasional differences in dynamic range from scene to scene. The results aren’t quite as impressive as the studio’s Strike Commando and Strike Commando 2 transfers, which were released the same day, but this is an older and rarer film, so we can cut it some slack. The big positives are general clarity and vivid colors, especially, as is normally the case, those lush Filipino forests. Wide-angle details are weaker in some shots than others, which is probably a combination of Roberto Forges Davanzati’s off-the-cuff photography and what seems to my eyes to be differing sources, but clarity tends to take precedence. The most problematic shots sport a fuzzy look and minor horizontal-ish smear that could be a rough CRT scan moment; otherwise, print damage and digital artifacts are easily ignored. The roughest footage is invariably the occasional slow-motion sequence.
The original mono English dialogue is presented in uncompressed 2.0 LPCM sound. The results are as clean and dynamic as can be expected from a particularly weak soundtrack. The whole thing is a super awkward mix of location sound and dubbing that is never convincing. The funniest examples are the thinly layered action scenes made up of weak gun pops and slappy punches, while the weirdest are interior sequences where Stuart Whitman’s performance was captured on set and the people speaking to him are dubbed. None of this can be blamed on Severin, of course. The score is credited to Francesco De Masi, but I suspect that it’s mostly library music. I believe that this was De Masi’s bread & butter, to record and resell loads of theatrical music for decades, but I may have confused him with a different composer/group of composers. Either way, the music adds a fun Jonny Quest vibe to the proceedings.
Rumble In The Jungle (16:33, HD) – A new interview with director Alan Birkinshaw, who recalls working with Dick Randall, casting based on who was available, the supposed true story the film was based on, rewriting the script on the fly, directing a live crocodile, and the troubles of shooting on location.
Outtakes from the 2010 Filipino exploitation documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed with director Alan Birkinshaw and Dick Randall’s widow, Corliss Randall (22:25, SD) – Birkinshaw’s part of this extended deleted scene overlaps a lot with the previous interview, but Croliss’ contributions are great.
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.