River of Death (1989)

After a first attempt at finding the Lost City had failed and ended up with the woman he loved being captured and her father being murdered, adventurer Josh Hamilton is about to go back and conduct a very daring rescue mission. This time, though, he’ll find out that the second attempt at finding the city will be twice as dangerous as the first.

River of Death stars one of my favorite action stars of the eighties, Michael Dudikoff, as Josh Hamilton, an adventurer for hire that is called upon by a father and daughter archeological team to find an illustrious Lost City. But after the first attempt goes horribly wrong, Josh ends up alone while the daughter is kidnapped and the father is brutally murdered. Plagued with grief, Josh decides to return home to enlist some help to go on a rescue mission to bring the daughter back. Helping him out is a team of people including two secret agents, who believe that the City is actually a sanctuary for a mad Nazi doctor who has been staying there in exile since the end of the Second World War. Also along for the mission, is Heinrich Spaatz (the always enjoyable Donald Pleasence), a German millionaire that believes the City holds strange mysteries, which he himself wants to unfold. Together with a small group of others, the team sets out to find the city. But first they’ll have to make it through the River of Death.

Michael Dudikoff stars in one of the last decent actioners of his career with this low budget Indiana Jones style flick. Based on an Alistair MacLean novel, River of Death is a complex action movie that has a great firing mechanism, but never quite hits the mark. Although it does have a couple of fine performances by Pleasence and Robert Vaughn, as the evil doctor Wolfgang Manteuffel, the rest of the actors are upstaged and way to under qualified to try and keep up with these two top Hollywood talents.

Director Steve Carver starts off River very well, with a great World War II scene that seems to be filmed like the war movies of old. As well, Carver does what a lot of action directors just can’t seem to do with even twice the budget, and that is he spreads the action all the way through the entire movie. He also throws in some genuinely funny scenes including one in which a couple of midgets are having an underground boxing match. The ending, mind you, is very weak and poorly done and looks as though it was thrown together in just a few minutes. To make matters worse, screenplay writers Andrew Deutsch and Edward Simpson throw together some of the most unclever and uninspired dialogue I had ever had the displeasure of hearing. In my opinion, they should have just taken MacLean’s words and thrown them in, at least then I may have been able to spot some kind of intelligence. A saving grace for this film, however, had to be its cinematographers, who in spite of a low budget, still managed to muster up some beautiful scenery breathing in to this film not only some life but a more exotic feel as well.

All in all this is an entertaining and watchable action/adventure film, although by my standards just barely. If you want to see a great adventure movie that really illustrates the magic of Hollywood filmmaking then go out and rent any one of the three Indiana Jones movies, they are far superior and demonstrate a heck of a lot more originality. But if you have already viewed those films, or are a fan of action star Dudikoff, then get aboard the boat and take a ride down the River of Death.