Joe’s Blog

Jaguar Lives! (1979)

January 26, 2012 12:11 pm

Jaguar Lives!

Maybe unusually for an exploitation fan, I’ve never really been a fan of kung fu movies. Yes, Bruce Lee was amazing, but his most famous film, Enter the Dragon, owes a bit more to Bond movies than it does to his older classics like Fist of Fury.

For me kung fu movies are very one note: hero is wronged, he has a fight; he goes somewhere, has a fight; a friend gets killed, he has a fight; he tracks down villain, has a fight. At least thats how every film I’ve seen goes. All that changes is the guy pretending to be Bruce Lee, and the settings. So, I’m probably not the best person to review Jaguar Lives!, an attempt to mould an all-American version of Bruce Lee.

And it fails. Miserably.

Jaguar Lives! is one of those films where the trailer is far more entertaining than the finished product, by a long way. It promises an all-star international cast featuring THREE, count them, THREE Bond villains, a Bond girl, Capucine and John Huston! It also promises us that debutant star Joe Lewis (a cross between Sam Jones from Flash Gordon and Gary Busey) is set to follow in the footsteps of Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. It’s no great surprise that the trailer writes cheques the film cannot possibly afford to cash.

We meet the Jaguar (Lewis) racing his buddy to ‘The temple’ where a bomb is going to explode. Jaguar goes after a baddie and leaves his mate to defuse the bomb. Instead he shoots Jaguar in the back and lets the bomb go off. The rotter. But luckily… Jaguar Lives!

After a rehabilitation period under the guidance of his sensei (Woody Strode… yes, that Woody Strode), Jag is called back into action by Barbara Bach. She works for some internation spy collective called G6, and she needs Jag to… er… I’ll get back to you on that because the exposition happens so fast it’s not entirely clear what Jag is asked to do. He goes to see a blind man (Joseph Wiseman) who tells him where someone is.

Jag arrives in Made-up-a-guay and meets the country’s corrupt general (Donald Pleasance). After a bit of chat Jag takes on a group of secret police on motorbikes (to the strains of some awful matador music) and nicks a helicopter for his escape. That’s the last we see of Pleasance.

Stock footage is employed to show explosions happening in Paris, Rio and other parts of the world the production can’t afford to go to.

Jag proceeds to travel the world (or at least places that Spain can adequately stand in for), meets a guest star who delivers some pointless exposition, and beats up some guys. At one point he hangs on to a car roof, like you’ve seen in countless 70s cop shows, for about five minutes. There is quite an entertaining fight in a warehouse where Jag just chucks spanners at everyone and clambers up a forklift to oversea his handy work.

Eventually, he tracks down the criminal mastermind who is using John Huston’s shipping line to flood the world with drugs. He finds himself in Benidorm of all places (or Benedorme, as the caption states). There’s rather an elaborate set up to reveal who Mr Big is. Is it another guest star we haven’t seen yet? Fat chance. If you can’t work out who it is, you really shouldn’t be allowed near sharp objects.

This is truly dire stuff. It’s clear that Joe Lewis was never going to be a big draw, so the plan to surround him with a wealth of well-known (and indiscriminate) stars is sound. But it’s clear the budget couldn’t stretch to employing them for more than a day or two each. Much like the Amicus horror films of the 60s and 70s, it’s a cheap trick to convince the audience they are getting a star studded extravaganza when you’re actually getting a succession of cameos within a limp story, and a limper leading man.

Lewis arranged his own scenes according to the credits, and, to be fair, they look a lot dirtier than Lee’s or Jackie Chan’s highly coreographed brawling ballets. The final confrontation takes place in an abandoned castle, with the actors literally hurling themselves into brick walls and stony floors. But in terms of style, there is none. At one point the camera jerkily follows them as they fight, clearly with no idea where they are going.

Jaguar Lives! has done absolutely nothing to change my opinion of kung fu movies, and has further reinforced my belief than some of my favourite actors will do absolutely anything if you pay them and promise them a weekend on the Costa del Sol.

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