Total Recall

Total Recall: A Treasure Trove of Cinematic Gold

Fool's Gold and other valuable movies: Romancing the Stone, Time Bandits, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

by | February 6, 2008 | Comments

Fool’s Gold hits theaters in wide release on Friday.  Helmed by veteran rom-com director Andy Tennant (Ever After, Hitch), this fortune-seeking adventure reunites Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, who starred together in 2003’s How toLose a Guy in 10 Days (42 percent).  Critics so far haven’t embraced the perfectly bronzed duo’s efforts to retrieve sunken treasure, but if Fool’s Gold turns out to be a diamond in the rough, it would be a pretty silver lining to look forward to.  Too much bling for one sentence?  Nah…

This week we’ll be looking at three films that provide three unique perspectives on the familiar theme of treasure hunting.  Typically characterized by swashbuckling heroes, exotic locales, and an element of mystery, these adventures tend to have a high fun factor and, even at their weakest, succeed at least in appealing to our natural curiosity.


Back in 1981, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas introduced the world to Indiana Jones, archaeology professor by day and retriever of precious artifacts on holiday weekends.  It rocked the box office and spawned a number of clones, including a couple of Allan Quatermain flicks, both National Treasure films, the Mummy series, and even a pair of original Turner Network movies about a librarian.  But one of the first successful copies was a comedic romp through Colombia called Romancing theStone (84 percent), directed by Robert Zemeckis.

The story is relatively straightforward: romance novel writer Joan Wilder’s (Kathleen Turner) sister gets into trouble with some unsavory Colombians, and on her way to exchange a treasure map for her sister, the timid author meets Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas), recluse-cum-aviculturist-cum-fortune finder.  Colton and Wilder butt heads (and ultimately bump uglies) as they follow the map to a giant emerald, fleeing competing parties all the way.

If you’re popping in Romancing for the first time, it may initially feel a bit dated.  The music, the canned gunshots, the wardrobe; all of it is distinctly and unabashedly stuck in the 1980s.  The production is big and bold, from the over-the-top silliness to Michael Douglas’s forehead, and the clichés will come at you so fast, you’ll hardly detect the smell of cheese before a hulking slab of cinematic Velveeta floors you with a blow to your aesthetic sensibilities.  But stick with it, and you’ll come to realize that this is part of the fun of the movie, which never takes itself too seriously in its efforts to entertain.  Turner and Douglas work well on screen together, and there are twists, turns, pitfalls, chases, and explosions aplenty to qualify it as a solid adventure flick.  As Christopher Null of Filmcritic.com wrote, “Few films that have arrived since have captured Stone’s enthusiasm and good-naturedness.”


Take the wayback machine 20 years earlier and you’ll stumble upon the time of the Spaghetti Western, consisting of classic western films that were produced by Italian studios (who could have reckoned that?). Sergio Leone was the undisputed king of the genre, working repeatedly with Clint Eastwood, and the two of them in 1966 brought us The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (100 percent), now considered not only a monumental achievement in the western genre, but also one of the most influential films ever made.

The concept of treasure hunting isn’t foreign to westerns, be it in the form of tracking bounties, panning for gold, or gallivanting around in your average X-marks-the-spot caper.  More the latter of the three but far from “average,” the story here involves The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood, the “Good”), Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef, the “Bad”), and Tuco (Eli Wallach, the “Ugly”), three Civil War-era gunslingers who distrust each other but must work together to secure a buried cache of stolen Confederate gold. When the opening credits roll, you’ll immediately recognize the film’s score; it’s the same coyote-like melody synonymous with western duels, whether found in Looney Toons shorts or ads for weedkiller, and it’s indicative of exactly how
influential The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has been.

Leone takes his time crafting each of the characters and their relationships, and the resulting tension is thick, sweaty, and unnerving, much like I am on a typical day.  But he also throws in some comic elements, mostly at the expense of Tuco, and effectively intertwines the backdrop of the Civil War to move the story along.  The race to the prize culminates in a Mexican standoff (before they became cliché), and Leone doesn’t disappoint with the outcome.  The film is a classic and highly watchable for western buffs and movie lovers alike; as Michael Wilmington wrote for the Chicago Tribune, it is “an improbable masterpiece — a bizarre mixture of grandly operatic visuals, grim brutality and sordid violence that keeps wrenching you from one extreme to the other.”


Lastly, we jump back to the 1980s, when Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam put a creative yet bizarre twist on the traditional treasure hunt.  Forget the tumbleweeds and corrals, screw the pirate ships and wooden chests; when Terry Gilliam creates a sprawling adventure, it sprawls across space and time.  At least, that’s what he did with 1982’s Time Bandits
(94 percent), the first of three highly imaginative and visually remarkable films Gilliam made in the era, the other two being Brazil (97 percent) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (86 percent).

Time Bandits’ plot: dwarf thieves who zip through time and loot some of history’s greatest figures.  The aforementioned dwarves, employed by a “Supreme Being,” are commissioned to repair various holes in the fabric of time, utilizing a unique map of the universe.  Due to a labor dispute, however, the dwarves decide to use the map to their own advantage, picking up a child companion along the way and jumping through time to rob the likes of Napoleon (Ian Holm) and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery).  Enter the embodiment of Evil (David Warner), who wants the power of the map to recreate the world, and pretty soon you’ve got man-pigs running around and ogres with back problems trying to devour our anti-heroes.

If nothing else, this movie is a fun ride because it offers a glimpse into the bizarre mind of Gilliam himself, who also co-wrote the film. The scenes are often awkward but hilarious, and with further cameos from a young Jim Broadbent and other Monty Python members, it definitely delivers on its promise of pure gold. “For a kids film this is pleasingly dark with Gilliam delivering as much
classical fairy tale as knockabout comedy,” wrote Ian Freer of Empire Magazine.


 

The promise of instant wealth and the power of greed always make for compelling stories, and when the objects of said greed are (in)conveniently located at the furthest reaches of the planet (and time), you not only have a compelling story, you’ve probably also got a pretty entertaining movie.  For more takes on adventuresome endeavors, see The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (100 percent), The Goonies (63 percent), the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and for some deliciously bad fun, Firewalker (zero percent).

Tag Cloud

mission: impossible talk show war Syfy gangster die hard scary AMC Plus deadpool nbcuniversal Drama Britbox Winners Music elevated horror IMDb TV comic books summer preview Crunchyroll sitcom Sundance Now ghosts olympics NBC TNT Netflix Christmas movies royal family science fiction Song of Ice and Fire spider-man Rom-Com blaxploitation cinemax Alien Western Premiere Dates a nightmare on elm street HFPA Pixar Film Tumblr Super Bowl strong female leads anime rt archives king kong OWN 2018 sequels cars ESPN TLC Comedy Central venice The Purge Ellie Kemper Travel Channel MGM crime drama NYCC asian-american VH1 parents 4/20 Country adventure FXX Academy Awards game of thrones dc 2020 animated blockbuster psychological thriller twilight cults Comic-Con@Home 2021 black comedy Fargo historical drama Ovation Pacific Islander Binge Guide First Reviews psycho Mary poppins sports LGBT A&E serial killer natural history scene in color SDCC festivals Valentine's Day Heroines Calendar finale SXSW Tags: Comedy scary movies rotten movies we love Opinion Best Actor 99% Chernobyl thriller BET Awards Character Guide 79th Golden Globes Awards movie Brie Larson comedies Freeform Prime Video Cannes all-time new star wars movies Classic Film Cartoon Network Black History Month Food Network dark sopranos Marvel Trophy Talk ABC Signature golden globes Television Critics Association New York Comic Con Stephen King Fox Searchlight italian Mystery MCU indie films chucky diversity know your critic VOD ABC Family Elton John theme song Adult Swim Podcast obituary El Rey vampires trophy political drama DC Universe Lifetime Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt spanish language Martial Arts anthology Biopics batman target Paramount Pictures Hear Us Out cops Amazon Prime reboot series Rock dreamworks romantic comedy Lucasfilm Nominations Walt Disney Pictures BBC One children's TV Thanksgiving PBS 90s Spike dramedy revenge Interview HBO Max Pirates FOX Oscars renewed TV shows toronto Disney+ Disney Plus streaming movies 20th Century Fox Women's History Month boxing CMT comic book movie San Diego Comic-Con spanish 2019 First Look Peacock rt labs critics edition TCA Winter 2020 Superheroes Musical japan The Walt Disney Company Mudbound Creative Arts Emmys Tubi archives Schedule Turner indiana jones The Walking Dead Mary Poppins Returns Indigenous SundanceTV travel Election TCM Spring TV Neflix Certified Fresh miniseries CNN IFC police drama Lifetime Christmas movies docudrama saw foreign crime BBC America teaser E3 supernatural Arrowverse Shudder aapi Bravo Instagram Live Awards Tour comic book movies DGA suspense hollywood Native cartoon directors Exclusive Video reviews President CW Seed remakes emmy awards Kids & Family period drama wonder woman 73rd Emmy Awards doctor who new york Writers Guild of America kaiju Broadway Logo Action Box Office breaking bad Disney Plus 72 Emmy Awards American Society of Cinematographers 2021 Toys Set visit 21st Century Fox marvel comics Sony nfl Epix Focus Features Grammys high school adenture Best Actress Pride Month canceled TV shows adaptation Baby Yoda Star Wars broadcast ratings TV movies PlayStation 45 boxoffice Warner Bros. scene in color series concert book ViacomCBS GoT BBC BAFTA Red Carpet Comic Book Photos USA rotten spinoff sag awards OneApp Legendary Hollywood Foreign Press Association superman 2015 football award winner Showtime Oscar MTV Video Games zero dark thirty 93rd Oscars WarnerMedia leaderboard stoner comics ID Paramount marvel cinematic universe Tomatazos summer TV Universal critics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Mary Tyler Moore black Hallmark transformers Countdown video on demand scorecard based on movie technology Lionsgate FX Paramount Network cancelled TV series mob werewolf vs. cancelled TV shows Family hispanic heritage month lord of the rings robots monster movies Summer Musicals festival Ghostbusters Funimation razzies dceu Holidays scene in color film series Trivia video singing competition TV Land RT History streamig X-Men live action criterion 24 frames Sundance harry potter Sneak Peek dexter kong Acorn TV The Academy target scene in color james bond screenings screen actors guild TBS Fox News Pop HBO prank Awards South by Southwest Film Festival romance Extras Winter TV crime thriller game show GLAAD Image Comics RT21 Trailer independent DC Comics A24 justice league Christmas franchise kids Sundance TV biopic YouTube Holiday summer TV preview Hulu debate king arthur comiccon DirecTV Emmys TV One YouTube Red tv talk 007 Amazon Prime Video spain Comics on TV interviews Spectrum Originals disaster canceled richard e. Grant universal monsters Endgame spider-verse E! Best Picture 2016 stand-up comedy true crime Best Director toy story action-comedy The CW Marvel Television south america Amazon SXSW 2022 hist Pop TV superhero cancelled versus comic PaleyFest what to watch green book rom-coms hidden camera Disney Channel movies popular feel good aliens 71st Emmy Awards The Witch MSNBC cooking jamie lee curtis Apple Amazon Studios Apple TV Plus critic resources Star Wars Celebration fast and furious Black Mirror Captain marvel genre trailers GIFs Quiz Discovery Channel 1990s discovery unscripted Columbia Pictures HBO Go slasher Horror Netflix french Fall TV Star Trek laika DC streaming service Marathons mutant Dark Horse Comics cats latino japanese stop motion YA History golden globe awards telelvision TV renewals Rocky Infographic composers Nickelodeon television dogs Turner Classic Movies YouTube Premium TCA The Arrangement Paramount Plus USA Network witnail basketball TIFF biography australia nature TV Shondaland 2017 Universal Pictures fresh Sony Pictures Avengers ABC legend jurassic park NBA Best and Worst TCA 2017 Hallmark Christmas movies APB documentaries medical drama binge Cosplay Mindy Kaling christmas movies Crackle See It Skip It posters Teen TCA Awards international Film Festival dragons godzilla cancelled television free movies crossover classics FX on Hulu Tokyo Olympics documentary Superheroe new zealand Starz Sci-Fi BET zombies halloween Year in Review halloween tv Disney streaming service Fantasy Television Academy quibi space TruTV blockbusters obi wan CBS All Access Vudu mockumentary docuseries Esquire Nat Geo slashers child's play Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Disney social media worst zombie Tarantino hispanic sequel name the review Pet Sematary LGBTQ art house National Geographic Apple TV+ pirates of the caribbean CBS WGN VICE facebook 94th Oscars Watching Series Reality Competition Emmy Nominations Geeked Week Reality Animation young adult live event Wes Anderson IFC Films streaming Rocketman casting Marvel Studios Anna Paquin ITV worst movies mcc Masterpiece news heist movie book adaptation spy thriller Polls and Games Comedy politics women satire best AMC joker rt labs