Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Order of the Black Eagle

I love James Bond.  I've read the original books and have seen every film multiple times.  They're not always good, but Bond is just an appealing character for guys to watch.  He's a charming, womanizing, deadly, hard-drinking jerk; obviously, he's a male role model.  It doesn't surprise me, then, that other movies have tried to recreate the Bond formula.  It does surprise me that The Order of the Black Eagle was able to fail in this attempt so spectacularly that it went from "film travesty" to Lefty Gold.  The bare bones of the plot isn't too outlandish --- neo-Nazis are planning to use laser technology to destroy all communications satellites because Nazis, like all men, hate talking on the phone --- but the path they take to get there...bravisimo!  It's a work of art.

Let me give the plot a once over for you before I get into the awesome specifics.  Duncan Jax (Ian Hunter --- no, not the guy from Mott the Hoople, although he's undoubtedly a better actor) is the Bond substitute that is given the task of infiltrating the Nazi Order of the Black Eagle.  Like all Nazis in the 70s and 80s, they're hanging out in South America.  It doesn't get any more specific than that, so I guess everyone in South America knows which house is the Nazi house, just like all kids know which house has gross Halloween candy.  It turns out that the Nazi stronghold is inside an abandoned temple.  Of course it is.  When I think "secret base to launch a laser-related attack," I immediately think of catacombs surrounded by miles of jungle, with no access to electricity.  How is Jax supposed to infiltrate this secret organization?  Surely, it will involve an elaborate plan with all sorts of high-tech gadgets and pinpoint precision.  Or...Duncan Jax could be a doppelganger for an important Nazi.  But --- wait for it --- he has to disguise himself with a fake mustache!  That sounds like a foolproof plan.  You might be concerned that perhaps Duncan's German accent isn't fully authentic, but it turns out that Nazis speak English now.  Shockingly, those clever Nazi bastards are able to sniff out Jax and briefly imprison him.  He escapes during the inevitable inept-death-trap scene and makes it back to his people...wherever they are.  Jax teams up with some mercenaries that look like they came fresh from a GI Joe audition (their code name matches their specialty, so someone named GoatTosser throws exploding goats, etc.) and, after a brief detour into the plot of a Sergio Leone movie, they attack the Nazi stronghold and kill Hitler.  That's right, they kill Hitler.  In 1987.

"Sounds like a fascinating art house film, Brian.  How was the talent in this tour de force?"  Absolutely wretched.  The writer (Phil Behrens) and director (Worth Keeter) doe not have impressive resumes; they both worked on this, as well as its prequel, Unmasking the Idol.  That's right...this is a sequel.  Behrens seems to have done the smart thing and ditched the screenwriting career, but Keeter does a lot of Power Ranger video releases, with all the subtlety and talent that implies.  Here's a sample of this movie's writing (if you read it slowly out loud, you will have a feel for how it was spoken in the movie):
Duncan Jax: How do we stop [the laser device]?
Scientist: You can't.
DJ: Doctor, there's got to be a way!
Scientist: There is only one.
Rarely do you see screenplays blatantly contradict themselves in the same series of dialogue.  The acting in this movie is some of the worst I have seen.  I'm not exaggerating, either.  Since this is a James Bond knock-off, there are naturally a few romantic interests; I chose to omit mentioning them in the synopsis because it's easier when I don't reflect on them.  Let's just say that their attraction to Duncan Jax convinced me that the script told them to be attracted to Duncan Jax in that scene.  There's even a gadget guy, like Q from the Bond movies but so much worse.  This movie gets pretty depressing when you compare it to the movies it is trying to emulate.  The most convincing actor in the whole movie was a baboon that flicks people off.  I know how he felt, watching this movie.

Oh, didn't I mention it earlier?  That's right, this movie has a major supporting role reserved for a baboon.  Boon the baboon is Duncan Jax's pet/love interest/life partner.  He and Duncan wear matching clothes, including a tuxedo, and work together on Duncan's secret missions.  Now, you may be thinking that Boon fulfills the role that Rob Schneider has since taken over, that of lovable goof to the main character's action hero.  That's not the case, though.  Nobody points out how unusual it is to A) have a tuxedo-wearing baboon flicking them off B) have said baboon on a secret mission or C) have said baboon drive a baboon-sized tank and blow a bunch of South American Nazis to hell.  I take that back.  After Duncan completes his look-how-cool-I-am-in-the-opening-credits mission and lands his getaway propeller plane (which Boon may or may not have been flying) in middle of a dinner party, one guy asks "Is that legal?"  He might have been referring to parking the plane in the yard, but the response he got would be appropriate for either: Boon flicked him off.

When Jax meets his mercenary GI Joe people, the film makes a brief detour into spaghetti-western territory.  For whatever reason, the local leader of the poorly shaven, sombrero-wearing, mean-looking Hispanic bandits shows up with a lot of backup.  I guess the plan is to shoot the heroes and take their money.  The heroes are outmanned and outgunned.  What will they do?  What can they do?  If you guessed "Have Duncan Jax pretend to be flamboyantly gay until the thugs are rolling on the ground with laughter," then you cheated.  There is no way you guessed that without seeing this movie, and I know you haven't seen this movie.  It doesn't even have a Wikipedia page.  The cherry on top is when the bandit leader, after several of his men have just died, shrugs and says, "Some days you can't make a peso."

Perhaps the greatest moment in the movie is when Duncan Jax kills Adolph Hitler.  Hitler (who was played by himself, according to the credits) was cryogenically frozen in 1945, seventeen years before the first major book on cryonics was published.  Apparently, the Nazis have figured out how to defrost their fearless leader safely, although that is never actually stated.  Focusing on solving the persistent problems of cryonics would explain why their laser death ray plan was so poorly detailed, though.  Anyway, Duncan doesn't do much to kill Hitler except break open his freezer bag.  Hitler's paper mache-looking face (a presumed side effect of the freezing process) splits open, revealing what is beneath all of our faces: red jello and a skull with eyeballs.

There's so much more to this movie that deserves mentioning, but there is something to be said for discovering the joys of The Order of the Black Eagle on your own.  But, in case you're not intrigued, here's a taste of what you might be missing:
  • Hot air balloon romance
  • A monologuing villain allows Jax to throw a spear through his body, despite the spear being mounted on a wall and Jax being held at gunpoint
  • The GI Joes manage to fight only the Nazis they're equipped to battle
  • A hoverboat chase that ends with the hoverboat's in-board rocket launcher
  • Nazi dirtbikes
  • Jax's boss's reaction to Hitler being alive: "What?"  And that's it.

As a movie, I give The Order of the Black Eagle

As an amazing social experience to share with your friends and beer,

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