Sandokan needs no introduction. The 18th Century pirate was the subject of a number of novels, several films (including a series of four in 1963-64), a TV miniseries, and even two different animated series!
With his faithful (and decidedly white) sidekick Yanez, the Tiger of Malaya as Sandy was known, has proven, like Robin Hood, Tarzan, and Starbuck from the original Battlestar Galactica to be one of the great enduring characters beloved the world over. At least that’s what the Internet tells me. I’ve never heard of the guy. I thought he was Yanez’s sidekick!
But just because you’re some minor league local yokel action hero doesn’t mean you still can’t kick all kinds of ass! And that’s exactly what Sandokan (Ray Danton in nicely intense performance) does in his battle against the Leopard of Sarawak!
Now, many movies will have titles that claim a guy is battling a leopard, but then have the “leopard” turn out to be some punk who just calls himself a leopard because it sounds cool! If the title of your movie says you’re fighting a leopard, I’m going to need to see a guy playing grab ass with a large orange and black jungle cat!
But Sandy didn’t get four movies made about him in a year and half by not delivering the goods, so it should come as no surprise that he’s almost immediately gunning down a leopard while trekking through the jungle. Don’t worry animal lovers! If you think he’s a pussy for doing that and are daring him to throw his gun down and battle wild animals in hand to hand combat, Sandy is your hero, too!
Right after wasting one leopard, another rolls in! Despite his obviously smarter (but much wimpier) companions urging him not to, Sandy ditches his gun and starts wrestling around with the leopard!
It was touch and go for awhile, but ultimately the battle ends gloriously with Sandy stabbing the hapless beast with his dagger again and again!
Having wiped out a nice portion of the indigenous wildlife in about thirty seconds Sandy gets back to the business of dealing with the all too human Leopard of Sarawak.
As expected, this human “leopard” is just some silly-looking white guy intent on overthrowing Sandy and reclaiming Sarawak for his own. As the narrator explained in the way too detail oriented voiceover that opened the film, Sandy and Yanez previously teamed up to vanquish the father of the Leopard of Sarawak, Sandy is about to marry his true love Samoa, and now Charles Druk (also called Brooks in some sources), is keen on revenge.
But just how far will Druk go in his mad quest for power? He’s even willing to employ the use of foreigners in his scheme! Though he himself looked a bit foreign to the jungle, the guy he called in to help him is even more foreignish than he!
The Indian super villain Rajani comes to assist based on the promise that he’ll get to build a big ass temple and he brings with him the most awesome super power I have ever seen – the ability to hypnotize alligators!
In what is a great film’s sole misstep, the gators are never unleashed on anyone, but Rajani luckily can also use his powers to hypnotize weak willed broads like Samoa! His power is so great that she doesn’t even have to see him for it to work!
But truly greater than that is his ability to mess with her mind enough so that she claims she hates Sandy and loves the yucky Druk – who is also her cousin! That might explain why after the spell is broken and she and Sandy are pinned down behind enemy lines and their ammo is dwindling, she has saved a single bullet for herself! Cousin-loving or death? Not a tough choice at all! After all, these people live in the jungle, not Arkansas!
There aren’t any real surprises going on in this film, but who needs surprises when guys are dying in quicksand? And swinging from vines? And launching balls of flames from catapults?
You could complain that Sandy was a moron for heading into the enemy camp with only his traitorous guide, but I admired him since he did it because he just knew he could handle whatever was coming. He probably figured he’d just have to run a few hundred guys through with his sword before rescuing his old lady. Hell, he just killed two tigers before lunch earlier, so how hard could that be?
The movie abounds in entertaining moments such as when Sandy is trapped in the cave of snakes that no one has ever survived! Except the guy that built the stairs that lead directly to the back entrance of the cave! But Sandy still had to pretend to wrestle with an either very sleepy or just plain dead giant snake!
For his part Yanez shines in his role as the prototype of the CIA adviser who helps his native pals out by employing his advanced torture techniques, all the while maintaining his good humor.
And despite much of the film being afflicted with what sounded like really bad, stock melodramatic music, director Luigi Capuano (Revenge of the Gladiators) must be credited for how he handled the final, suspenseful chase through the jungle between Sandy and Druk. As the camera tracks Sandy (who is wielding a really scary-looking scimitar) rushing through the trees, while a desperate Druk is looking for an escape, only the piercing cries of the jungle birds can be heard! It’s all a very unsettling and effective way to conclude a rock solid jungle adventure that easily encourages the viewer to seek out Sandokan’s other efforts of the period (Sandokan the Great, Sandokan – The Pirate of Malaya, and Sandokan Fights Back).
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