Proving once again that old saw that anything Hollywood can do successfully, the Italians can do cheaper and with Antonio Margheriti, The Ark Of The Sun God starring David Warbeck is Rome’s low-budget rip of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. However, what The Ark Of The Sun God lacks in originality and funding, it makes up with in Trans-Am chases.
Sadly, this movie takes an eternity to actually get around to treasure hunting and when it finally does, we don’t encounter much in the way of ancient and/or exotic obstacles.
Margheriti (Jungle Raiders) was obviously aware of the limitations his movie was going to have and made up for it by having copious amounts of action, even if such action was strictly 1970s cop show action mixed in with a story about the search for Gilgamesh’s scepter.
When you don’t have a lot of money to mess around building sets of old tombs and treasure or spend a lot of time out in the weeds getting exotic shots, you do what we in the biz call “setting up the story.” This is code for lots of scenes of Rick Spear (David Warbeck of The Beyond and The Black Cat) running around Istanbul talking with tubby and shady shop owner Muhammed, avoiding assassins with the Eye of Gilgamesh tattooed on their hands, and cracking a safe while his girlfriend is taking a nap back at the hotel room.
When she wasn’t sleeping, she tagged along with Rick while he went off to crack a safe at some palatial estate. I was wondering what sort of cat burglar would take his girlfriend along with him, but figured that was part of his cover that allowed him to move in and out of high society without too many questions.
It turns out that there really was no explanation for her presence and she spent a good deal of the movie getting kidnapped while Rick sat around sipping his favorite drink – milk and Bacardi, which was invariably drugged by the crafty Muhammed.
The safe cracking thing ends up just being a test set up by Rick’s good buddy Dean. Dean is an English fancy lad in a wheelchair and was trying to find out if David was as good as Scotland Yard’s dossier said he was. See, that’s how we know that David is the best there is – because Scotland Yard has a dossier on him.
Dean tells Rick that he needs his talents to crack the ultimate safe – the big golden door that leads to the Temple of Gilgamesh!
Apparently there is a scepter in this tomb that if it fell into the wrong hands, it would put the world at risk. Luckily, no one knows where this tomb is or how to open it up without destroying everything inside. Just as unluckily, Dean is going to find it and have Rick open it so that he can get the scepter.
Even though no one knows where it is, Dean knows where the one guy who knows where it is, is staying. Rick has to go find this guy, get the lowdown on the temple’s location and go pick the door lock.
But it turns out that Dean isn’t the only guy interested in this ancient artifact. There’s a group of guys that I think from their costumes are supposed to be Arab, but look like Italian guys in rented Arab costumes, who are bound and determined to have the scepter so that their civilization can rise again and rule the world!
Their bungling attempts to kidnap Rick’s girlfriend, Pussycat, are foiled by Rick, most notably by a ridiculous encounter at the local harbor where Rick commandeers a water canon and points it at the boat that the kidnappers have his lady on.
Rick also shows his mettle as an action hero by swinging across the water on a rope, no doubt drawing applause from the three man Turkish crew it looks like Margheriti used shot this picture with.
An even more stunning action sequence is a car chase that Rick has with these Italian-Arabs that Margheriti shoots using miniature cars and sets that look like they were left over from a Godzilla movie!
This thing was a hilarious bit of moviemaking magic with Margheriti showing us these remote control cars careening around toy warehouses and train stations intercut with close ups of Rick in a car rocking back and forth and looking around like he was wondering why those three Turkish guys were rocking his car!
The best part of the movie though has to be the big Trans-am car chase out in the desert on the road that goes right by the tomb! I don’t even think Margheriti used miniatures too much of the time here! (You remember in Indiana Jones when they drove all those Monte Carlos over to pick up the ark, right?)
The movie finally gets Rick, Muhammed, and Beetle (this is the drunk guy who accompanied some professor to the tomb years ago and is the only one who knows where it is) to the temple with the Italian-Arabs hot on their tail.
The bad guys decide to open up Gilgamesh’s tomb to get the scepter, but Rick tells them not to because it’ll destroy the tomb. Even though the Arabian-Italian gang believes in the superstition that the scepter will give them lots of power, they don’t believe in the superstition that anyone who tries to muck with the guy’s grave will be cursed and die.
They open it up and the next thing you know all the good guys are standing around outside the destroyed tomb and yukking it up as the discover that that tricky Muhammed has given the scepter the old five fingered discount!
Margheriti tried hard, busting out the miniatures that you rarely see in car chase scenes and pushing columns over in that dang tomb for something like the last fifteen minutes of the movie in an effort to make it seem like something really awful is happening. He even has some red lighting going on to simulate some lava!
This Italian “homage” to the Indiana Jones flicks is quintessential B-movie stuff that never really sinks so low as to be as bad as you would have guessed. It’s educational for you nascent safecrackers as well with David Warbeck babbling on about counterbalances and shaving kits.
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