Raiders of the Magic Ivory (1988)

Raiders of the Magic Ivory Italian PosterWhy pay a couple of mercenaries $125,000 up front to get a magic tablet when you just send your own man along to betray them and steal the tablet? Especially when you’ve already gone to the trouble of having one of them break the other out of prison? And even more especially since the only unique skill set either of the mercs bring to the job is an ability to shoot stuff which is only exceeded by their talent for swearing?

Couldn’t all the hired thugs you have on staff at your compound have done that? And without the nasty habit of hunting you down for revenge after the double cross? (Please tell me it wasn’t to avoid paying the remaining $125,000 you were to remit upon delivery of the tablet.)

Tonino Ricci’s Raiders of the Magic Ivory is one of those Italian-made action movies that has a title designed to trick you into thinking you’re in for edge of your seat, cliffhanging, Indiana Jones-inspired adventure when all you’re going to get is a couple of dudes sweating in a Filipino jungle, blasting away at twenty or so extras alternately playing soldiers and dudes worshiping a magic rock. There is an instance when two spiky traps almost impale Sugar and Mark, but other than that and the sheer outfit My Lai was wearing for her sacrifice, the edge of your seat is going to have the day off.

Sugar (James Mitchum of Leathernecks, Beyond Kilimanjaro, Across the River of Blood and son of Robert Mitchum fame) and Mark (Christopher Ahrens of Shocking Dark and nothing else fame) make the perfect team as they constantly hurl cuss words at each other with Mitchum affecting a look that can only be described as Robert Mitchum wearing a fake mustache and in badly need of a haircut and Ahrens looking okay in a sleeveless shirt while being dubbed by the guy who dubbed every Italian movie in the 1980s.

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Old buddies from back during the Vietnam War, the money convinces them to go back to southeast Asia to retrieve this magic doodad for the evil old Chinese guy. He says it has some writing on it about his ancestors that he needs which is such a lame story that even Sugar and Mark know something else is going on.

Sugar at least may have ultimately taken the job because for him, the war never ended. This possible character development comes up when they are traveling up river and Sugar announces they are “home” and asks Mark about why they couldn’t get back to normal after the war and have a wife, kids, school, etc. Perhaps recognizing that some characterization might be trying to sneak into an otherwise pleasant series of moving pictures of gunshots and four letter words, Mark’s only response was “were you just born an asshole or do you work at it?” Well said, Mark. We don’t need anyone on this mission reflecting on life. That was a total asshole move, Sugar.

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The movie settles into a nice routine of Sugar and Mark shooting army guys and the monks who worship the tablet. The tablet is located in a cave and it glows off and on in typically cheesy Italian fashion. The guys show up just before My Lai is about to be sacrificed and she rewards them for saving her by dispensing valuable exposition that explains the importance of the tablet.

My Lai is the last of a line of Tibetans who are known as Keepers of the Celestial Peace and only she can read the tablet and render it powerless. In the wrong hands the tablet could make the person the most powerful practitioner of Chinese black magic ever. How the tablet came to exist, why it was hidden in the jungle, how the evil Chinese guy knew about it, and how My Lai came to be there and get caught are never explained. Probably because My Lai didn’t want Mark calling her an asshole, too.

Surely by this point James Mitchum was wishing his father was famous for something like plumbing or farming, but this mystical hogwash was just prelude to the movie’s high-water mark of absurdity when My Lai lays dying and she tells Sugar that because of his qualities, he is going to take over being the Sacred Keeper of the Celestial Peace and save the world from the evil tablet! I will leave it to film historians who are more learned than I to decide where this scene fits in the pantheon of “embarrassing movie moments of Robert Mitchum’s relatives” but James Mitchum deserves our undying respect for playing that scene completely straight.

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A film as blandly unimaginative as this one can only end one way: with Sugar and Mark battling the bad guy’s thugs including some ninjas while wearing the exact same outfits they were wearing at the beginning of the movie!

Yes, apparently Mr. Mitchum only packed one ugly Hawaiian shirt which makes it painfully obvious that Ricci (Buck and the Magic Bracelet) shot the beginning and end of the movie at the same time. Probably standard procedure in efforts like this, but usually someone is there to at least hand the actors a different shirt so my suspension of disbelief that Sugar can punch his way through a gang of ninjas and martial arts experts on his way to nullifying a magic stone with his newfound superpowers isn’t compromised.

Surprisingly devoid of the silly flourishes that these 1980s Italian flicks traffic in, Raiders of the Magic Ivory is probably one of the least gloriously bad of scripter Dardano Sacchetti’s eight films of 1988 which included such cinema zirconia as Delta Force Commando, Thunder III and Demons III: The Ogre.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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