The Glass Sphinx (1967)

While some may laugh at Karl Nichols, the old leathery Texas millionaire moonlighting as an amateur Egyptologist being used by the sexy showgirl Paulette (Anita Ekberg) as part of a scheme to screw him out of the titular gaudy treasure (seriously – the glass sphinx looks like something you’d pass up at a flea market if it was more than a fiver), if I was him, I wouldn’t even know you were laughing at me because I would be too busy having sex with a hot woman half my age!

And though this film appears to be merely an extremely dull Egyptian travelogue (perhaps not surprising since director Luigi Scattini’s resume is littered with psuedo-documentary/mondo films) with the occasional overlong fist fight thrown in along side scenes of natives digging, it is in fact the ultimate old man fantasy since Paulette really does love Karl but unfortunately is killed.

How great is that for Karl? Validation that you’ve still got it when it’s needed at night, but since she went and got herself shot by desert marauders, you don’t have to worry about her trying to move her record collection into your tent and rearranging the lanterns and bamboo tables at base camp!

An argument can even be made that the traitorous Alex who is behind all of this is doing Karl a favor because I could never figure out why it was even necessary to his plan to have Paulette seduce Karl!

And it sure doesn’t make any sense since the film opens with an attempt on Karl’s life by people we later find out are working with Alex. If Alex was willing to kill Karl at the very beginning of things before the expedition began, why did he suddenly abandon that idea and let Karl go off in search of the tomb? It’s even dumber when you consider that this then requires Alex to employ the band of marauders to attack the camp later on, the only reason for this seeming to be the film’s desperate need for an action scene.

The plot is simply a variation of your standard bare bones pyramid potboiler. Karl is after the Glass Sphinx which he believes contains the Elixir of Life which would have allowed the pharaohs to live hundreds of years. While his theory is rightfully ridiculed by the Egyptians, the basis for his theory is so baseless that it borders on negligence for the Egyptians to let this goof anywhere near their antiquities. Karl asserts that since there is a 200 year gap in Egyptian history, it’s because one guy was king for those 200 years due to taking the Elixir of Life! Even more absurd? This is what passes for pillow talk when he was with Paulette!

Up until Karl finds the tomb, the film depicts all manner of skullduggery though much of it feels like a disjointed series of random acts of sabotage and violence with no clear motive. Alex’s car breaks down in the desert on the way to the airport to pick up Karl’s niece. At the same time the mysterious Ray shows up and picks her up instead. Ray says he’s a journalist which of course means he isn’t.  Someone kills a police informant who was with the niece and breaks into her hotel room to steals notes and expedition equipment. Ray’s cufflink is left at the scene, but later two guys try to kill Ray until one of them bumps into Ray’s car which explodes.

Alex and the niece finally hook up but inexplicably spend a bunch of time playing in some ruins even though her uncle is waiting for her. Then Alex and Ray fight. Then Ray joins the expedition. Am I watching an incompetent Italian adventure movie or worse yet, a surrealistic experimental avant-garde  film?

The exposition from Ray to the Egyptian police near the end of the movie where he explains Scooby-Doo-style why everything has been happening not only comes off as lazy, but just makes everything that Alex did sound even stupider. Alex was on a previous expedition with someone else and killed that person. Alex knows where the tomb with the Glass Sphinx is. But since Karl was already on a second expedition after surviving the attempt on his life, Alex just joins the expedition, plants Paulette as the secretary and also works on having Ray killed since he is really an insurance investigator. Did it really have to be so hard, Alex? Couldn’t you have had Paulette drop a scorpion down Karl’s pants?

The discovery of the glass sphinx is about as underwhelming as you would expect although this is one of the only times I remember the tomb of an ancient Egyptian king to have a pond in inside of it. Karl goes out with a flashlight (what was the point of Alex pretending like the generator didn’t work again?) and sees it before being attacked and left for dead. While not much in the looks department the Sphinx does provoke some giggles when it emits a noxious gas killing a bad guy.

Along with the Sphinx farting, the film’s only other amusing moment is when Alex hands Paulette over to the marauders and they force her to dance for them. If you had “humiliation by dance” for the climax, you’re a winner! True, there is a boat chasing a car on the Suez Canal and a final showdown between Ray and Alex, but watching Anita Ekberg reluctantly shimmy while the camera lingers on a succession of leering natives is pretty much the end of the movie for anyone with any sense.

© 2018 MonsterHunter

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