Shalimar (Deadly Thief) (Raiders of the Sacred Stone) Reviews
The world‚(TM)s wealthiest jewel thief, Sir John Locksley (a sinister looking Rex Harrison of MY FAIR LADY), is dying from cancer. He invites four of the best thieves in the world to his palatial residence on St. Dismas, a remote, tiny Indian Ocean island where he lives alone with his servants. The thieves include Kumar (Dharmendra), Romeo (O.P. Ralhan), the religious Dr. Bukhari (Shammi Kapoor), nimble German trapeze artist/tightrope walker Countess Rasmussen (Sylvia Miles of MIDNIGHT COWBOY) and Colonel Columbus (John Saxon of ENTER THE DRAGON).
Sir John has chosen these thieves because of their notorious reputations. Columbus stole the Catherine the Great emerald. The Countess pinched a Van Gogh painting from a museum. Romeo held up the Bank of Singapore, while Dr. Bukhari substituted a fake for St. Timothy‚~s Cross. Eventually, we learn that Kumar is not the amateur thief that he claims to be. Indeed, he turns out to be an impostor with an interesting background. Sir John lives like a sultan on the island and commands his own loyal army of armed guards. Actually, he saved these natives from a rival chieftain, and they serve him now. Sir John‚(TM)s beautiful nurse Sheila Enders (Zeenat Aman) and he escort their guests on a guided tour of his lavish estate and show them his elaborate security system that he has designed to safeguard the jewel. Afterward, Sir John challenges them to see who can steal the legendary Shalimar ruby. It would be sacrilege to allow the ruby to pass into undeserving hands, Sir John explains and adds, The title of the greatest thief will belong to one of you. The Shalimar Ruby has a history similar to The Maltese Falcon, having exchanged hands over the centuries. Its first owner was none other than Alexander the Great who found it when he invaded India in 300 B.C. Briefly; Sir John explains that the Shalimar ruby is the largest single gem in the world. The gem consists of 1, 214 karats and is valued at $135 million.
The mute, crippled Colonel Columbus who communicates with sign language takes the first crack at the ruby, but he is shot in the back by a guard as he enters the room where the ruby is housed. As it turns out, Columbus lied about his lame leg and his mute status. Kumar swears that he heard him scream when he was shot and killed. This becomes a refrain throughout the action. ‚Do dead men scream?‚? Countess Rasmussen fares a little better. She knocks off all the guards with her considerable acrobatic skills, but she is blown up when she comes almost within arm‚(TM)s length of the gem. Romeo, who tried to rob Sir John initially, dies next and Dr. Bukhari is the last to bite the bullet. Surprisingly, Kumar is the thief who manages to steal the ruby. Although Sir John warned the quintet about the rule against collaborators, it seems that Sheila and Kumar were romantically engaged in a previous relationship. Kumar drove her away when she caught him cheating on her with a blond. Mind you, most of this is designed as a red herring. Sir John, like all criminals, suffers his fate because he forced some many of his guards--approximately 18--to die in an effort to thwart the thieves. The big showdown in the room where the gem is stored is pretty cool. The ruby is housed in a clear, see-through, cylinder constructed of bulletproof glass and Sir John has surveillance cameras stationed everywhere in his mansion.
RAIDERS OF THE SACRED STONE qualifies as an interesting potboiler that is done with some polish. Noted British cinematographer Ernst Day handled the second unit. The fireworks and the production design is spectacular to say the least.
This is an awful lot of effort to trick people into watching the same crappy movie three times, but being a big bad movie fan, I'm used to such tactics, especially with foreign action flicks, and the three titles are especially appropriate since it took me three tries to slog my way through the thing. I will say this in it's defense--[i]Raiders of the Sacred Stone[/i] is the best Bollywood action film I've ever seen with Rex Harrison.
Former My Fair Lady star Harrison (in which he played the teacher, not the lady) slums big time as Sir John Locksley, a world-reknowned thief who's recently come into possession of the aforementioned Shalimar Ruby, valued at some insanely-digited sum that I didn't bother remembering. The Ruby, you see, is just a catalyst to for Locksley to bring together four of the best thieves in the world (plus one hanger-on) in a challenge to see who can steal it from him and thus take his "World's Best Burglar" coffee mug away. Locklsey, you see, is dying and bored and in need of entertainment.
The entertainment comes from the likes of the thieves, who are each given one shot at nabbing the jewel or face the pointy end of some of Locksley's guard's bullets. There's John Saxon, who plays up the stunts he did in[i] Enter the Dragon[/i] and manages to save the most face of the cast, mostly by playing it mute. There's Dr. Bukhari (prolific Indian actor Shammi Kapoor), who prays a lot and acts like Richard Libertini in [i]All of Me[/i]. There's the token bad guy and the token guy with a past of secrets. And then there's Sylvia Myles, who does lots of acrobatics and wears a big curly blonde wig that makes her look like a 50-year-old drag queen doing Shirley Temple.
The problem with a lot of Bollywood films is that pacing is basically thrown out thew window, and[i] Raiders[/i] is a prime example. All the stuff I mentioned happens in the first half of the film, and once the interesting characters start dropping dead and you realize the interplay between the thieves doesn't really amount to much, you're stuck with leading man Dharmendra and his love interest, and their quest to get the hell away from Rex Harrison. While getting the hell away from Rex Harrison is usually a good thing, especially when he's wearing pants as tight as he is here, it's pretty dull to watch.
Sure, there's explosions and lots of people fall off the castle where the ruby is kept (you'd think the omnipresent guards would start to notice something going on by the time the third body drops to the ground), but it's all done with such randomness and lack of build-up that you can't help but feel your eyelids start to droop. There's not even any musical numbers to keep you awake, though there is a sequence where natives chant as John Saxon's body is painted yellow.
Look, just don't ask.
I get the feeling this was cut down from a longer version, as certain plot twists don't make any sense and when one character comes back from the dead, nobody seems the least bit suprised. Or it's possible that it's just an incompetently made film that accidentally stumbles on a couple interesting ideas, as the caper sequences aren't bad. There's just not enough of them, and making your way through the rest of [i]Raiders of the Sacred Stone's[/i] 85 minutes is more chore than fun, though it may be better if you watch it in 3-D (!), which the DVD gives you the option of doing.