Here’s a brief history lesson …
In the mid-1950’s, movie producers were growing very concerned over the development of television. If folks could have their entertainment diet satisfied without ever having to leave those four walls, then what was going to happen to the movie houses? Hoping they could deliver viewers with something a bit different, they began experiment with 3D filmmaking. Some great genre titles (and beyond) came out of the era, but inevitably it grew a bit too expensive to last as movie theaters would need to be outfitting with the technological innovations to truly grow the business. So, the craze eventually died out.
Then in the early 1980’s, home video became all the rage. Once more, the megaplexes were being ‘threatened’ with extinction – regular folks could simply drive to the corner grocery store, plunk down 99 cents, and go home with a video, leaving a whole lot of empty theater seats with no butts in them. Once more, studios flirted with 3D techniques and storytelling, but – as fate would have it – no production company could come up with a foolproof means of using existing projection technology (over the long haul) to make it likely for theaters to invest and see any chance of an immediate return.
Finally, storyteller James Cameron helped pioneer something that solved many of the technological and cost issues. His Avatar (2009) truly became a flick that stood at the forefront of an all-new wave of 3D features … and that pretty much gets us to where we are at present.
But about the 1980’s?
Star Tony Anthony had a dream: he had seen 3D work on screen, and he wanted to deliver it in a big way unlike anything audiences had seen before. Thus, he set out not so much to just make a film: he wanted to make the definitive 3D experience of that age. It took some serious time and some very serious investment, but eventually he helped to bring Treasure Of The Four Crowns (1983) to life. Sadly, the industry failed him: the film’s box office was solid, but audience reaction showed that the opportunity was there in a way that caught the attention of industry movers and shakers. Had decisions gone another way? Well, then the film he made might be better remembered than it is today.
From the product packaging:
“When a set of mystical artifacts falls into the hands of a diabolical cult leader with plans for world domination, it’s up to the devil-may-care J.T. Striker to reclaim them. Together with a ragtag team of mercenaries, Striker must battle terrifying natural – and supernatural – enemies within a fortress-like temple where the stakes may be nothing less than the balance between good and evil.”
To put this as politely and succinctly as I can, Treasure is a film whose plot doesn’t always make sense.
Things happen, yes. Consistently, too. But the writers are a bit light on why exactly. Oh, there’s a curse and a bit of magic hinted at here and there, but largely what takes place does so as the script was built chiefly to exploit the 3D craze of the era and this project. Conceived by Mark Carliner and Douglas Lloyd McIntosh, the desire here is, essentially, to give our rather bland globe-trotting lead – J.T. Striker (Tony Anthony) – some fortune and glory to aspire to, and apparently the best the pair could come up with would involve treasure hunting not unlike the kind that drew audiences to intrepid archaeologist Indiana Jones. Clearly, Carliner and McIntosh drew on the George Lucas and Steven Spielberg collaboration as much of their twenty-minute opening sequence are damn near direct homages to scenes and ideas lifted from Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981).
Well … if you’re gonna steal, then why not steal from the best?
Alas, the problems don’t stop there.
While Tony Anthony is certainly a capable actor and does an affable job with the action here, he lacks any real screen charm, looking more like a big city dentist than he does a globe trotter. While Dr. Jones went into his adventures in a weathered leather jacket and fedora, the best J.T. Striker could afford were some cream-colored pants and a red ski parka with pockets even on the ass panels. (???) As a protagonist, his antagonist really isn’t much of an adversary: Emiliano Redondo certainly looks the part of ‘Brother Jonas,’ but the only real evil the script shows audiences is the man’s scheming willingness to dupe the young newcomers to his cult about his alleged powers of healing. (Hint: they’re fake, and he and his collaborator give it away in one of the screen’s most obvious winks.) Dr. Jones fought the Nazis; Striker took a stand against some reclusive Hare Krishnas.
Treasure Of The Four Crowns (1983) was produced by Lupo-Anthony-Quintano Productions, Blum Group, and JAD Films International Inc. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated via the reliable Kino Lorber. As for the technical specifications? Well … the film largely looks and sounds very good – in particular, the sound levels were a bit funky in a few locations, so my uneducated guess would be that this restoration’s shortcomings are likely owed to flaws of the master. Also, there a few sequences wildly out-of-focus, and I’d also point in the direction of a flawed negative, perhaps flawed in the original production.
As for the special features?
Erm … well, again, I’m no big fan of audio commentaries that really don’t explore the film, and Jason Pichonsky’s track – while informative – spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the history of 3D and its various processes, leaving this feature mostly untouched directly … so I found it a bit of a miss. However, the disc also boasts a great audio interview with Anthony hosted by filmmaker Douglas Hosdale, and it’s a great 40+ experience I suspect fans will enjoy. Anthony details some of what he went through to bring the project to life, even discussing how the eventually failure to secure legitimate distribution of the flick brought about his abrupt retirement from acting. Lastly, the product allows you to choose watching the film with an enclosed pair of glasses or in traditional 2D; I did both, and I’m glad I did as some of the effects were more tiring than exhilarating.
Recommended but I’ll admit that I found a few sequences within Treasure Of The Four Crowns to be more than a bit confusing. Also having lived through the 3D craze of the 1980’s and emerged really not all that impressed with it, I’ve little to no personal attachment to it … but I’ll admit to finding it gloriously excessive in enough places to have sat through it a few times. Producer and star Tony Anthony clearly intended to make what he thought would be one of the most incredible 3D flicks of its time, and – on that front – he succeeds to a degree, though the occasionally loony plot point no doubt encourages some unplanned laughter as well. When the technique (3D) is the story, then you’re going to encounter problems at some point, and this one still has issues.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Kino Lorber provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray (SuperVision 3D) of Treasure Of The Four Crowns by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.