Saturday, February 11, 2012

Revenge of the Stolen Stars (1986)

In the year 2000 I was working for a shady distributor in Stockholm. Or working might be a exaggeration, I got no pay and slept on a foldable bed in his office. Yeah, I was young and stupid and had nothing else going on anyway.  This distributor was also an ex-producer and he invested money in such classics as the huge flop The Hills Have Eyes part II, The Ninja Mission (the movie that more or less created New Line Cinema) and maybe most important, Ulli Lommel's The Devonsville Terror. I like that one, and I think it's one of Lommel's few really good American movies. 

Anyway, one day Ulli Lommel showed up at the office together with his girlfriend. He looked like someone directly from a film noir with a long coat and a hat down over his eyes. We chatted a little bit, nice guy and he was obviously there either to sell some movie rights to the distributor or trying to find money to make The Boogeyman 3 (I still have the script somewhere in my basement). He later met a friend of mine, asked if someone sold weed in Stockholm and the girlfriend who claimed to be a lawyer turned out to be a secretary to a lawyer. Lommel is an odd man, but my respect for him as a person has always been bigger than my respect for his movies. He do what he want to do and ignores what the critics say. In the interview on the DVD of Revenge of the Stolen Stars he's honest and radical and reminded me of what an interesting man and filmmaker he really is deep inside.

Revenge of the Stolen Stars is the result of Lommel being forced to make a third movie for a company. They wanted a movie like Romancing the Stone, and Ulli hated that. So he gave them what they asked for, but took the time to ridicule the genre and some of his old movies at the same time.  Like he says himself, "I'm kinda self-destructive", so he just didn't care how the movie turned out in the end. The biggest mistake was to hire Klaus Kinski to play an important character. Tricked by Kinski's agent that the actor had calmed down over the years and Kinski's behaviour at their first meeting fooled Lommel, but chaos started directly on the first day with good old Klaus acting like a madman, demanding to shoot each angle in a different position, refusing to have lights aimed at his face, couldn't stand the presence of the boom operator etc etc. Lommel and his crew shot everything they needed with Kinski in 30 hours and got rid of him after that.

The shooting was a disaster, the budget was low and the script turned to ashes after Kinski's decision to rewrite every scene he was in, but still there's an interesting atmosphere in the movie. I'm sure Lommel knew exactly what he did. This is very far from Romancing the Stone or Indiana Jones. The budget was too low to shoot action scenes with and it could never have that expensive, gorgeous look that an adventure movie should have. What we have here is instead something similar to the old serials, Sax Rohmer or hell, yeah even the noirish jungle adventures from the forties The characters, especially the bad guys, are cartoonish and over-the-top, there's funny European accents and shadows of slow-moving fans playing games on the walls. Lommel decided to fuck Hollywood once again and make something much more interesting. If you turn of the colour on the TV while watching Revenge of the Stolen Stars you can almost imagine Sydney Greenstreet sitting an puffing on a cigar, dressed in a white cotton suit and plotting evil schemes to finally get rid of Humphrey Bogart.

To be fair, Revenge of the Stole Stars is quite entertaining. Don't expect anything big and spectacular. Most of the actors are quite OK and Barry Hickey is likable hero with good comic timing and Suzanna Love is surprisingly good in the scene where she pretends to be a man! The scenes with Kinski feels chaotic and out of place, but worth the cost for the whole DVD.


Hans A. said...

I've always admire Lommel, as well. He's a faschinating man to hear interview. I wish he would write a book.

The Lommel/Love films are some of my complete favorites, like this one and Olivia.

Great writing, as usual.

Ninja Dixon said...

Thank you Hans!

Yeah, I would buy it if he wrote a book. Would love to hear his escapades from Fassbinder to SOV horror nowadays :)

Anonymous said...

Entertaining anecdote....however you mean cap/hat and not "cat over his eyes"..?

Also what happened to the shady distributor?

Ninja Dixon said...

Lol! Thanks for the correction, now it's hat - as it should be!

Well, the shady distributor is still working. He's (I think) one of the owners of the worst DVD company in Sweden now. 'Nuff said!