Total Recall

Total Recall: A Treasure Trove of Cinematic Gold

Fool's Gold and other valuable movies: Romancing the Stone, Time Bandits, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

by | February 6, 2008 | Comments

Fool’s Gold hits theaters in wide release on Friday.  Helmed by veteran rom-com director Andy Tennant (Ever After, Hitch), this fortune-seeking adventure reunites Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, who starred together in 2003’s How toLose a Guy in 10 Days (42 percent).  Critics so far haven’t embraced the perfectly bronzed duo’s efforts to retrieve sunken treasure, but if Fool’s Gold turns out to be a diamond in the rough, it would be a pretty silver lining to look forward to.  Too much bling for one sentence?  Nah…

This week we’ll be looking at three films that provide three unique perspectives on the familiar theme of treasure hunting.  Typically characterized by swashbuckling heroes, exotic locales, and an element of mystery, these adventures tend to have a high fun factor and, even at their weakest, succeed at least in appealing to our natural curiosity.

Back in 1981, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas introduced the world to Indiana Jones, archaeology professor by day and retriever of precious artifacts on holiday weekends.  It rocked the box office and spawned a number of clones, including a couple of Allan Quatermain flicks, both National Treasure films, the Mummy series, and even a pair of original Turner Network movies about a librarian.  But one of the first successful copies was a comedic romp through Colombia called Romancing theStone (84 percent), directed by Robert Zemeckis.

The story is relatively straightforward: romance novel writer Joan Wilder’s (Kathleen Turner) sister gets into trouble with some unsavory Colombians, and on her way to exchange a treasure map for her sister, the timid author meets Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas), recluse-cum-aviculturist-cum-fortune finder.  Colton and Wilder butt heads (and ultimately bump uglies) as they follow the map to a giant emerald, fleeing competing parties all the way.

If you’re popping in Romancing for the first time, it may initially feel a bit dated.  The music, the canned gunshots, the wardrobe; all of it is distinctly and unabashedly stuck in the 1980s.  The production is big and bold, from the over-the-top silliness to Michael Douglas’s forehead, and the clichés will come at you so fast, you’ll hardly detect the smell of cheese before a hulking slab of cinematic Velveeta floors you with a blow to your aesthetic sensibilities.  But stick with it, and you’ll come to realize that this is part of the fun of the movie, which never takes itself too seriously in its efforts to entertain.  Turner and Douglas work well on screen together, and there are twists, turns, pitfalls, chases, and explosions aplenty to qualify it as a solid adventure flick.  As Christopher Null of wrote, “Few films that have arrived since have captured Stone’s enthusiasm and good-naturedness.”

Take the wayback machine 20 years earlier and you’ll stumble upon the time of the Spaghetti Western, consisting of classic western films that were produced by Italian studios (who could have reckoned that?). Sergio Leone was the undisputed king of the genre, working repeatedly with Clint Eastwood, and the two of them in 1966 brought us The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (100 percent), now considered not only a monumental achievement in the western genre, but also one of the most influential films ever made.

The concept of treasure hunting isn’t foreign to westerns, be it in the form of tracking bounties, panning for gold, or gallivanting around in your average X-marks-the-spot caper.  More the latter of the three but far from “average,” the story here involves The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood, the “Good”), Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef, the “Bad”), and Tuco (Eli Wallach, the “Ugly”), three Civil War-era gunslingers who distrust each other but must work together to secure a buried cache of stolen Confederate gold. When the opening credits roll, you’ll immediately recognize the film’s score; it’s the same coyote-like melody synonymous with western duels, whether found in Looney Toons shorts or ads for weedkiller, and it’s indicative of exactly how
influential The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has been.

Leone takes his time crafting each of the characters and their relationships, and the resulting tension is thick, sweaty, and unnerving, much like I am on a typical day.  But he also throws in some comic elements, mostly at the expense of Tuco, and effectively intertwines the backdrop of the Civil War to move the story along.  The race to the prize culminates in a Mexican standoff (before they became cliché), and Leone doesn’t disappoint with the outcome.  The film is a classic and highly watchable for western buffs and movie lovers alike; as Michael Wilmington wrote for the Chicago Tribune, it is “an improbable masterpiece — a bizarre mixture of grandly operatic visuals, grim brutality and sordid violence that keeps wrenching you from one extreme to the other.”

Lastly, we jump back to the 1980s, when Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam put a creative yet bizarre twist on the traditional treasure hunt.  Forget the tumbleweeds and corrals, screw the pirate ships and wooden chests; when Terry Gilliam creates a sprawling adventure, it sprawls across space and time.  At least, that’s what he did with 1982’s Time Bandits
(94 percent), the first of three highly imaginative and visually remarkable films Gilliam made in the era, the other two being Brazil (97 percent) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (86 percent).

Time Bandits’ plot: dwarf thieves who zip through time and loot some of history’s greatest figures.  The aforementioned dwarves, employed by a “Supreme Being,” are commissioned to repair various holes in the fabric of time, utilizing a unique map of the universe.  Due to a labor dispute, however, the dwarves decide to use the map to their own advantage, picking up a child companion along the way and jumping through time to rob the likes of Napoleon (Ian Holm) and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery).  Enter the embodiment of Evil (David Warner), who wants the power of the map to recreate the world, and pretty soon you’ve got man-pigs running around and ogres with back problems trying to devour our anti-heroes.

If nothing else, this movie is a fun ride because it offers a glimpse into the bizarre mind of Gilliam himself, who also co-wrote the film. The scenes are often awkward but hilarious, and with further cameos from a young Jim Broadbent and other Monty Python members, it definitely delivers on its promise of pure gold. “For a kids film this is pleasingly dark with Gilliam delivering as much
classical fairy tale as knockabout comedy,” wrote Ian Freer of Empire Magazine.


The promise of instant wealth and the power of greed always make for compelling stories, and when the objects of said greed are (in)conveniently located at the furthest reaches of the planet (and time), you not only have a compelling story, you’ve probably also got a pretty entertaining movie.  For more takes on adventuresome endeavors, see The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (100 percent), The Goonies (63 percent), the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and for some deliciously bad fun, Firewalker (zero percent).

Tag Cloud

Music 20th Century Fox Indigenous Tubi Rom-Com trophy 24 frames heist movie Nickelodeon GLAAD Cartoon Network The Purge Academy Awards NBC Polls and Games comics jamie lee curtis VOD stoner Oscar movie Year in Review Sundance Family marvel comics USA YouTube Red TBS posters Superheroe technology interviews cancelled scene in color series Hallmark Christmas movies action-comedy Tags: Comedy TCA Awards hollywood tv talk target GIFs Vudu CNN 2020 Brie Larson IFC Pacific Islander Adult Swim Comic-Con@Home 2021 Best Actor summer preview robots casting Reality Kids & Family latino concert twilight Mudbound LGBTQ Mary poppins elevated horror VICE popular festival The Walking Dead comic scary movies kong APB golden globes video telelvision toy story hispanic Ovation spider-man See It Skip It news slasher Disney spain Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TCA Mindy Kaling south america 2018 crime Crunchyroll facebook CMT anthology prank scary ABC Signature ITV football king kong asian-american Sony legend spider-verse royal family Marathons streamig parents Animation live event 90s reviews chucky YouTube kaiju Mary Tyler Moore Tumblr Hollywood Foreign Press Association cars Musical First Look boxing 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards cults lord of the rings Spectrum Originals films spy thriller supernatural women Ghostbusters Trivia japanese richard e. Grant Opinion cancelled television composers CBS All Access video on demand archives festivals 2017 fast and furious series Certified Fresh Awards Tour Alien BET Awards batman Captain marvel ABC Apple Paramount Pictures binge Food Network Holidays 45 Paramount young adult Sundance Now stop motion Schedule dramedy fresh Photos quibi Disney+ Disney Plus X-Men Super Bowl dragons witnail Christmas History streaming Biopics 2021 police drama Emmys 1990s The Arrangement Comics on TV crime thriller summer TV independent A&E rotten movies we love james bond Song of Ice and Fire Best Picture GoT Writers Guild of America Anna Paquin crime drama debate BET classics satire based on movie 21st Century Fox Geeked Week cats TIFF romance TruTV Mary Poppins Returns Fargo Prime Video OneApp YouTube Premium Musicals Masterpiece Pet Sematary Peacock rom-coms zombie 73rd Emmy Awards child's play zombies dc Neflix Heroines Extras Fox Searchlight Calendar TV Endgame PaleyFest President Disney Plus joker broadcast Disney Channel Ellie Kemper MTV Rocky Horror biopic Stephen King talk show Martial Arts zero dark thirty Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cancelled TV series dreamworks serial killer WGN E! obituary critic resources The Witch rt labs critics edition game show Acorn TV thriller mockumentary free movies Grammys Fall TV scene in color film series strong female leads Star Trek foreign Walt Disney Pictures ESPN children's TV PlayStation trailers target scene in color psychological thriller Syfy comic book movie versus australia nature aliens Nat Geo Star Wars Celebration Dark Horse Comics comiccon Election documentaries Winners reboot Film Amazon Prime BBC One USA Network 2015 science fiction blaxploitation Universal cartoon screenings Television Critics Association Premiere Dates sitcom HFPA E3 halloween screen actors guild Quiz teaser crossover Nominations superhero Hallmark RT21 blockbusters Crackle Emmy Nominations adaptation ID Exclusive Video sports Star Wars true crime 71st Emmy Awards vs. MGM medical drama Toys Best and Worst Starz VH1 Paramount Network Character Guide french AMC Plus Sony Pictures Lionsgate christmas movies laika Pixar TCA Winter 2020 Discovery Channel 72 Emmy Awards best book adaptation CBS BBC America movies worst a nightmare on elm street summer TV preview Tomatazos 4/20 93rd Oscars National Geographic Hulu sequel dark Country HBO Go Native 2016 Lucasfilm award winner black comedy 94th Oscars Awards nfl basketball singing competition Countdown Mystery SDCC natural history IFC Films Pirates scorecard venice game of thrones sequels RT History TCA 2017 Rock Oscars Trophy Talk marvel cinematic universe franchise rt archives Spring TV Black Mirror cops Thanksgiving name the review DirecTV Shondaland NBA genre politics Hear Us Out diversity Video Games olympics Superheroes Sneak Peek revenge what to watch high school justice league criterion feel good green book Marvel Studios Broadway Shudder Interview American Society of Cinematographers Arrowverse cinemax saw television art house Television Academy Travel Channel TV One ABC Family worst movies AMC Columbia Pictures WarnerMedia cancelled TV shows superman emmy awards gangster Cosplay OWN comic books anime wonder woman renewed TV shows SundanceTV TCM Amazon Classic Film canceled TV shows The Walt Disney Company finale FOX doctor who scene in color Tokyo Olympics Creative Arts Emmys dexter live action Comic Book DC Universe dceu Black History Month MSNBC die hard Showtime japan breaking bad suspense razzies new zealand indiana jones Red Carpet DC Comics cooking Lifetime psycho Binge Guide jurassic park Baby Yoda Britbox TV movies Funimation A24 indie Comedy Netflix YA Avengers Elton John Infographic TLC hispanic heritage month adenture ViacomCBS Podcast FXX Spike leaderboard pirates of the caribbean Film Festival 007 know your critic Amazon Prime Video Sci-Fi king arthur sopranos Pride Month Pop Summer theme song rt labs nbcuniversal book PBS docuseries period drama monster movies Reality Competition ghosts TV Land Chernobyl all-time Comedy Central IMDb TV historical drama blockbuster mission: impossible First Reviews Epix Sundance TV FX on Hulu Watching Series 79th Golden Globes Awards universal monsters Winter TV canceled Rocketman SXSW MCU docudrama aapi mcc italian HBO TNT Universal Pictures Western Valentine's Day El Rey Holiday dogs LGBT vampires Focus Features Netflix Christmas movies Logo halloween tv CW Seed slashers deadpool FX space NYCC Cannes romantic comedy mutant Apple TV+ miniseries stand-up comedy remakes BBC spanish language disaster transformers Marvel Television harry potter Paramount Plus Women's History Month new york Esquire SXSW 2022 black streaming movies Lifetime Christmas movies unscripted Teen godzilla Best Actress Best Director Wes Anderson Amazon Studios documentary comic book movies golden globe awards DC streaming service kids sag awards Fox News Turner Classic Movies Set visit Instagram Live social media The Academy Box Office directors Bravo Fantasy spinoff BAFTA new star wars movies Pop TV hidden camera boxoffice spanish Freeform Trailer discovery Image Comics 2019 Marvel TV renewals comedies New York Comic Con Drama hist Disney streaming service travel werewolf rotten adventure The CW animated HBO Max Action Warner Bros. 99% biography toronto Legendary South by Southwest Film Festival war Tarantino ratings obi wan critics international Apple TV Plus San Diego Comic-Con Turner DGA mob political drama