Cinema simply doesn’t get less essential than Terry Marcel’s misbegotten adaptation of a WWII comic strip that harks back wistfully to the smoking-room misogyny of yesteryear. I’m currently embargoed from discussing the merits of the restored Flash Gordon, but vague interest in star Sam L Jones led me to this strange, neglected work, a sex-comedy that labours to appeal to voyeurs yet squirms pointlessly under the yoke of a family-friendly PG certificate.
Character names tell a story; Bond girl Maud Adams hams it up as spy Lola Pagoda, while Jones plays Jungle Jack Buck, an American adventurer who seeks to defy her and find a lost city for himself. In his mission, he’s aided by a crusty British colonel (Robin Bailey) and an assortment of comic characters, mainly Jasper Carrott. His name may be unfamiliar to American audiences, but Carrot was quite a comic success on UK television in the 80’s, and he goes full 70’s Peter Sellers by overplaying a number of deeply unfunny henchman characters here. Elsewhere, Graham Stark offers up some sub-Pink Panther mugging, and Elsa O’Toole makes for an odd RADA-accented jungle queen, but the whole enterprise endlessly pivots AND dies as it unwisely attempts to appeal to elderly men and kids alike.
Jane is supposedly the star here, and Kristen Hughes has the unenviable task of playing a buxom, innocent, Amazonian girl whose clothes fall off at every inopportune moment. Given that her wealth of cami-knickers and unrevealing undergarments make this a profoundly un-erotic spectacle, this is the weakest of titillation; wafflers about the male gaze will find much to discuss in the way that Jane’s feminine instincts are deflated by the constant accidental revelation of her sexuality. Meanwhile, the innuendo levels exhaust the patience of the viewer; “Oh, that is a big one,’ exclaims Jane when Jungle Jack Buck whips out his machete.
Jane and the Lost City is a terrible film, tatty despite exteriors filmed in Mauritius, over-acted, predatory in its attitude to women, and misguided if not openly racist in the portrayal of race and Africa. If nothing else, it’s worth a look to see how bad a major film can be. There’s something to be said for Marcel’s camp classics Hawk the Slayer and Prisoners of the Lost Universe, but not here; Jane and her lousy city should remain lost to all but the hardiest bad-movie aficionados.