A drunken deer hunter, his pilot colleague and his daughter compete with a villainous treasure hunter to reach a lake nestled among the mountains of New Zealand, where a WWII-era plane wreck... Read allA drunken deer hunter, his pilot colleague and his daughter compete with a villainous treasure hunter to reach a lake nestled among the mountains of New Zealand, where a WWII-era plane wreck carrying a fortune in gold is submerged.A drunken deer hunter, his pilot colleague and his daughter compete with a villainous treasure hunter to reach a lake nestled among the mountains of New Zealand, where a WWII-era plane wreck carrying a fortune in gold is submerged.
Anyway, The Race for the Yankee Zephyr is a film that just doesn't work. That's a shame, too, since the film has a terrific opening and a generally interesting plot. Ultimitely the production values are just too low and the action just too sparse for this New Zealand adventure to deliver the goods. The story deals with a US war plane which is filled with gold, money, and medals, which crashes into a lake in New Zealand during WWII. The plane remains lost for about forty years or so until it somehow washes ashore and a drunk (Pleasence) literally stumbles onto it. At first he gathers up all the purple heart medals and tries to sell them in town, actually getting $75 apiece for them! Little does he know that once he sells them, the local jeweler gets on the phone and starts trying to track down info about the plane. Before you can blink, all of the attention brings a wealthy scumbag (Peppard) and his henchmen into town and they quickly try to force the old guy to give up the location of the plane since they know there is much more on it than just medals. The old drunk's business partner (Wahl) and his daughter (Warren) then race out to try and claim the fortune before the bad guys can get to it. The resulting action just isn't as fun as you'd hope it would be.
The acting is rather awful, save for Pleasence. George Peppard tries to do some kind of (I guess) Austrailian accent, but it is hardly convincing. Lesley Ann Warren isn't too bad, but Ken Wahl is really bad. He's basically doing his best impression of Michael Pare on his worst day. And that's saying something. Hopefully he made enough money on this film to fix his front teeth which looked a bit crooked. I don't recall if he'd had them straightened by the time he was in Wiseguy. The rest of the cast are pretty untalented. Probably mostly locals who never did much else. I guess the biggest problems for me were the lack of action for much of the film, and the lack of danger. The villains are just too nice and goofy to be taken seriously. And honestly, there are NO helicopters in the film that look like the ones on the DVD cover. And none of the boats in the film have teeth painted on them, either.
The film does have its strengths, though. The beginning which starts off as a newsreel and then becomes part of the story was a nice touch. Brian May's score sounds a little too much like the one in Mad Max 2, but he included a nice little march they play for Pleasence in some scenes. Sounds just like the one in the Great Escape! There are some neat helicopter stunts and a great boat chase that apparently killed three stunt men during filming. The scenery, despite the grainy look of the picture, is still quite beautiful. The thing you'll remember most is the drunken antics of Donald Pleasence, though. He was almost enough to save this film. Almost. 4 of 10 stars.
- Jun 23, 2012