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  Jane and the Lost City Comic Strip Off
Year: 1987
Director: Terry Marcel
Stars: Sam J. Jones, Maud Adams, Jasper Carrott, Kirsten Hughes, Graham Stark, Robin Bailey, Ian Roberts, Elsa O'Toole, John Rapley, Charles Comyn, Ian Steadman, Graham Armitage, Richard Huggett, Nic Potgieter, Andrew Buckland, Albert Raphael, James White
Genre: Comedy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1940, and in deepest Africa there has been a discovery that could alter the course of the Second World War, now a few months old. British explorers discovered a precious - and large - diamond purportedly from the mythical Lost City, and the legend goes there are plenty more where that came from. If the Brits managed to get hold of this cache before the Nazis, it could mean a huge boost to their war effort, but they do have to get there first, and as the explorers have expired for various reasons, it is decided a team must be despatched to exploit the situation. Which is how agent Jane (Kirsten Hughes) ends up joining the investigators on the journey to Africa...

Now, there had already been a film based on the adventures of Jane, called, er, The Adventures of Jane back in the late nineteen-forties, and even then that was a way past the original comic strip's heyday of the war, where it was a huge morale-booster for the British troops who loved to see the heroine in her accustomed state of undress. She was usually in her underwear, but creator Norman Pett would sometimes depict her starkers too, presumably much to the delight of our boys in the forces, though by the point this film was released in the late eighties, Jane was naked in just about every frame of the comic, published in a family newspaper, The Daily Mirror, to boot.

Call it that curious quirk of British tabloid newspapers that as time went by they never missed a trick to present ladies in states of undress, even the ones purporting to be respectable, but before the internet you had to take your entertainment where you found it, assuming you were too embarrassed to buy pornography. But where did this pornolisation of the media leave Jane and the Lost City, which under the direction of Terry Marcel was determined to stay suitable for all ages and never feature even a nanosecond of nudity? Looking very much past it, even in 1987 when it was released, and needing a major motive for the audience to seek it out other than the lead.

What he resorted to was a take-off on Raiders of the Lost Ark, as there had been a bunch of cinematic cash-ins since the massive impact of that Steven Spielberg blockbuster, including what this most resembled, the Cannon Alan Quartermain rip-offs starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. Except if anything, this was on an even lower budget, the money apparently having gone on plane tickets to Mauritius, and not anything like, say, a stunt or two that might have provided some spectacle - indeed, Marcel appeared to be doing his damnedest to avoid anything that would prove strenuous to either his cast or anyone who knew their way around a parachute jump or similar.

In a decidedly non-star-making turn, Hughes failed to get top billing ahead of former Flash Gordon Sam J. Jones who showed up some of the way in as vegetarian adventurer Jungle Jack, or the Nazi spider lady villainess Lola Pagola, Maud Adams, or even British club and TV comedian Jasper Carrott, the most bizarre item of casting. He and (to be fair) a number of other cast members were lumbered with shoddy German accents to play the bad guys, but Carrott made the cast of 'Allo 'Allo sound like Maximilian Schell compared to what he was strangulating in the name of Teutonic tones, and the fact he was playing triplets - sadistic triplets, at that - only trebled the discomfort. Yes, the other two brothers were offed in one scene each, but as he had made his name as a pretty decent topical commentator in his television series, it was downright odd to witness this tone-deaf style.

Not that anyone else was exactly covering themselves in glory, with old pros Robin Bailey as the Colonel in charge of the mission and Graham Stark as the butler probably the least embarrassing, as they had some idea of how to play some very weak material. Although that said, once the Leopard Queen arrived on the scene, essayed by little-known Elsa O'Toole, here was a case of a film that had long since turned into a slog suddenly brightening by a few degrees, since she had a lightness of touch and good humour to perform in a manner that made you wish she had been in a better production, for she stole the show. Alas, Hughes was attractive enough, but while Jane was not Lady Macbeth in terms of thespian challenges, her terrible polite protagonist was simply bland when everyone else was given the heavy lifting to do, leaving her to have her dress coyly stripped off at regular intervals in a manner suggesting nobody was wholly at ease with the concept. Music by Harry Robertson, whose theme song sounded suspiciously like a watered-down version of the TV series Jane's theme, the Glynis Barber one.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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