Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Masks of Evil – review

dvd setDirectors: Mike Newell & Dick Maas

Release date: 1999

Contains spoilers

Years before capturing a vampire in The Insatiable Sean Patrick Flanery was young Indiana Jones and this was a feature length composed of two separate episodes. In the first, without any vampiric involvement, Indy is posing as Swedish reporter Nils Anderson in Istanbul whilst trying to contact a Turkish General with treaty terms from the French that they hope will entice him to break treaty with Germany. It is a well told, tense spy thriller with double agents.

Sean Patrick Flanery as IndyWhen it all goes horribly wrong Indy is sent by the French to the American agency in Venice and from there is asked to travel with Col. Walters (Keith Szarabajka, who was in made for TV vampire movie Nightlife) to investigate what occurred to a group of POWs ‘liberated’ from an Austro-Hungarian camp by a Romanian General Targo (Bob Peck) based in Transylvania. Note that in the time period represented Transylvania was actually part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was not part of Romania. Be that as it may…

the castleThree spies have been sent already and a finger, an eye and an ear of each has been returned with a warning to send no more spies. Off they go to meet their contacts, Dr Heinzer (Sam Kelly), Nicholas Hunyadi (Paul Kynman) and Maria (Simone Bendix). Maria was the lover of one of the missing spies, Picard (Steven Hartley). They scale the Carpathians and end up looking at a castle and, in a valley, a camp of POWs, all armed, of various (at war) nations and quite happy with each other.

the impaledThey decide to not investigate the POWs and head straight for the castle. There is a rather lame comedy moment of Indy scaling the walls whilst the others use the door. Within the castle courtyard they come across impaled persons and it is said that such an act has not happened since Vlad. Now, obviously, they refer to Vlad Tepes but one wonders why? Whilst born in Transylvania, Vlad ruled in Walachia and the locals would know this. Other than the bodies, the courtyard seems deserted.

ball lightningWhen they enter the castle, however, odd things start to happen. For instance ball lightning is drawn into a room, blowing through doors and windows. The one ball is joined by a second. Why? It is never explained. They find a room with the door handle burning hot to touch and, within that room, Maria seems to become possessed.

spontaneous human combustionBlood drips from the ceiling and Walters goes running up to the next floor. The room is covered in ice (for no adequately explored reason) and Walters seems to have been killed by spontaneous human combustion leaving only his charred feet. It is all too much for Nicholas and he is going to run away – that is until they find Targo. Targo asks if Jones (he knows his name somehow) is there to offer terms of allied surrender but Indy pulls a gun and has him take him to the missing spies.

that isn't wineThe three missing spies are in the castle and, other than removed body parts, seem no worse for wear. Indeed they are dressed for dinner and sharing a repast with German and French officers. When Marie runs to Picard, he is dismissive of her and she realises that he does not drink wine but blood. Heinzer proves to be a double agent and dies for his trouble. The three allies are captured and taken to Targo’s torture tower.

Vlad, I assumeYes, Targo is a vampire and, as well as having front fangs, he is incredibly strong. I have to say that I rather liked his look. Presumably all the phenomena we saw was due to him but that is never explained. He is creating a vampiric army to defend his homeland – it is clear they mean to suggest he is Vlad Tepes and so I remind the reader again that Transylvania was not where Vlad ruled. It is apparent that his army of the undead can stand sunlight (they saw the POWs in daylight).

staked at the crossroadsWhat was interesting was the way in which Indy had to despatch him. It followed causing Targo to fall from the tower (knocking him out, apparently, but not killing him). It was not just a stake through the heart that had to be used but a stake through the heart at a crossroads. I liked the idea of bringing the crossroads myth back into this.

his face appears in the smokeFollowing the staking he, after a minute or so, explodes but his face appears in the smoke. However it is apparent that they have dealt with him as all the POWs are now dead (or given peace).

This was silly. After a masterful (if non-vampiric) first half the second part of this was, quite frankly, bunkum. It was rushed, badly researched and had much too much unanswered within it. I will only score the vampire half of this (which is a shame because the non-vampire half warranted a much higher score). 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

Yeah, the word "Lame" seems more than appropriate here. My roommate is watching all of Young Indiana Jones in order, and honestly it isn't bad at all. But this one...well. Lame.

drawsumthincool said...

I agree with you review. The first half was awesome. But it does seem that it ran out of steam or money when they got to the end.

It was just all the more disappointing for such a overall well done series.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers guys... its almost as though they decided (by committee) that they had to do an obligatory vampire piece and then just slapdashed one together