Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cult Movie Trash: TOP LINE (1988)

(Italy, 1988)

Directed by Nello Rossati. Written by Roberto Gianviti, Nello Rossati.  Cast: Franco Nero, Deborah Barrymore (Deborah Moore), Mary Stavin, William Berger, Larry Dolgin, Rodrigo Obregon, Steven Luotto, Shirley Hernandez, Robert Redcross, e con la partecipazione straordinaria di George Kennedy. (Unrated, 88 mins)

It can't be easy to take a story that blends INDIANA JONES adventure, Nazi war criminals, secret gold treasures, UFOs, Spanish conquistadors, government conspiracies, Cold War espionage, badly-staged bullfighting, angry cyborgs, and barfing aliens and make it this incredibly boring, but Nello Rossati's TOP LINE is an almost total snooze.  Rossati, who had just done 1987's DJANGO STRIKES AGAIN, the first official sequel to Sergio Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti western classic, reunites with that film's star, the iconic Franco Nero, who can normally make anything interesting, but TOP LINE (also known as ALIEN TERMINATOR) finds everyone on an off day.

(SPOILERS follow)

Boozing, washed-up author Ted Angelo (Nero) is aimlessly idling about in Cartagena in a drunken haze when he inadvertantly stumbles on the trail of some secret gold treasure hidden in a cave.  He's informed by his pal Alonso (Eurocult stalwart William Berger) that it's Nazi gold and wouldn't you know it...Alonso mysteriously turns up dead the next day.  Proceeding with his investigation, Ted finds the gold, but also discovers a UFO in the cave, and then is almost killed by cackling Nazi war criminal-in-hiding Heinrich Holzmann (George Kennedy...yes, THAT George Kennedy), who nearly runs Ted down in his car and ends up forcing him to run barefoot through a cactus field before Ted ends up suffocating him by dumping a ton of sand on top of him.

"Yes, uh, Mr. Kennedy is here to see his agent."

Ted thinks that the UFO abducted a ship of Spanish conquistadors and their gold, but there's more to it, as the US government sends assassins to off Ted, and even the KGB is involved through their secret dealings with Holzmann.  Ted ends up on the run with June (Deborah Moore--Roger Moore's daughter--but she's billed as "Deborah Barrymore"), who's sent to check on him by his ex-wife Maureen (Mary Stavin), who happens to be his publisher.  The draggy film, little more than a Colombian travelogue with a maddeningly senseless, made-up-as-it-goes-along plot, finally lets the crazy break out with the late-in-the-game arrival of a pissed-off cyborg (Andy Sidaris regular Rodrigo Obregon) that immediately fries its face after accidentally igniting a fireworks display and ends up getting gored by a bull in a hilarious chain of events that has to be seen to be believed.  But it gets better!  After thinking they've fled to safety on Maureen's boat, Ted and June find an even greater evil when Maureen transforms into a gooey, slime-drenched, EXORCIST-green-puking alien that whips its long tongue around Ted's neck and says "You still taste good."  Ted is understandably appalled that his ex-wife has been a reptilian extraterrestrial this whole time, but according to "Maureen," so has nearly everyone.  "We've been here for 12,000 years," she/it explains.  "We are in every position of power on this planet!"

And he thought she was a bitch before?
It's an imaginative THEY LIVE-style twist that arrives far too late to really be effective.  TOP LINE has such a deliriously batshit closing 20 minutes that you be fooled into thinking it's more entertaining film than it really is.  It's mostly awful, and the first 70 or so minutes are an absolute chore to endure.  Easily one of Nero's least distinguished Italian efforts (DJANGO STRIKES AGAIN wasn't very good, either), but he'd find his way into a co-starring role in DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER in a couple of years.  The biggest surprise here is the partecipazione straordinaria di COOL HAND LUKE Oscar-winner Kennedy, in one of eight films he made in 1988 (did he really make this and DEMONWARP the same year he was in THE NAKED GUN?).  With his brief two-scene role in TOP LINE (he's killed off less than halfway through), Kennedy joins the esteemed--and possibly blackmailed--likes of Henry Fonda in Ovidio Assonitis' TENTACLES (1977), Richard Harris in Bruno Mattei's STRIKE COMMANDO 2 (1988), and Brian Dennehy in Antonio Margheriti's INDIO (1989) in the "WTF is he/she doing in this?!" Italian Exploitation Hall of Fame.  The veteran actor couldn't have been on the set for more than a couple of days, and likely took the job for a free trip to a Colombian resort.  He didn't even stick around long enough to dub himself, and for an actor as recognizable as George Kennedy, being dubbed by a high-pitched, subpar Col. Klink-esque voice is distracting, to say the least.

Rodrigo Obregon!

Not surprisingly, the abysmal TOP LINE, made in the waning days of the Italian trash cinema heyday, never made it into US theaters, nor was it even given a VHS release.  Its only US DVD release has been on a couple of those Mill Creek "50 Sci-Fi Classics" sets that you find at Best Buy or Wal-Mart for $10 or less, filled with public domain titles in mostly subpar, VHS-quality transfers.  You can actually find some occasional diamonds in the rough on those things, but the ironically-titled TOP LINE is most definitely not.

1 comment:

  1. Good review. Love Nero and Kennedy. This looks like a pretty odd movie, will have to find the Mill Creek dvd.