1988’s Bloodstone comes off as pleasingly old-fashioned – fleeting side-boob excepted.”
By Rod Lott.
After 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark rolled over the competition and into the stratosphere of pop-culture consciousness, dozens of rip-offs followed. Some were imitations; others, parodies – and as far as I know, only Brett Stimely starred in one of each, both of which skipped American theaters. Of the two movies, the outright comedy, 1989’s Cannibal Women and the Avocado Jungle of Death, is better known than the more-or-less-straight one, 1988’s Bloodstone, but such is the power of Shannon Tweed.
With snakes, an exotic dinner, a set piece on a rope bridge and hot scimitar-on-scimitar action, Bloodstone obviously takes its cues from Raiders’ first sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Of course it’s an inferior work to Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, but to dismiss it outright is to deny oneself of pure pulp-paperback pleasure transported to the screen.
Respectively played by Stimely and Anna Nicholas, newlyweds Sandy and Stephanie McVey are headed to India for their honeymoon. En route on train, they’re befriended by the squatty, sweaty Mr. Lorre (the name cannot be accidental), who has stolen the titular bloodstone. Once owned by a 12th-century princess, the supposedly cursed yet highly prized ruby is as big as your hand – if your hand suffers from edema. To smuggle it into their destination city undetected, master thief Lorre (Jack Kehler, Lost Highway) slips the jewel in Stephanie’s tennis bag so he can steal it back later.
Because everyone and their baby elephant are looking for the bloodstone – including Van Hoeven (Christopher Neame, Licence to Kill), your standard villain of indiscriminate wealth – the McVeys find themselves in quite the pickle, with enough mistaken-identity bits to fuel an entire season of any ABC sitcom of the day. Stephanie is kidnapped by Van Hoeven, leaving ex-cop Sandy to join forces with a street-smart cabbie (Tamil cinema superstar Rajinikanth in his first English film) to find Lorre and the big, red rock so he can retrieve his brand-new wife.
All the while, an ineffectual police inspector is on the case, presumably for Clouseau-esque comic relief. Whether dealing with horses, hydrants, rice carts or a simple desk globe, the klutzy inspector leaves no prat unfallen. It wasn’t until after the film, when I watched the extras on Arrow Video’s Blu-ray, that I realized the part is played by Charlie Brill (Young Doctors in Love) – in other words, a Caucasian actor in brownface. Not going unnoticed during the film, however, was Sandy’s fear-of-other complaint that everyone in India “looks the same,” not to mention his cringe-inducing quips like “Play it again, Shyam.”
I did, however, laugh out loud at this exchange:
Van Hoeven: “Nice of you to drop in, Mr. McVee!”
Sandy: “The name is McVey.”
Van Hoeven: “‘But then, ‘What’s in a name?’ William Shakespeare.”
Sandy: “‘Fuck you!’ David Mamet.”
By now, you know Bloodstone is not to be confused with the same-named R&B quartet that hit big with “Natural High.” (That Bloodstone movie is 1975’s ill-fated Train Ride to Hollywood.) But don’t think this Bloodstone lacks soul. In fact, it has wall-to-wall Soul, as in Starsky & Hutch star David Soul; as producer Nico Mastorakis reveals on the Blu-ray’s half-hour interview, he called on Soul, his neighbor, to dub Stimely’s “problem” voice. Ironically, on first glance, Stimely looks like Sam J. Jones, whose first film lead role, Flash Gordon, also was dubbed.
While Stimely is a himbo cypher as Sandy, Nicholas displays considerable snark and spunk as spouse Stephanie. Unfortunately, her headstrong act as a country-club Karen Allen denigrates into a helpless Kate Capshaw one as she is shoved aside for most of the second half to play hostage. This is to the picture’s detriment, although it’s to the picture’s benefit that Rajinikanth earns a promotion to co-lead in the process; he effortlessly delivers, bringing to the picture all the charm that Stimely lacks. (Your honor, let the record show that Stimely since has found it, having gone on to play JFK in no fewer than four films – at press time – from Zach Snyder’s Watchmen to Michael Bay’s Transformers: Something or Other.)
In the director’s chair, Dwight H. Little (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, also from 1988) reliably wrangles – rather than crafts – an overly ambitious picture with competence, if no discernible style. Full of GIF-able moments, Bloodstone comes off as pleasingly old-fashioned – fleeting side-boob excepted. Its adventure was and is no threat to that one archeologist in the fedora, but it deserved a fairer shot than Cannon’s less-than-rousing Allan Quatermain twofer.
Rod Lott runs the genre film website FlickAttack.com from Oklahoma City. A former professional journalist whose film criticism and features were named his state’s best for three years, he has written for Psychotronic Video, Something Weird Video and numerous books.