In the South American country of Corteguay in 1945, an event occurred which would shape the rest of young Dax Xenos's life. He was the son of an influential diplomat (Fernando Rey), living out in the family mansion in the rolling hills of the countryside, often playing with his pet dog, but one day when they were skipping around the pooch was shot dead; Dax looked up and was horrified to see many soldiers on horseback bearing down on him from the brow of a nearby hill. He made it into the mansion grounds just in time, but the soldiers would not be deterred and smashed down the gates, then broke into the cellar where the boy and his family, plus maidservants, were hiding. They raped and murdered them all, with only Dax able to escape - why had this atrocity happened?
Which was a question many audiences were asking about the would-be blockbuster that was the opening sequence to, one which became a notorious flop, though it largely lost money thanks to how expensive it was as the public were curious to see if the movie was as terrible as its low reputation. Could anything be quite as bad as how the media had painted this? The Adventurers was one of that curious breed, the megabudget trash flick based on a bestselling novel, a genre which had been around in nascent form for decades: just look at King's Row or Peyton Place for examples of pretty decent efforts drawn from thick, pulpy hit books which gained a measure of notoriety in their day.
But come the nineteen-seventies and the loosening of censorship, these works could be translated to the screen with much of their more lurid passages intact, something beginning with an equally contradictory conservative leer in Valley of the Dolls and continuing right up to Airport '79: The Concorde, which was not even a monster spawned from a book, proving a Frankenstein-like life had been unleashed on the world's cinemas. Once the eighties dawned television muscled in on the act, thus the miniseries was the new domain for such kitsch and the movies moved on aside from the occasional adaptation of something TV would not have touched, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, but there are movie buffs, let's be honest, bad movie buffs, who relish the excesses of this earlier period where film tried its hand at being grown up with material best suited for reading on the beach. And left there.
Still, at least the producers had a real heavyweight leading man to carry their movie: step forward Bekim Fehmiu! You're impressed, right? Well, you might have been if you were living in Eastern Europe in 1970 as he was a major star there, but his attempts to go global with this failed miserably and he was held up as the encapsulation of where director Lewis Gilbert was going wrong with a concoction that simply got away from everybody. It's not as if Fehmiu was backed up by amateurs, as there were many name actors in the ensemble cast, but Ernest Borgnine, playing loyal sidekick Fat Cat, derided this Harold Robbins adaptation as the worst experience he'd ever had making a movie in twenty years, something many of his colleagues might well have sympathised with. With a charisma vacuum as protagonist (poor Fehmiu spoke his lines phonetically, therefore didn't really know what he was saying), it didn't help that his character name sounded like "Dax's Anus" whenever anyone addressed him.
But it got worse: if you liked your movies terrible, there was way too much of The Adventurers to take in, lasting three hours and wearing down even the hardiest turkey fancier, that in spite of such passing lunacies as a fashion show scored to a rockin', vibrato-led Family number which doubled as a dance display because, er, why not? They were throwing everything in here. Love interest Candice Bergen was offered cinema's funniest miscarriage as she flies off a too-enthusiastically-swung swing in another WTF? bit which turns her into a chainsmoking lesbian (this may not be scientific), Olivia de Havilland has to react very slowly to the only joke in the movie as Dax's frustrated oil baron's wife benefactor, and Charles Aznavour is locked up in his own torture chamber which looks like something out of Barbarella. It would be stupefying in its bad taste if it hadn't been so crushingly boring, as its faith in made up South American politics was far outweighed by the tedium, not even frequent machine gun massacres helped. Yet you couldn't look away: it was monumental in its ill judgement. Music by Antonio Carlos Jobim.