The 3D Canon oddity crosses ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ with a heist film.
Treasure of the Four Crowns is the second and last 3D collaboration from American actor Tony Anthony and Italian director Ferdinando Baldi. The legend goes that after a screening of the 3D kung-fu epic Dynasty, Anthony got the 3D bug and went so far as to dump millions of his own cash into developing his own 3D system that the pair debuted with their spaghetti Western Comin’ at Ya!. Prioritizing gags over story, Comin’ at Ya! is probably most notable for being one of the first films Alamo Drafthouse handpicked for their boutique label Drafthouse Films back in 2011. A new restoration was promised in stereoscopic 3D, but alleged creative differences resulted in the label never releasing the title. The version that eventually came out (via another label) was heavily altered, taking the film into more of a Kill Bill or Sin City direction, with contemporary filters and editing that really hurt the original spirit of the film.
The gags over story approach carried over to the pair’s next film, the Canon released Treasure of the Four Crowns (1983), which capitalized on the popularity of Raiders of the Lost Ark and combined the adventure premise with the makings of a heist film. The film hits Blu-ray this week thanks to Kino Lorder and the 3D Archive, who are rescuing these lost 3D works and restoring and preserving them for posterity. The film stars producer and writer Tony Anthony as J.T., a “soldier of fortune” who is more of a master thief than a hunter of lost artifacts. He is hired to steal the contents hidden in two golden crowns that a strange cult is keeping in a remote castle. After a Star Wars-eque crawl, we are treated to a 20 minute opening heist that is jam-packed with 3D madness, where J.T. doesn’t utter more than a single word. Instead, we have animals both fake and real lunging at the camera and—instead of one giant rock rolling after our hero—several giant rocks that are all on fire coming at him from all directions.
After that lengthy intro set piece, the film only allows another 30 minutes to introduce the rest of J.T.‘s crew who will be pulling off the heist, and then recaps the dangers that await them. It’s a really breakneck pace as we are almost immediately thrust into the climatic heist for the contents of the crowns for the remaining 40 minutes of the film. Treasure of the Four Crowns, while full of fun moments, feels like it’s really missing a second act, as we don’t really get much background into who these people are or why we should care about them. I remember when I first caught this film at a 3D repertoire screening; I thought it was a series and I was possibly just viewing the third or fourth installment. J.T. knows his crew and assumes that we do, but we don’t. This detracts from the tension and consequences of the ending sequence, when their survival is put into question with the many 3D traps they must traverse. This all coalesces into a bizarre ending that is a deranged riff off Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the Harrison Ford character being turned into a pig monster that shoots fire out of his hands.
Compared to previous restorations by the 3D Archive, it appears they were pulling from better elements with this particular transfer. There’s some visible damage to the picture, but overall, the image looks good with decent contrast. Personally, I prefer a little damage, and while I am a fan of a good restoration, some labels can get carried away with DNR these days, and the less done to the original image the better. There are some soft focus issues in various scenes as well, but after listening to the included interview with the director, those could be attributed to the format and the perils of 3D. For this particular breed of 3D, a standard 35mm frame was essentially cut in half, with the top and bottom being the two different perspectives; this offered its own litany of issues that are fascinatingly dissected on the included commentary and interview, which offer a small glimpse into the perils of this kind of production. Like 3D Archive’s previous release, the film is not only available in stereoscopic 3D on the disc, but in anaglyph as well, with a pair of red/blue glasses included.
Treasure of the Four Crowns is a 3D funhouse, filled to the brim with gags, but it lacks the narrative weight to inspire repeated viewings. That being said, the cast still does their best to imbue what time they have onscreen with enough emotion to try to engage the audience and make them wonder just what got them to this point in the story. Four Crowns is definitely one of the more inspired Raiders knock offs that makes up for what it lacks in budget with pure insanity. The package here is well worth the price of admission given not only the rarity of the film in this particular title and presentation, but also the rather frank interview and commentary with Anthony, who digs into the 3D market at the time and the impact his career and his previous film had on it.
Check out the full rundown of the extras and an unboxing below:
Blu-ray extras include:
· New audio commentary by film historian Jason Pichonsky
· New interview with actor Tony Anthony conducted by filmmaker Douglas Hostile
· Theatrical trailer, newly mastered in 2K
· Both BD3D polarized and anaglyphic (red/cyan) 3D versions
· Contains one pair of anaglyphic 3D glasses
· 5.1 surround and lossless 2.0 audio
· Optional English subtitles