Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981)    0 Stars

“A Forgotten Relic. A Dangerous Adventure.”

Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981)
Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981)


Director: David Hemmings

Cast: Ken Wahl, Lesley Ann Warren, Donald Pleasence

Synopsis: A pair of adventures discovers a old plane wreck high in the mountains in New Zealand.







Donald Pleasence plays Gilbert, an alcoholic deer trapper in partnership with down-on-his-luck helicopter pilot Barney (80s pin-up Ken Wahl).   When Barney accidentally drops him into a lake from his helicopter, Gilbert stumbles upon the remains of the eponymous US aircraft, lost since the war and loaded with gold ingots.   As Gilbert and Barney attempt to persuade Gilbert’s daughter, Sally (Lesley-Anne Warren) to release some of Gilbert’s money to pay for a search and rescue mission for the gold, the villainous Theo Brown (George Peppard – Breakfast at Tiffany’s) also makes plans to claim the treasure for himself.

It’s not a bad idea for a movie, but director David Hemmings handles it so ineptly that The Race for the Yankee Zephyr comes close to excruciating to watch at times.   He isn’t helped by a dull, pedestrian script (step forward, Everett De Roche) which flatly refuses to provide any dimension to its characters.   There’s no real back-story to any of them – in fact none of them possess any kind of character to speak of, meaning it’s impossible for generally competent actors to create any kind of chemistry.   Hemmings seems to be aiming for a kind of rollicking adventure movie, but comes up short when it comes to creating, boisterous bar-fights or high speed chases.   The stunt actors perform some credible stunts, but little attempt is made to make them actually resemble the actors for whom they are standing in, and stunts can only go so far towards providing entertainment to hold an audience for the entire length of a film.

Donald Pleasence is a capable enough character actor, but he’s badly miscast as the rough-and-ready drunken adventurer, Gilbert, while George Peppard makes the ill-informed decision to play his cartoon villain as a camp Brit (at least, he appeared to be trying for a British accent, but it could have been Australian – Americans have trouble telling the accents apart), and just ends up embarrassing himself.   In fact the two of them would probably both have fared better if they had swapped roles.   But then, this woeful movie is so bad that even that would have done little to spare the embarrassment of all involved.

(Reviewed 21st March 2012)

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