aka Dakota Harris; Sky Pirates
Director – Colin Eggleston, Screenplay – John D. Lamond, Producers – John D. Lamond & Michael Hirsh, Photography – Gary Wapshott, Music – Brian May, Visual Effects – Dennis Nicholson, Production Design – Kristian Frederickson. Production Company – John Lamond Motion Pictures.
John Hargreaves (Flight-Lieutenant Harris), Meredith Phillips (Melanie Mitchell), Max Phipps (Savage), Simon Chilvers (Reverend Mitchell), Bill Hunter (O’Reilly)
August 1945. Flight-Lieutenant Harris, one of the best pilots in the Australian Air Force, is sent on a top-secret mission to carry a broken third of a tablet found on Easter Island to Washington. During the flight, a drunken member of the flight crew uncovers the tablet. This causes the plane to crashland in a Sargasso Sea filled with ships from different periods of time. Escaping and returning to Australia, Harris is court-martialled for negligence over the incident by his treacherous superior Savage. Escaping jail, Harris pursues Savage who is attempting to gather all three segments of the tablet and obtain the secrets left behind on Easter Island by alien beings.
This Australian effort was clearly intended as a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The Raiders duplications – a race to obtain missing tablets of power, fights around the outside of a truck, a tomb full of snakes, a kissing-it-better scene and the villain’s end being crisped by the tablets’ unleashed power – are often slavishly conducted. However, Sky Bandits, renamed Sky Pirates in the US, is such a lunatically daft entry it ranks highly as an undiscovered bad movie gem.
The plot throws in a giddy assortment of every nutty Unsolved Mystery, from Easter Island and The Philadelphia Experiment to Erich Von Daniken, with no real idea about what it is doing with any of them and carrying on regardless anyway. There are certainly some well directed action scenes – fights inside elevators and speeding trucks and notably a venture out to repair the wing of a plane as it is being strafed by a fighter. In a sense, these sequences contain the perfect incarnation of the action scenes in serials – they are served at timed intervals and exist in a vacuum almost entirely independent of any connection to the plot.
The moments when Sky Bandits seems not to be taking itself seriously are its most unabashedly enjoyable – like hero John Hargreaves’ unique means of garnering information from an informant – by challenging him to an impromptu game of Russian Roulette; or the wonderful scene where Hargreaves rips the imprisoned heroine’s ropes off with his teeth while driving with his hands, then turns to her to comment: “Didn’t know you were into bondage.” It’s an utterly hysterical line that almost threatens to supplant “Go ahead, make my day” in the pantheon of all-time classic one-liners.
Director Colin Eggleston has been a sporadic director in the Australian film industry. He made the excellent Nature’s Revenge film Long Weekend (1978) but his subsequent output – which has included the psycho-thrillers The Little Fella (1982) and Innocent Prey (1984), the clairvoyance film Cassandra (1987) and the self-explanatory Outback Vampires (1987) – was all undistinguished.