By George Bass (Contributor New York Times | The Guardian | New Scientist)
From taking down decorations to weather that feels like liquid nitrogen, January can be a depressing month. The only glimmers of joy are often grabbing a bargain in the new year sales, and hoping the discounts extend to the travel agent so you can bag a cheap tropical holiday. That’s why we’ve combined both of those initiatives in a winter discount on a large selection of our titles, many of them from warmer corners of the world. While it’s cold outside, here are nine exotic adventure films that visit five continents, three oceans and one sun-kissed island (and that feature none of the jetlag or leftover foreign currency you normally accrue when you travel).
King Solomon’s Mines (1937)
H. Rider Haggard’s classic adventure novel – arguably the first in the ‘dark continent’ subgenre – gets its second and most faithful adaption by Robert Stevenson. Featuring a pipe-puffing Cedric Hardwicke as explorer Alan Quartermain, and singer Paul Robeson (who gets top billing) as deposed chief Umbopa, the scenes of landslides, solar eclipses and erupting volcanos look stunning even in black and white, and are made all the more authentic for blending in excerpts from Geoffrey Barkas’ inner Africa documentaries.
Gente De Bien (2014)
This bittersweet Columbian comedy won the 2014 Flanders International Film Festival Grand Prix for its depiction of the Bogotá class system. Ten-year-old Eric (Brayan Santamaria) is offloaded by his mother onto distant father Gabriel (Carlos Fernando Perez), who takes him from the capital’s backstreets to his live-in job at an affluent guesthouse. It isn’t long before Eric is quad-biking over dazzling green lawns and riding horses alongside his wealthy neighbours. But when Dad has to head back into the city, will Eric’s new friends provide the quality of life and crucial support network he needs? It seems the wealth gap can be as stark in South America as it is in London’s Cardboard City.
Bitter Springs (1950)
There’s a deadlier culture clash in Ralph Smart’s Australia-set showdown. Filmed in the scorching Flinders Ranges region, the story depicts the land-leasing King family and their settled Aussie compatriots falling afoul of local Aborigines, who have long made use of a water hole now “bought” by the Brits. After a child is killed in a spear attack, both sides declare war. Attitudes at the time of production mean that we’re meant to side with the more ‘civilised’ group – there’s an emphasis on how the Kings have staked everything on a new start in the bush – but none of the major characters are two-dimensional. Bitter Springs is as much a story of co-operation as it is a look at colonialism gone awry.
Return to Ithaca (2014)
As Mamma Mia proves, middle-age reunion films work best when they come with an exotic backdrop. They don’t come much more sun-kissed than the Havana rooftops of Return to Ithaca, which eavesdrops on five Cuban drinking buddies who’ve gathered to celebrate the return of Amadeo (Néstor Jiménez), back in town after 16 years in Spain. As the friends dance, pour wine and share stories of the ‘cultural penetration’ they were accused of under communist rule, the dark sea in the background and red horizon foreshadow the skeletons they’ve been waiting to unleash. The autumn of life has rarely looked so sweltering.
A Romance of Seville (1929)
If your pub quiz asks you to name a hundred-year-old silent Spanish film, the easy answer is Un Chien Andalou: Luis Bunel’s 1929 eyeball-slicing short film that influenced the Pixies’ hit ‘Debaser’. A Romance of Seville from the same year won’t earn you as many cool points, but its tale of cloaked jewel thieves and the playboy (Alexander D’Arcy) forced to pursue them – and win the heart of fiancé Marguerite Allan at the same time – is still as thrilling as it was back in the flapper era. Looking ageless thanks to an HD restoration, the film could also earn quizzers bonus points should they name its co-writer: Alma Reville, otherwise known as Mrs Alfred Hitchcock.
Duel in the Jungle (1954)
This Technicolour adventure sees square-jawed insurance investigator Dana Andrews trying to find a millionaire who’s vanished off the coast of Mozambique, or Portuguese East Africa as it was known at the time of release. Did tycoon David Farrar really drown falling off a tramp steamer? Why is his personal assistant Jeanne Crain so adamant he’s dead, and so cagey when Andrews tries to interrogate her? And why would a cigarette mogul leave his fortune to his ageing mother? Building to a nail-biting tropical foot chase, Duel in the Jungle is a whodunnit with the foggy manor house swapped for 30-degree heat.
Teddy Bear (2012)
The myth: bodybuilders are hulking wife-beaters whose dreams are as dull as vanilla-flavoured protein powder. The reality: they’re as delicate as anyone else, which this Danish romance proves thanks to a charming central performance from Kim Kold. He plays 38-year-old professional lifter Dennis, whose domineering mother (with whom he still lives) has made him too shy to ever bring a girl home. Lured to Thailand by his wisecracking uncle, the virginal Dennis is terrified by the local sex trade, but forms a connection with widow Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, who manages a gym. A relationship – even a platonic one – at last could be possible under the glittering Thai sun.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
There are enough stars attached to this Western for it to qualify as a small galaxy. Outlaw Rio (Marlon Brando, who also directs) has served five years in a Sontara jail, put there by an accomplice (Karl Malden) who made off with the pair’s ill-gotten gains. When Rio is released and seeks revenge, he discovers his former partner in crime is now the sheriff of Monterey. With a screenplay by Sam Peckinpah, co-writtten with Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling, and pre-production by none other than Stanley Kubrick, One-Eyed Jacks is a gargantuan, character-driven Western – one which has been sampled by TV, music and games artists for over 60 years.
Sands of the Desert (1960)
Carry On Up the Khyber wasn’t the only Brit comedy to step on desert grass: this Charlie Drake vehicle sees the curly-haired comic play a travel agent who’s sent to Saudi Arabia to manage Bossom’s Bedouin, a prospective holiday camp. The hitch? His employer’s resort is slap bang in the middle of an oilfield belonging to Peter Arne’s ruling Sheikh. Loyal followers are using every trick they can think of – from sword fights to explosions to inviting-looking harems – to make Charlie put his foot in it. But can they send him packing back to cooler climes?