Jaguar Lives! (1979)- * * *
Directed by: Ernest Pintoff
Starring: Joe Lewis, Christopher Lee, Barbara Bach, Woody Strode, John Huston, Donald Pleasence, and Capucine
Jonathan Cross (Lewis) is The Jaguar. He's an international man of action who globe-trots all over the place to stop the baddies using his Karate-fighting ways. When Anna Thompson (Bach) sends him on his latest mission, Cross leaves Sensei (Strode) (That's all he's credited as), and travels to the following places: New York, Hong Kong, Madrid, Rome, and Macao. He also goes to El Habbab, Santa Fortuna, and Belmonte, which may be made up locations. Along the way, he encounters characters such as General Villanova (Pleasence), Zina Vanacore (Capucine), Ralph Richards (Huston), and, of course, the main baddie, Adam Caine (Lee). Most of the above have goons, and Jonathan Cross beats them up. But will he finally falter in the fatal face-off at the finale?
In 1979, Karate and Kung Fu were red hot. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and also James Bond ruled the action universe. So it was only a matter of time until a film like Jaguar Lives! (Can't forget that exclamation point) made it to your local drive-in in '79. Joe Lewis has the emotionless deadpanity of Chuck Norris, the rough-and-tumble ways of a young Gary Busey, and the facial features and hair of Michael Dudikoff. We as the audience basically like him, but not because of any real effort on his part. At least he's not annoying like Sloane (1985). He doesn't have enough of a personality for that, which we mean in the nicest possible way, of course. He's a Martial Artist, and that's that. He acquits himself well in the action scenes, which are quite entertaining.
The whole thing has a Kill Or Be Killed/Kill And Kill Again vibe, with a few dashes of Mr. Deathman (1977) or a 70's telefilm thrown in for good measure. Sure, it's rated PG, but the filmmakers probably hoped to distract us with its dizzying array of location changes and cavalcade of star-power. When it all kicks off, we're just kind of thrown into the middle of the plot, or so it seems. Then there's a gas station fight that's reminiscent of The Instructor (1981). A bunch of yay-hoos inexplicably throw a bunch of Native American-based racial slurs at Woody Strode. Why they do this to Sensei, of all people, remains unknown.
Then we get some James Bond connections with Bach, Pleasence, Lee, and Joseph Wiseman. Pleasence is one of those "El Presidente"-style South American generals. The great John Huston plays a wheelchair-bound dude for not a lot of reason that we can glean, but so what? He was here. Same for fan favorite Christopher Lee. Hey, if he can be in wacky comedies starring opposite Eddie Deezen - such as Desperate Moves (1980) - then surely he can be here for this. Simon Andreu and Capucine round out the very impressive cast. Then Joe Lewis kicks some goons off some motorcycles. It's not bad. There's much worse stuff out there.
Yes, surprisingly, Jaguar Lives! seems to have gotten a lot of negative reviews out there, but don't listen to them. It's solid, it delivers the action, the star-studded cast, and a variety of colorful locations. That's more than many movies of this sort can boast. If you saw that awesome poster, or that killer VHS box art, wouldn't you want to rent it? We say give Jaguar Lives! your time.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty