Jaguar Lives

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Jaguar Lives (1979, dir: Ernest Pintoff; script: Yabo Yablonsky; cast: Joe Lewis, Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence, Barbara Bach, Capucine, Joseph Wiseman, Woody Strode, John Huston)





Jaguar Lives is a 1978 James Bond wannabe film.

This drug lord (a young white guy who knows karate) unites drug lords from around the world (who look like aging United Nations types) to form a cartel. What follows is a highly disjointed non-story in which the hero (a martial arts guy named Jaguar) goes from the Mideast, to Latin America, to Hong Kong, to Spain, to Macao, to Paris, to Africa, to Spain.

But don't be fooled by that itinerary. Everything in Jaguar Lives is ultra low-budget and second rate. The sexpot sirens are not so sexy, the cars not so slick, the villains not so menacing. Much of the film appears to be shot outside Los Angeles, with stock footage of various foreign locals before each scene.

And don't be fooled by the all-star cast: Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasance, Barbara Bach, John Huston. Pleasance and Lee seemed to have shot their scenes in one day. Bach and Huston over two days.

None of this A-List cast interacts with Jaguar as an equal. Bach is a spy boss who admires Jaguar and gives him his instructions, but he doesn't get to sleep with Bach, only with the no-name actresses. Lee is a villain who menaces Jaguar, but mainly by sending others to do the dirty work. Jaguar doesn't get to fight or destroy Lee, he only kills the no-name actor playing the drug lord.

This is a very 1970s film. One evil rich guy dresses in a brown polyester suit with wide lapels and tie. Jaguar dresses in "cool" polyester windbreaker with turtleneck. And despite his jet-setting, he never shows signs of jet lag. His blow-dried, blond-dyed tresses are always fully puffed.

And in stereotypical 1970s fashion, we know that Jaguar is a good guy because he has a Black Friend who is attacked for no reason by racist rednecks, and Jaguar helps his Black Friend beat them up in a karate fight. (I guess this film was also trying to rip off Billy Jack in addition to the James Bond and martial arts films of the day.)



In the end a police raid easily nabs all the drug cartel bosses (where are their bodyguards?) at a deserted Spanish castle. Meanwhile, the top drug lord has a karate fight with Jaguar. The outcome will determine whether all the young people in the world will do drugs. Pretty high stakes, no? Good thing Jaguar wins the karate fight.

Bach is easy on the eyes, though Leonard Maltin was right when he said of one of her films, "Bach does her usual walk through."

Jaguar Lives is only for Bach, Lee, or Pleasance completists, or for fans of crappy low-budget karate/thriller movies from the 1970s. (All three of those actors have impressive horror film credits, which is why this review appears on a horror film site.)


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