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Temple of the Thousand Lights (a movie review)

When it comes to movies, many metal fans are – maybe naturally – gravitating towards horror genre (and gory ones in particular), but lately I’ve found the attempts to top a previous guy’s movie with just more outrageous gore simply boring. I like movies with funny stories, great camera and guys I can root for… and you might be surprised that I’d prefer a good adventure movie before horror or action ones. Of course, in my book this is not a rule set in stone ane exceptions exist.

For last night viewing I’ve picked up a movie I’ve wanted to see for quite a long time, but somewhat hadn’t had the time to watch it. Well, let’s have a look what it was.

Temple of the Thousand Lights movie poster with Richard Harrison
Temple of the Thousand Lights lobby card, with Richard Harrison and Luciana Gilli
Sandok DVD release, with Richard Harrison

In the line with the traditional exploitation marketing, this movie has several titles. The original Italian is, of course, “La Montagna Di Luce” (Mountain of Light), but in the English speaking world the movie was marketed also as “Temple of the Thousand Lights” (which, obviously, has nothing to do with the movie at all), bland and generic “Jungle Adventurer” (and I guess it’s hard to beat it with more generic title) and Sandok (an apparent try to ride on the Sandokan movies’ fame, but alas, there is neither Sandokan, nor Sandok in the movie, the only connection to Malaysian pirate might be the fact the movie was shot in Malaysia, but set in India).

Umberto Lenzi
Umberto Lenzi

Directed by the (in)famous Italian exploitation director Umberto Lenzi, who is/was probably best known for his Cannibal Ferox (but, as the B-movie lovers know, he had his hand in many different genres).

Richard Harrison in a scene from Temple of the Thousand Lights
Richard Harrison in action

This heist movie and one might say, a precursor to classics like Indiana Jones movies, has the great Richard Harrison starring as Alan Foster, the adventurer in India, who is actually hiding there after a successful heist of the New York Central Bank. After a night of drinking and playing cards with local rajah (interferring also in the rajah’s whipping of the female dancer), he’s waking up in the morning with quite a big debt, which – as the rajah insists – can only be repaid by obtaining a diamond called “The Mountain of Light”. Said diamond is situated on a head of the great stone idol in one pagoda, and apparently impossible to steal.

Well, Foster is not happy so he’s escaped from the palace, but being an adventurer, he is interested in obtaining the jewel for himself. On his way he meets some fakir with quite a few trick up his sleeve (figuratively, as the fakir has nothing on him but his head covering and that adult nappy or what the hell it is called). They teams up and proceed to the pagoda.

Wilbert Bradley and Richard Harrison
Harrison pretending to be an Indian local

Now, obviously, you know Foster will succeed in getting the diamond. But the movie is full of surprises, double-crossings, obvious unbelievable scenarios (Harrison masquerading as a local, covered in some brown paint, is unbelievable, but hey, it’s a movie). In the end, he succeeds also in getting a nice female companion for himself, and surprisingly, it’s the same female dancer who he’s saved from the rajah’s whip, played by the beautiful Luciana Gilli.

Luciana Gilli in the Temple of the Thousand Lights with Richard Harrison
Luciana Gilli in the role of Lilamani

“Temple of the Thousand Lights” was actually Lenzi’s last jungle adventure movie, in the cycle which saw such classics as Sandokan the Great (starring Steve “Hercules” Reeves), Temple of the White Elephant, Pirates of Malaysia (again, with Steve Reeves in the leading role) and Adventures of the Bengal Lancers (this one again starring Richard Harrison).

Of course, in the age of heist movies with sophisticated tools/methods (Mission: Impossible, Ocean’s movie trilogy etc.) the old school adventures seem silly, but as a classic movie from a classic genre (and from a great director), this one was like time travelling to be back as a kid starring – eyes wide open – at the screen. And the time spent with it was certainly a great one, although I am sure not many would share that sentiment of mine (lot of people just don’t have any respect for old movies).

The only setback is the cut in the movie after Foster and Lilamani are left to die in the water filled cave, but as I don’t have any other copy of it, well, I can live with that.

Let’s talk a little about the main folks of this movie. As mentioned above, the director Umberto Lenzi made quite a few titles in various genres, in the great Italian exploitation tradition – whatever sells. But thanks to that approach, we can enjoy not only aforementioned jungle adventures, but also classic adventures (Catherine of Russia, The Triumph of Robin Hood, Invincible Masked Rider), peplum movies (Samson and the Slave Queen, Messalina vs. the Son of Hercules), eurospy movies (008: Operation Exterminate, SuperSeven Calling Cairo, The Spy Who Loved Flowers, Last Man to Kill, Kriminal), giallo (So Sweet…So Perverse, Seven Blood Stained Orchids), macaroni combat movies (Desert Commandos, Battle of the Commandos, Bridge to Hell), horror (Nightmare City, Ghosthouse, Black Demons), eurocrime (Gangwar in Milan, Syndicate Sadists, They Cynic, the Rat and the Fist and others)..you name it.

Richard Harrison
Richard Harrison

Richard Harrison was a staple actor in these Italian productions (too many to mention), but he’s most famous from the infamous director Godfrey Ho’s hilarious and unbelievable cut’n’paste Ninja movies (although Harrison claimed Ho’s destroyed his career with these).

Luciana Gilli
Luciana Gilli

Luciana Gilli’s filmography is nowhere near Harrison’s one, but the beautiful Italian actress was seen in movies like The Black Panther of Ratana, peplum Ursus in the Land of Fire, Sword of Damascus, adventure movie Kingdom in the Sand and spaghetti westerns, The Colt is My Law, Mexican Slayride, Pecos Cleans Up among others.

Daniele Vargas
Daniele Vargas

Daniele Vargas’ filmography is also a great one, he was in the productions like Mario Bava’s movie Caltiki: The Immortal Monster, peplum movies Hercules Unchained, The Pirate and the Slave Girl, The Giant of Marathon, Fury of the Pagans, The Thief of Bagdad and Sodom and Gomorrah and others, adventure movies The Invisible Masked Rider, Zorro in the Court of England, Zorro, the Navarra Marquis, Zambo, the King of the Jungle, or spaghettis Return of the Django or Cemetery Without Crosses, among other movies.

Wilburt Bradley
Wilbert Bradley

And lastly, scene stealing Wilbert Bradley, here in the role of a villain Sitama, who could be also seen in movies like Rage of the Buccaneers, aforementioned Lenzi’s adventure movies Sandokan the Great, Pirates of Malaysia and Adventures of the Bengal Lancers, eurospy movies SuperSeven Calling Cairo, Target GoldenSeven, Last Man to Kill, the sci-fi Snow Devils and later in Code of Silence.

Available here: https://www.amazon.com/Sandok-Richard-Harrison/dp/B0038AMVVK

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Rudolf Schütz

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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