Treasure of the Black Jaguar (2010)

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Released 23-Aug-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 83:26 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Mike Bruce
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Cameron Van Hoy
Michael Drayer
Timothy V. Murphy
Masayuki Imai
Carolyn Stotesbery
Brandy Moreno
Hidetoshi Imura
Ellen Gerstein
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Kirpatrick Thomas


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the 16th century, conquistador Hernon Cortez destroyed the Aztec empire of Mexico. Into his hands came a fabulous treasure, including the fabled Black Jaguar Deity, a 3 foot high, solid gold statue said by some to be cursed. The statue never made it back to Spain and its location remains unknown, lost in the Mexican desert. So we are told in the fake 1970s type documentary that starts Treasure of the Black Jaguar. This scratchy, tongue in cheek opening sets the tone for the rest of the film.

     Anthony (Cameron Van Hoy) and his best friend Shlomo (Michael Drayer) drive down to Mexico on a get rich quick scheme that quickly sees them in a Mexican gaol. There they meet Blake West (Timothy V. Murphy) an old, grizzled antiques hunter. He knows the location of the Black Jaguar Deity, but he needs help to get it and so enlists Anthony and Shlomo. The three break out of gaol and set out into the desert. However there is a fourth player in this game, yakuza Katsu Taka (Masayuki Imai). He had been betrayed by Blake in the past and now, unknown to the others, he follows the three into the desert seeking the Black Jaguar, and revenge. Clearly, not all are going to return.

     Writer / director Mike Bruce and writer / actor Cameron Van Hoy in the Treasure of the Black Jaguar have come up with an unashamed “B” grade grindhouse movie that is greatly entertaining. In its search for a fabulous treasure in an arid environment this is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) mixed with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), which is referenced by the cigar in the campfire trick and a number of very Morricone sounding touches on the soundtrack. However, the rest of the music is loud and decidedly modern, with added songs from The Daddy Warhols, Spindrift, Federale, The Vandelles, Lower Heaven and Dan Kerrigan among others.

     Writer / director Mike Bruce has used the RED camera to play with colours, speeds and angles. Some sequences look completely natural, but others are anything but. For example, the brothel scene looks very red, the desert yellow and other scenes have a silver / grey look. In the grindhouse tradition, the print also has a number of scratches and frame jumps, especially during the opening credits and in the flashback sequences and there are lot of camera moves that draw attention to themselves. The result is that we are always aware that we are watching a film, and that what is on screen is not expected to be taken realistically.

     Indeed, Treasure of the Black Jaguar is a low budget independent film with wonderful looking desert scenery, courtesy of cinematographer Salvador Lleo de la Fe, that is unfortunately undermined by the aspect ratio (see below). The acting is slightly above B picture standard, with Cameron Van Hoy likeable and Timothy V. Murphy as the grizzled artefact hunter having good fun. Some of the dialogue is corny, which may have been deliberate and certainly adds to the charm of the film.

     Coming in at just over 80 minutes, Treasure of the Black Jaguar wastes no time getting going and is a fun film with good scenery, a rocking score, personable leads and an ending that does not go quite where expected.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Treasure of the Black Jaguar is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The IMDb does not give the original aspect ratio, but I believe it was likely to be 2.35:1. For example, the trailer, included on this DVD, is in that ratio, and there are certainly places during the film when it does appear cropped, as characters are partly outside the frame. This is a pity as some of the desert would look even more spectacular in widescreen.

     As noted, this is a print with deliberate scratches and colour changes. When the colours are allowed to be they look natural, blacks are great and shadow detail fine. The print is also sharp enough when it wants to be and the whiskers and dirt on faces is nicely detailed, the flashbacks being softer on purpose. There is ghosting with motion, such as on bars (15:51), but otherwise I noticed no artefacts that were not deliberate.

     There are no subtitles, but yellow English subtitles translate some of the non-English dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The only audio option is English Dolby Digital 2.0 at192 Kbps. It is adequate.

     Dialogue was good and easy to understand. The effects and gunshots lacked much depth but were acceptable, the music was louder in the mix and sounded fine, especially some of the Morricone like tunes. The audio is surround encoded with only some ambient sound and music in the surrounds. I did not notice any sub-woofer use.

     Lip synchronisation was generally fine, but did appear to be slightly off during the brothel scenes around the 17 minute mark.

     The music by Kirpatrick Thomas references very Morricone sounding riffs and added songs from The Daddy Warhols, Spindrift, Federale, The Vandelles, Lower Heaven and Dan Kerrigan among others. It was a fun soundtrack which added to the tone and enjoyment of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     A trailer for Polisse (2:35) plays on start –up. It can also be selected from the menu. The only other extra is:

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     I cannot find another version of Treasure of the Black Jaguar listed on overseas sales sites.

Summary

     Treasure of the Black Jaguar is an unashamed “B” grindhouse movie that is very entertaining. It has wonderful desert scenery, a fun soundtrack, personable leads and an ending that does not go quite where expected.

     The video is good but in an incorrect aspect ratio, the audio is adequate. The trailer is the only relevant extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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