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This was not a film about "action", nor was it "boring", unless you are the type that requires external stimulation as a substitute for actually thinking. This was a very poignant film about human rights and what, exactly, being human means. As another reviewer said, the climactic ending brought me to tears. This is not a film that should be viewed by a bunch of kids at a sleepover... it will be totally lost and wasted on them. This is a film that should be shown in every political science and philosophy class for discussion. Don't let the pathetic reviews scare you away if you can find this movie... it was the viewer that was lacking, not the film...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Skullduggery is a strange, strange film based on the novel "Ye Shall
Know Them" by Vercors. To unleash criticism at the film feels really
unkind, since it is a movie that deals with earnest themes like
humanity, and pleas for upright moral standards and tolerance. But in
spite of its honourable intentions and its well-meaning tone,
Skullduggery simply isn't a very good film. For me, the main problem is
the terribly disjointed narrative which can't make its mind up how best
to convey its message. The first half of the movie is like watching a
standard jungle expedition flick of the Tarzan ilk; later it teeters
into sci-fi fable; by the end it slips into courtroom melodramatics.
The differences in tone between each section of the movie are too
great, too jarring, to overlook. They stick out like a sore thumb and
remind you constantly that you're watching a muddled, disorganised
An archaeological expedition into the jungles of New Guinea is led by adventurer Douglas Temple (Burt Reynolds). One of the main archaeologists involved in the excursion is attractive lady scientist Dr Sybil Greame (Susan Clark). After an arduous trek they stumble upon a tribe of strange ape-like creatures. These primitive, long-lost people are covered in hair and have survived for centuries without being in any way touched or influenced by the developments of modern man. There is some evidence that they may the ancestors of early man the "missing link" in the evolution of apes into humans. Or perhaps a race of humans who simply look and behave differently from usual? Or even a race of animals that have begun to develop human characteristics? The archaeologists call the tribe "the Tropi" and are initially thrilled by the implications of their discovery. But things take a devastating turn when nasty opportunist Vancruysen (Paul Hubschmid) declares his intention to exploit the tribe and their idyll on behalf of developers. He questions whether the Tropi are truly "human" and takes his argument to the courts, where he hopes to be granted legal backing so that his own greedy ambitions can be continued.
This was a very early film in Reynolds' career, and he actually unbalances this movie by acting like he's in a comedy while the rest of the cast take it all very seriously. Not that Reynolds can be blamed he has an impossible role, asked to play a charming adventurer who really belongs in a Tarzan flick. His character and the film are not relevant to each other. Clark fares much better as the earnest lady archaeologist, and there are nice supporting roles for British actors Edward Fox, Alexander Knox and Wilfrid Hyde-White. A major shortcoming in Skullduggery is the lame and ineffective make-up used to give the Tropi their strange hairy appearance. Rather than making the actors look like believable hominoids, the stuck-on hair merely makes them look unintentionally comical . and that's just not the right idea. We're meant to feel great sympathy for these creatures, but that's awfully hard when they look so unconvincing. Skullduggery is a failed attempt to tell a story that could have been poignant, philosophical and stimulating. The honourable intentions are there for all to see, but the end result doesn't do them justice. A worthy failure it might be but a failure nonetheless.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't really think I'm spoiling anything, but I ticked the box just
I saw this film once and only once when it came on network television one night in the very early 70's, I was at most 7 years old and I have thought about the movie ever since.
Missing link upright bipeds, used as slaves and a court case to determine rights applicable to them.
Someone else's comment was that it was boring. What I recall of it is that the story and climactic finale made me cry until I threw up. I don't recall if the acting was good, or how the movie flowed. I just remember being highly affected by what I had seen and understanding that people also treated other people that way.
Yay for empathy, a new experience for me as a child.
I look forward someday to seeing it again as an adult.
I must have unknowingly been in the test audience for the original version
of this film at a local drive-in theater in 1970. I recently saw the
current version on TV again, and was shocked at the mutilation of the
original plot. The movie I remember was longer and the missing scenes and
dialogue comprised a biting satire of race relations that still resonates
my memory today. The present version of the film has sadly had the best
scenes and lines excised out, in the name of avoiding controversy in
We have come a long way since then. This film was far more entertaining in it's original form, and deserves re-release in a Special Edition or Director's cut DVD!
As another person has commented, this movie deals with some very
important social and very HUMAN issues and should be viewed for what it
is, not what you wish it would have been.
If you are looking for a brainless action film, look somewhere else. This film is more likely to generate a strong emotional reaction than to wow you with fancy stunts and cliché jungle adventure shtick.
People today are so used to excessive action films that gems like this one seem to be misunderstood or simply ignored. I am hoping this makes it's way to DVD so it can be appreciated in it's original theatrical format.
For the thinking person who can appreciate something with a lot more depth than the 'tomb raider' ilk it may get lumped in with it is definitely worth a viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Maybe some teeny spoilers)... A rollicking tale as anthropologists
searching for signs of a "Missing Link" in New Guinea, discover a
living group of them amidst the jungle. The expedition's villainous
financier (Paul Hubschmid), upon discovering Phosphorus in the area,
puts the little creatures to work as miners.
The film's ending court case regards the "humanity" of a child stillborn to one of the lead creatures, the alleged result of an indiscretion by Burt Reynolds.
Great cast includes appearances from Ausie great Chips Rafferty, Burt Reynolds, Wilfred Hyde-White. Some great creature make-up work by Bud Westmore rarely mentioned in the books.
Sadly, apparently not yet released on DVD.
I watched this movie in the early seventies, at my hometown in Mexico. I must have been 14 or 15 at the time. I liked the movie a lot not because of the acting, but because of the subject, which captivated me. The ethical and philosophical question of what constitutes humanity. Maybe the cinematographic quality of the film is not great, but having seen this movie only once and still remembering its impact on me after almost forty years is a tribute to its merits. I remember vividly the shock the climax scene caused in me, and the anger at the injustice done to the poor critters, and their unresolved fate, which undoubtedly would not be a good one if we go by the conventional wisdom of the time. I do believe this movie is much better conceptually than it is generally considered. I hope it will someday be released on DVD. I would certainly buy it.
Continuing my plan to watch every Burt Reynolds movie in his
filmography in order, I come to Skullduggery.
Plot In A Paragraph: Douglas Temple (a likable Burt Reynolds) manages to wrangle his way on to a jungle expedition in New Guinea when anthologist Sybil Greame (Susan Clarke) lands in his territory. While she searches for old bones, he searches for phosphor (which is used in the "new" colour TV's) they not only discover both, but a whole lot more.
I'm amazed by what I read on here sometimes, as some of the people rating this movie 2/10 or worse 1/10 clearly just didn't get it. Even if it was made today this movie would still ring true.
Burt Reynolds is incredibly likable and shows great promise for more important roles. However "Skullduggery" winds up a bit of a mismatch due to an inconsistent mix of humour and human drama. That's down to bad editing and poor direction.
Once upon a time there was a science fiction author named H. Beam Piper
who wrote a classic book named "Little Fuzzy" which was about a man
discovering a race of adorable little fuzzy humanoids on another
planet. Mr. Piper died in 1964, but Hollywood and many of today's
authors starting looting his grave before his cadaver got cold. This is
the book where they got the idea for Ewoks from.
Skullduggery is such a blatant ripoff of "Little Fuzzy" I can wonder why I'm the only who's ever noticed?
But don't take my word for it. Here's a link to Project Guntenberg where you can download a copy of "Little Fuzzy" for free: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18137
One of the most boring, silly, insipid, badly scripted and acted things ever to come out of the entertainment field. Even for Burt Reynolds, this was bad news. If you are home alone and bored to tears don't watch this drivel. Avoid at all costs.
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