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Treasure Island (1995) (TV)
Some second hand info about the production..., 2 March 2015

Ken Russell was a highly talented director who lost his ties to the industry in the late 80s. 90s were very difficult time for him for various reasons. During this era, he worked on some pretty obscure and poor material. This no-budget musical comedy with a twist (in this adaptation, Silver is a woman) based on a classic novel is unfortunately one of them.

Instead of an actual review, here's a copy of a public post made by a Youtube user, who claimed to have worked on the movie in a minor role. This is highly informative AND as good as any normal review.

Quote:

I do have a VHS copy of this somewhere, recorded off-air: I was in it!. It was a strange thing - its main purpose was as a vehicle for Ken's then (third) wife, an actress and would-be sex goddess called Hetty Baynes with whom the 68-year old Ken was somewhat obsessed at the time. Ken tried to do it all on a shoestring, shooting on low-res video in cheap locations like the Cutty Sark ship at Greenwich, and in some sand dunes in Cornwall - most of the rest was done at Pinewood, both on the sound stages and outside in very English-looking woodland! He even tried to save money by using amateur actors found at open London auditions, though that was mainly a publicity stunt - in the event they were so awful he cast professionals in most of the leads (though not, alas, Jim Hawkins, who was excruciating). One of the other amateurs, playing a member of the pirate crew, walked out halfway through the shoot, and Ken was in despair until someone noticed the sound engineer looked a bit like him. He was duly dressed in the costume and shot for the remaining scenes, and two quite different people ended up playing the same part! The other challenge was that Ken had a major heart attack just after we'd started, and the whole thing was postponed for months. When he finally came back he was pretty sick man, and had lost what remained of his famous daring and energy. What could have been a bizarre but entertainingly surreal and freaky piece turned into a very damp squib, and is undoubtedly the worst thing I've done in over 40 years as an actor - so bad was it that when the lights came up at the end of the first screening there was no applause, just a completely stunned silence!

Perhaps Corto's most controversial animated adventure, 23 November 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who travels all across Europe and its colonies as well as Asia, South America and other places during the 1910s and the 1920s and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars and communist and other revolutions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.

Every story has a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination. This time, however, Corto takes things into his own hands straight away and things get much more personal for him.

Corto himself is a trustworthy tall, thin, slick, charming man with very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her. Girls get to play important roles for Corto here as well, save for the first out of the three stories.

One could call him the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements.

The tree stories presented here all have the unique quality of being a good material for a short as well as a feature film. Each of them focuses on just one part of the formula that makes most of Corto's adventures and perfects it. This gives the movie a semblance of a thematic three-part structure even though the stories are not interlinked in any way. The first short about Corto's search for El Dorado focuses in a brutal yet subversive way on the final part of the formula - the cynical futility of a seemingly profitable endeavor that can easily turn into a nightmare. In a way, this story is also a comment on fate and the ways people deal with it (another theme close but not pleasant to Corto). The second story about the deadly game of political corruption Corto becomes involved with in Honduras focuses on his contact with people and the profit and the problems it brings. The third and perhaps his most controversial adventure out of all of his animated endeavors focuses on his involvement with the local issues and politics when Corto decides to help his friends (who happen to be members of the IRA) fight the Brits. Although Corto gets himself involved with several historical political issues along the course of his adventures, almost all of them are long gone history today, but the IRA and the British presence in Ireland are issues that are still present in public discourse even today to an extent. Although Corto clearly supports the Irish independence here, seeing it as just another rebellion against colonization, the main reason why he's doing what he's doing here is not really politics, but his loyalty to his Irish friends who just happen to be members of the IRA. This theme of loyalty thematically wraps up all these elements of a Corto formula.

Most Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partly animated in North Korea (no joke).

In the end, the potential controversy that the IRA storyline may stir up, the risky ending of the El Dorado episode that may not sit well with some, and the fact that the elements of a true Corto experience are split here in three separate story lines, makes this a less than ideal introduction to Corto's adventures, but it is a decent (if highly episodic) Corto adventure, nonetheless.

The movie is available on DVD and has English audio track, which is not the best, but it gets the job done. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.

Out of the seven Corto's animated feature adventures this one's the least connected to the others, 22 November 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who travels all across Europe and its colonies as well as Asia, South America and other places during the 1910s and the 1920s and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars and communist and other revolutions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.

Every story has a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination. Here however, Corto's is working on a smaller scale. His three adventures don't really have an epic arc or specific historical background, nor do consequences of his actions impact anyone other than the people involved in these three specific stories. In other words - this is the most episodic out of all seven of his animated feature adventures.

Corto himself is a trustworthy tall, thin, slick, charming man with very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her.

One could call him the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements. These mystical elements do run through this specific compilation, but don't really influence the story in any significant manner.

The tree stories presented here all come from Corto's comic book issue eponymously titled The Ethiopian. The first two stories focus on a specific Enthiopian - the coldblooded amoral tribal warrior from Ethiopia called Cush. He frequently quotes Quran to make a point (although he's not really religious), has a very vengeful temper and is pretty much good for only one thing - slaughter. He sees the foreigners as occupiers and hates them with murderous rage. However, Corto proves to be a respectable warrior as well, so Cush grows to like him despite him not being a local. Since Corto's other amoral friend, bandit Rasputin, is nowhere around, he carefully befriends Cush. Unfortunately, Cush really is just a pale shadow of Rasputin's character with none of his wicked charm or funny moments. Still, their time together does make for a solid tough little adventure.

Most Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partly animated in North Korea (no joke). This is where we come to the third story in this anthology and the only one that has any references to the other movies. Titled "Leopard-Men", the short has nothing to do with Cush or Ethiopia (although it is set in Africa as well) and comes off as a curious and somewhat fun but kind of pointless and a bit silly self-contained adventure straight out of 1930s black and white Hollywood adventure films.

The only somewhat bothersome issue with this anthology (not counting the small scope of the events, the somewhat silly tone of the third adventure and the superficial mumbo-jumbo mysticism that pops up now and then) is Corto's attitude. Although he is all in all a moral man and more or less a good guy, he just loves hanging around some highly questionable characters on occasion (like the aforementioned psychotic Rasputin) for no apparent good reason and Cush definitely fits that bill since he is, first and foremost, a hateful violent calculated man prone to self-loathing with repressed (but still present) sense of realism and self-irony.

In the end, while this is a decent Corto adventure, it's still a bit middle of the road-ish and it's not the best introduction to Corto for the uninitiated.

The movie is available on DVD and has English audio track, which is not the best, but it gets the job done. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A bit bizarre but kind of fun Corto mishmash, 18 November 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who travels all across Europe and its colonies as well as Asia, South America and other places during the 1910s and the 1920s and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars and communist and other revolutions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.

Every story has a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination. Here however, we have somewhat of an exception since one of the stories seemingly turns out profitable for Corto.

Corto himself is a trustworthy tall, thin, slick, charming man with very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her. In one of the stories here, Corto's sentimentalism towards a certain woman costs him his treasure, but then again, that could be for the best.

One could call him the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements. However, one of the stories here indulges in fantasy happily in a partly serious tribute to Celtic mythology and the Arthurian legend.

Although this film is called The Celts (or Celtics), it's also known as "Under the Flag of Gold" and it's a compilation of four of Corto's short adventures. This is unfortunate because some of the stories don't get the time to become engaging, although others benefit from this, since longer running time would turn a fun bizarre Arthurian tribute or a simple to the point real life soldier's story into a nonsensical drawn-out mess.

Every entry in this animated franchise has similar qualities and faults.

Most Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partly animated in North Korea (no joke). On the other hand, stories in this compilation have a much less tense tone and some even have straight up comical elements. The episode about Monetenegrin gold almost starts to feel like a Python sketch after a while and the fantastical set up of the unique and poetic Stonehenge episode must be seen to be believed. These are not necessarily faults, just slightly jarring novelties for this somber, sarcastic and dramatic franchise.

As for the faults, the story sometimes references moments and characters from Corto's past that are never explained. It's nothing major, but if you have seen the other movies and shorts, or read the comics, you'll have that much extra context. The pacing is a bit off. Some stories feel rushed, while others seem a bit irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Finally, the tone is a bit off. Some stories are light in tone, and others have only slight gravitas. This makes the whole movie feel less important than it should be.

Still, in the end, this is a more or less enjoyable sit, but it's kind of middle of the road. The stronger elements compensate for the weaker ones.

The movie is available on DVD and has English audio track, which is not the best, but it gets the job done, I guess. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Corto takes a backseat to do some babysitting, 17 November 2014
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who in 1910s and 1920s travels Europe and its colonies, as well as the rest of the world, and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars, communist revolutions and other rebellions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.

His stories usually have a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination. The spirit of this formula is kept in this story, but the structure is stagnant (there are very few locations) and the story is holding back (even turning into a daytime soap for a moment).

Corto himself is a nice, trustworthy, tall, thin, slick, charming man with a very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her. He builds a friendly relationship with the girl here as well, but since she's a teen, thankfully it remains sentimental and not romantic or sexual.

One could call him the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements.

Corto Maltese and The Ballad of the Salt Sea is chronologically Corto's first adventure set before all of his other animated adventures. However, this isn't really Corto's adventure. For the most part, he's just in the background trying to protect the two teen heirs of a rich Australian industrials, kidnapped by Rasputin, from said bandit and on occasion even themselves. The focus is much more on the kids themselves and their attempts to adapt to the situation and escape. There's also not much adventuring here, save for the escape attempts and Corto's attempts to protect them from the crazy Russian's bad temper.

Most of Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partly animated in North Korea (no joke). However, this film is closer to a slightly darker teen adventure than some brooding contemplation about the nature of the world or WWI. Not that they didn't try, but only traces of the true tense Corto experience remain. Murderous Rasputin is literally the only one who presents a real threat on the whole island, even though it's the hub of pirates.

A common problem with Corto's franchise is pacing. Some less relevant moments will be covered in detail, while other more important ones will be simply brushed over. There's a whole secondary plot here about a German submarine officer that focuses on honor, duty and the beastly nature of war, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot and this B plot remains underdeveloped throughout, even though in theory it's much more poignant than the A plot.

Secondly, the tone is sometimes off, mostly because of Corto's friend Rasputin who sometimes serves as the comical relief in these adventures, but often acts completely amoral, and in the case of this movie - straight up evil, yet Corto always manages to make peace and remain friends with him which makes Corto, who's more or less a moral man, a complete hypocrite. Not to mention that at this stage of his life, Corto technically works with Rasputin for a gang of thieves and cutthroats led by the always masked "Monk".

In the end, this is a passable Corto adventure, but it's not a good introduction to Corto, and should be seen only after you've seen his classic adventures like the ones in Siberia or Samarkand.

The movie is available on DVD in Europe and has optional English subtitles, so folks from the US can import it. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.

Corto's meandering adventure, 16 November 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who in 1910s and 1920s travels Europe and its colonies, as well as the rest of the world, and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars, communist revolutions and other rebellions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.

His stories usually have a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination.

Corto himself is a nice, trustworthy, tall, thin, slick, charming man with a very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her.

One could call him the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements.

Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn is the first entry in his animated franchise and is based on his eponymous comic book adventure. However, this becomes a problem, since in the comic, the adventure is a collection of short stories and doesn't work as well when presented as a single narrative. That makes the movie feel more like an anthology than a single complex adventure. The ending especially suffers because of this when a huge event that's alluded to (the discovery of the fictional lost continent of Mu) never happens. This lack of focus on a single narrative will be resolved more successfully in later sequels, but here, it's an issue.

The setting of his adventure(s) this time is South America. In 1916, Corto is in Surinam where he's asked by a supernaturally old female voodoo mystic to chaperon a confused young man called Tristan whose troubles started when he inherited the majority share in his father's company. The other shareholder wants him dead and voodoo spirits who need him and the company for reasons of their own haunt him. Corto also gets entangled in a peasant rebellion in Northern Brazil, and in 1917, he goes on an ill-prepared treasure hunt with traitorous Rasputin and a female friend.

Most of Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partially animated in North Korea (no joke). However, this film is not very broody at all because the beach and jungle locations are much easier on the eyes and the story is too loose to hold tension.

A common problem with Corto's franchise is pacing. Some less relevant moments will be covered in detail (like the almost completely irrelevant revelation that Tristan has a stepsister), while other more important ones (like the ending) will be simply brushed over. Secondly, the tone is sometimes off, mostly because of Corto's friend Rasputin who sometimes serves as the comical relief in these adventures, but often acts completely amoral, if not straight up evil, even to the point of openly threatening Corto's life, yet somehow they still always manage to make peace and remain friends. This guy makes Corto, who's more or less a moral man, seem like a hypocrite.

In the end, this is a passable, if pretty average adventure for Corto, but it's not a bad introduction to the character, although it's also in no way the core of what Corto Maltese intense experience is.

The movie is available on DVD in Europe and has optional English subtitles, so folks from the US can import it. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.

Not a bad way to end the franchise, but uneven pacing and focus are problems here as well, 11 November 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who travels all across Europe and its colonies as well as Africa, Asia and other places during the 1910s and the 1920s and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars and communist and other revolutions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.

Every story has a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination.

Corto himself is a tall, thin, slick, charming trustworthy man with very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her.

He could be considered as the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements.

The Gilded House of Samarkand is the final entry in Corto Maltese 2002 animated franchise, although his adventures do continue in the comic book (his final comic book tale was about the fictional lost continent of Mu). The Gilded House of Samarkand is set in 1921. Corto is in Turkey where the political situation is quite chaotic. Several armed and political factions are fighting for control ever since the end of WWI in which Turkey lost its empire. One night, while sentimentally watching the stars on a roof of a random house, Corto notices a hidden piece of paper - a long forgotten map to a legendary Persian treasure stolen by Alexander the Great. Corto then immediately gets taken in by the local nationalist military faction that still wants to rebuild the former Ottoman Empire. However, everyone mistake him for his lookalike, a powerful local military strongman that everyone's afraid of, so he's immediately released. Having a double slightly uneases superstitious Corto. The map takes him to a local dervish society where he gets further information. He then tries to find his adventuring partner Rasputin, a violent unscrupulous but sometimes humorous bandit and lookalike of the infamous eponymous historical figure, who's stuck in prison in the city of Samarkand. Corto embarks on a perilous journey that immediately goes wrong and meets various characters, some friendly, some vicious, witnesses a historical battle involving the invading Red Army and helps a young Armenian girl, survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

Every entry in this animated franchise has similar qualities and faults.

Most Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partially animated in North Korea (no joke).

As for its faults, the story often references moments and characters from Corto's past that are never explained. If you haven't seen the other movies and shorts, or read the comics, you'll still be able to follow and enjoy the film, but you will feel slightly lost. Furthermore, the pacing is a bit off. Some less relevant moments will be covered in detail, while other more important ones (like the ending) will be simply brushed over. Thirdly, the tone is sometimes off. The violence and brutality, while gory and realistic, sometimes seem frivolous. Also, Rasputin sometimes acts completely amoral, if not evil, but Corto still sticks with him afterward, although he does berate him a bit.

Still, in the end, this is a more or less successful, if not entirely satisfying end to Corto's 2002 animated franchise. Hopefully, we will see more of him eventually, since just like Indy, he never really ages, being himself a part of history.

The movie is available on DVD in Europe and has optional English subtitles, so folks from the US can import it. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The lesser of the two, but still a passable conclusion to a great adventure show, 5 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sometimes a sequel is better than or equal to the original. This is not the case here. This sequel to "Tower of Druaga: Part 1: The Aegis of Uruk (2008)" show fails to achieve the same level of story excellence (with some exceptions), tonal balance (there's almost no parody here and even comedy is hard to come by) or character likability (the new characters are mostly bland and forgettable).

The story begins several months after the end of the first show. The surviving heroes now lead unfulfilling boring mundane lives and especially Jil feels that their job is not done. They were betrayed by their closest allies and he needs to know why. Fatina, the warrior girl from Neeba's party, on the other hand tries to move on and forget about their climb, Neeba and the tower. She befriends Jil and they even begin going out together as friends. One night during a wrestling match where a strangely unrecognizable wrestler competes, a very small girl who looks a lot like Kaaya runs into them and asks them for help. Kaaya and Neeba are still in the tower, and only Jil can save them. Fatina is sick and tired of the tower, but Jil and others are more than willing to give it another try. When king Gilgamesh begins showing signs of madness and sends his men to capture the little girl and arrest anyone who opposes this, Fatina has no choice but to team up with Jil again. Their goal is to defeat Druaga again, gain entrance to the secret top of the tower where Neeba and Kaaya are and find them. To do this, they'll first need the rest of their former teammates, as well as some new additions. What they don't know is that the king's unstable mental state is closely tied to the whim of the ruler of the secret part of the tower and true lord of the tower who Neeba and Kaaya intend to kill.

Unlike in the first part, here the story is not so great and while the setup is not bad, the clumsy execution leaves a lot to be desired. The twists are forced and convoluted, motivations become questionable, dialog is alright, action is still fun and comedy moments, although severely toned down to the point of nonexistence as the show progresses, can still get you to laugh out loud. Especially fun episode is episode 03 where Jil's new party finally meets up with their old teammates and friends, smug wizard Melt and his adorable young assistant Coopa, who now run a more than morally questionable business as the heroes of the tower. While comedy can be found here and there, parody is almost completely removed and it only hurts the show, but then again, even the story itself, while it does tie up all the loose ends, is quite half-baked.

The old characters are still likable, but they have nothing new to do here and they end up being wasted most of the time, while the new characters are very unimaginative and stock. Even many story elements are rehashed. The only character who actually develops here is Fatina and her mini-arc is one of the strengths of the show.

Another strength of the show is the superb episode 07 where the heroes arrive on the floor where the mystical Mansion of Eternal Spring is located. There, every dead person that someone who's there truly misses automatically materializes and acts the way they are remembered. These are just friendly illusions and materialized memories, but they still provide the opportunity for those in mourning to spend some more time with those they lost and say goodbye to them. This is easily one of the best episodes in any fantasy adventure show.

English dubbing is still excellent, all of the actors are back and I can again recommend the English version.

Animation is still really fluid and appealing and it creates good atmosphere.

The tone of the show is completely unbalanced, and the show gets pretty bogged down towards the end, when all focus shifts on the overtly melodramatic conflict between Jil, Neeba and the Shadow King, the true master of the tower. These final episodes have no comedy or parody whatsoever.

Violence is still PG and it still never crosses into gruesome territory or horror.

Side-characters tend to die more often here, and there's not all that much point to their deaths, but since these people are pretty bland to begin with, nothing much changes with their departure, unfortunately.

Fan service is still very much present, including soft nudity and there's still at least one obligatory male or female bathing scene in each and every episode, although this could still be considered a parody of the fan service cliché. The problem with possible underage nudity is back as well and the show can again get downright uncomfortable when it throws in a scene of some character who looks very underage like Coopa taking a nude bath with little left to the imagination. These scenes are again not overtly sexualized, though, and they again don't last too long, so if you turn your head away for couple of seconds or hit fast forward, it still shouldn't bother you too much.

The ending of the show is quite poor and unimaginative when compared to the high expectation that the first show builds, but it's passable.

If you want epic adventure and memorable lovable characters crossed with a fun good-natured parody of the genre, go see the first show, but if you want to see how the story ends, or wish for more time with your favorite characters, give this a shot despite its faults. You won't be sorry you saw it, just that it wasn't better all in all.

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A thrilling fun adventure with great action and memorable characters, 5 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a show that has all the elements and tropes of a classic adventure mixed with excellent genre parody.

It follows Jil (his feminine name being jut one of many parodies on the genre), a superhumanly sturdy young naive self-proclaimed hero with a pure heart who quickly evolves from a useless burden to a brave inspiring hero who always puts the safety of others before his own.

Ever since his father was accused of cowardice after a battle, all Jil wanted was to be a hero and not like his dad. He sees his chance when Tower of Druaga, a legendary tower of evil that appears every few decades, reappears. The tower holds an army of various demons and their demigod overlord Druaga, but there are also treasures, mysteries and small towns inside. Its terror usually ends only when Druaga is defeated and the victor gets to make any single wish. The elderly hero-king Gilgamesh defeated the beast many decades ago and now new adventurers, thieves, political factions, mages and even Gilgamesh himself with his army want to take another shot at defeating the monster again and gaining a chance to make their one biggest wish come true. The goddess of love and protection Ishtar weakens the tower and its demon army during one summer every few years and that time has come again as well. The supernaturally tall tower has many deadly stories and the parties and the armies have only a few weeks to climb it before the summer ends and the window of opportunity to defeat the weakened Druaga closes.

Jil joins a party lead by his skillful but very bitter half-brother Neeba. After failing miserably at his job as the shield bearer and defender of the group, he is swiftly kicked out, but brave and naive as he is, he holds a desperate public speech to gather his own party. This attracts the attention of cute, but mysterious Kaaya, a priestess of Ishtar and competent mage with powers of healing and protection at her disposal, and Ahmey, a skillful brave stoic female warrior lancer. Against all odds, they agree to get to the top and defeat the evil demigod, but then Jil hears about the plot to assassinate the king and makes stopping this his priority.

The story is just wonderful and very colorful. It has many twists and turns you'll never guess, convincing motivations for the characters, fun dialog, adrenalin pumping action moments, laugh out loud comedy moments and brilliant parody moments (like episode 08 that serves in its entirety as an excellent tongue-firmly-in-cheek tribute to the cult Japanese video game The Tower of Druaga (1984) that the show was based on and even the games creator gets a parody cameo). Parody is quite a significant element of the show's charm. Episode two where we see Jil's epic heroic dream is especially parody gold.

The characters are really cute and well designed. Best of all, every character gets to do something during the show. Everyone also gets their chance to be the comical relief for an episode, but Jil's party members, powerful smug golfing wizard Melt and his very young adorable super strong sidekick Coopa who serves as his conscience and carrying mule, perform this role most often, and they are one of the most fun, endearing and memorable dysfunctional odd couple duos ever.

English dubbing is excellent and there are no badly voiced characters in the English version. The voice actors and actresses give their own fitting personality to every one of the characters.

Animation is really fluid and appealing and it creates great mythical atmosphere.

Tone of the show is not always balanced, so more often than not, a fun comical episode will be followed by a more somber adventurous episode. Episodes are in general either comical or serious and rarely there's a mix of the two.

Violence is very PG and it never goes into gruesome territory. Although the story features monsters, the show never crosses into horror and it's for the best.

This show rarely kills its main characters and even when it does, it handles it well and gives some poignancy to it.

There's plenty of fan service that includes soft nudity (there's at least one obligatory male or female bathing scene in each and every episode, although this could also be considered a parody of the fan service cliché). The problem here is that the age of the characters is not defined, and the show can get downright uncomfortable when it throws in a scene of some character who looks very underage like Coopa taking a nude bath with little left to the imagination. These scenes aren't overtly sexualized, though, and they don't last too long, so if you turn your head away for couple of seconds or hit fast forward, it shouldn't bother you too much.

The ending of the show is quite climactic and satisfying, but since this show only follows the first half of the story, its also a cliffhanger.

The follow-up "Tower of Druaga Part 2: The Sword of Uruk" (2009) is alright, but this first part is the stronger, tighter and more fun of the two series, and its way more balanced.

If you want epic adventure and memorable lovable characters crossed with a fun good-natured parody of the genre, look no further. This show is a hidden gem and an unsung adventure classic.

A promising show with great premise that never reaches its full potential, 4 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Himitsu - The Revelation (Top Secret - The Revelation) is a manga-based anime set in the near future about a small special Japanese police unit called Section 9 (short for National Research Institute of Police Science's 9th Forensics Laboratory) that operates the groundbreaking apparatus called MRI (short for Memory Reproduction Imaging) that can reproduce dead people's memories as long as the brain hadn't been dead for longer than two days. This, of course, helps solving crimes tremendously.

The show starts with the arrival of the team's new lip-reader Aoki. Since the memories are visual only, someone has to read the leaps of people who talk in them. The team's leader Maki is a stoic who inspires his team but has issues. While watching the memories of a sadistic serial killer, his former partner and best friend went insane and tried to destroy MRI, so Maki had to shoot him dead. Maki never got over that and this incident, as well as Aoki's growth as a cop and a person is what the show's loose arc is built around.

Like many procedural shows, this one also starts in an episodic fashion, but slowly builds its overarching storyline. Unfortunately, this arc suffers from similar issue like The X-Files arc - it bogs itself down in a conspiracy theory that ends up half-baked and quite unnecessary.

In fact, the biggest problem with this show is that it rarely uses the full potential of its intriguing premise. What if you could see people's deepest secret actions? And even if you could, should you? It's still a taboo idea. The show does delve into this, but often superficially and it's pretty much gone as a theme in the later episodes.

The show does hit the mark when it comes to societal and moral issues. "Joyful Song" deals with a serious issue in Japan (and elsewhere) where elderly parents become a burden to their family's budget and living conditions. "No One Sees Anything" three-parter deals with a complete failure of civilized man, when fear and detachment overcome humanity and empathy within a group of strangers on a train. Episodes like these ring true to life and handle the premise of the show well.

There are good mysteries here as well, like the Visitor, two-parter where Maki again faces the monster who turned his partner and friend insane.

The whole show has a somber and depressing tone, but that doesn't mean it's without fun moments. Episode 22 "Countdown" keeps depressing elements, but also introduces fun comical moments to the mix.

However, some episodes are half-baked, silly or obvious. Two-parter "Top Secret" deals with the murder of a fictional US president, homosexuality and even incest. It has ambition, but completely underdelivers. Its resolution is half-baked, the mystery is obvious, the story goes nowhere (although it is referenced again in the final episodes), and the incest issue pretty much resolves itself.

Speaking of taboos, the show has themes that some could call controversial. Couple of episodes deal with incest, rape, underage nudity (in a non-titillation manner, thankfully), occasional regular nudity (fan service is surprisingly low in this show), assassination of a fictional US president, gruesome violence (although most episodes are closer to PG-13 than R) and homosexual and lesbian desire (controversial to some, non-issue to others).

However, most of this is common in anime, so who knows why this show never got an official English version, although unofficial English subtitles do exist.

The show is set in the future, but there is absolutely nothing futuristic about it except the MRI. You'd think it's set in present day, but that's fine, because it helps the show feel timely.

And the characters? Aoki has some depth, Maki as well, but the other five members of Section 9 have only a handful of character development moments. Even so, they do have some personality and there is chemistry between them.

Ironically (or intentionally), the strongest chemistry is between Aoki and his boss Maki (who is always drawn with slight feminine qualities). They almost have a platonic thing going on like Mulder and Scully, but it's never the focus of the story. In fact, Aoki has at least three female love interests (the least we say about the first one, the better), but even the sensual intro and outro animations imply that there's a gay romance in the subtext.

Maybe it's just a Japanese way of showing deep male friendship, but I doubt it. Speaking of Japanese ways, the show has a significant Japanese feel to it, meaning that it often depicts Japanese tradition or customs, but in a non-intrusive way that won't confuse a viewer who's not from Japan.

The show has some action, but it's primarily a mystery with heavy procedural, dramatic and thriller elements (and Sci-Fi, although it almost crosses into fantasy towards the end). Gore and violence are present, but majority of the episodes don't show the bloody "money shot". Characters are very emotional and only Maki has any "brooding, silent tough guy" qualities to him. The characters often do incredibly stupid things (like not reporting where they're going or what their plan is). The show resorts to killing regular side-characters towards the end in an unnecessary way, so be warned. The show ended before manga, and the two endings do not match.

The animation is nothing spectacular, but it does build a decent atmosphere.

The intro and outro songs are okay, but you probably won't remember them after five seconds (especially the J-pop ballad outro song).

So, should you watch this? Despite all its faults, I'd say - yes. The premise is original, the characters are likable (once they grow on you) and the plot is often intriguing.

It's not (the superb) Psycho-Pass (2012), but still, Sci-Fi and (psychological) thriller aficionados should apply.


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