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Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr (1981)

Race for the Yankee Zephyr (original title)
In a lake high in the mountains of New Zealand hunter Gibbie Gibson discovers a plane wreck from ww-ii. When he tells it around, a gang of crooks follows and threatens him and his daughter,... See full summary »


David Hemmings


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Complete credited cast:
Ken Wahl ... Barney
Lesley Ann Warren ... Sally
Donald Pleasence ... Gilbert Carson
George Peppard ... Theo Brown
Bruno Lawrence ... Barker
Grant Tilly Grant Tilly ... Collector
Robert Bruce Robert Bruce ... The Bartender
Harry Rutherford-Jones Harry Rutherford-Jones ... Harry
Tony Sparks Tony Sparks ... Brown's Henchman
Clark Walkington Clark Walkington ... Brown's Henchman
Frank Taurua Frank Taurua ... Brown's Henchman
Steve Nicolle Steve Nicolle ... Brown's Henchman
Dick Jones Dick Jones ... Brown's Henchman
Dennis Hunt Dennis Hunt ... Brown's Henchman


In a lake high in the mountains of New Zealand hunter Gibbie Gibson discovers a plane wreck from ww-ii. When he tells it around, a gang of crooks follows and threatens him and his daughter, because they know there are 50 million dollars in the wreck. Helicopter pilot Barney helps Gibbie against them, risking his life thereby. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Join the race for a fortune in gold. Hang on tight! [Australia Theatrical] See more »


PG | See all certifications »



Australia | New Zealand | USA



Release Date:

13 April 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr See more »

Filming Locations:

New Zealand See more »


Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This movie is based on a true to life incident about the disappearance during World War II of an American DC-3 military airplane which was carrying the payroll for the American Pacific Fleet and crashed but was later found off Cape York in North Queensland, Australia. Screenwriter Everett De Roche has said he conceived the film from this story, which had been told to him by one of his neighbors in Mount Isa in Queensland, Australia. See more »


There were apparently two different chopper/tractor hybrids made. The one used for most of filming had exposed drive wheels between the tank-type tread and the hull of the vehicle. However, the vehicle that Brown stops on the road has narrow treads with no inner wheels, and the wheel rims inside of the tread are totally different from those on the vehicle in other scenes. The cockpit plexiglas on the vehicles differs between the scene where Brown stops them and every other scene involving the hybrid vehicle. See more »


Gilbert Carson: Back down there, god knows what it's like, down there. Could be murder, down in there. Who knows?
Theo Brown: Could be murder, right here.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the first unit credits, Theo Brown pops up in the lake, wearing an inflatable life vest and bellowing for help. He continues to call for assistance as the second unit credits roll. See more »


Referenced in Audio Interview with Richard Franklin (2001) See more »


Beautiful Browneye
Performed by Donald Pleasence and chorus
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User Reviews

Great New Zealand Vistas, and daredevil helicopter stunt flying
5 October 2008 | by doc91555See all my reviews

This is a nice campy little film that the whole family might enjoy IF you can find a copy anywhere. However there are many unrealistic "shoot em up" scenes, which may leave the young to think that gunplay has no consequences. I won't describe the plot as given elsewhere.

There are two great helicopter chase scenes in the film (reminiscent of "the Gauntlet") that really show off some of the backcountry beauty of New Zealand that frankly, you would not be able to see without a helicopter.

There are also many later scenes of "expert maneuvers" in helicopter, such as "quickstop-pedalturn-reverse heading", a "hammerhead pushover" or two, "sidewall dismount", and "confined spaces settling". The pilotage is excellent.

The film also shows some of the wild ruggedness of New Zealand's South Island, where(at the time the film was made at least in 1981) the only paved roads are in larger towns and cities, and the country thoroughfares are primarily just "metal" (gravel roads) though always well maintained. And yes, the peaks really are that jagged. No special effects.

Donald Pleasance, as a happy go lucky over the hill sot, plays his character to perfection. He makes numerous muttering quips similar to the humorous mutterings you hear in the vintage "a.a.p." Popeye cartoons. Unfortunately, many of these mutterings in RFYZ are unintelligible without multiple rewinds and equalizing to hear what is said. A bit frustrating, as there are probably a few lost jokes in there.

George Peppard's accent is a very forced upper class snotty, which conforms to his portrayed character adequately.

Ken Wahl and Lesley Ann Warren's characters play well off of each other to establish a typical independent rugged male vs. coddled entitled wenging female dynamic that would be "toxic" if not for nuances of a smoldering mutual sexual interest. There is one very brief fully clothed and appearing to have been intentionally directed "doggie style" movement between Wahl and Warren masked in a "struggling to escape" context that adds a subliminal mild eroticism to the play, but will go right over the heads of the kiddies. (Though may well spark Mom and Dad's fantasies once the kiddies have gone to sleep . . . .) There are no overt sexual references in the film that the kiddies would understand, however there is a brief "wet slip" scene which does faintly reveal the nature of LAW's upper "endowments".

Shooting violence is significant, including use of assault weapons, but amazingly through the expenditures of hundreds of rounds of ammo, nobody ever gets hurt(hooray for Hollywood), nor is their accompanying gore.

Conversational and expletive profanity (all but the F word and genital synonyms) are typical for middle class language, and would likely only be offensive to "devout" types, though may be inappropriate to guarded "inculcation" of pre-teens.

Overall a fun "adventure" type film that all can enjoy as long as the young'uns are thoroughly coached or cognizant that in real life all the gunplay would really end up with lot's of dead people. And a must see for anyone interested in the wilds of New Zealand that could otherwise not be seen, or any student of rotor-wing aviation. Though all shots are exterior, so accurate control inputs are not shown. Choppers used are Hughes 269, Hughes 500C and Bell 206.

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