Jaguar Lives! (1979)

Jaguar_Lives_(1979)‘Look, I’m sure you and your little bulldog didn’t just fly in to see the cows.’

After his partner is killed on a mission, Jonathan Cross retires as a secret agent. When a series of high level assassinations occur in the Middle East, he’s persuaded to return because it appears that the culprit may have been responsible for the death of his friend…

After ‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973) star Bruce Lee became a global phenomenon, there were plenty of attempts to launch real-life martial artists as the successor to the late superstar. Joe Lewis was one; a man who Lee himself considered ‘the Greatest Karate Fighter of all time’ and one of only 5 men to defeat Chuck Norris in competition. Unfortunately, the only acting experience he had was a bit part in Matt Helm flick ‘The Wrecking Crew’ (1968) over a decade earlier, and his lack of experience was cruelly exposed in his first starring vehicle.

Obviously, the film was intended as a rival to the Bond franchise with Lewis as an agent who could use his fists and feet to deadly effect, rather than a Walther PPK. The concept is certainly a decent one, but is scuppered not only by Lewis’ lack of presence, but by a weak script and indifferent direction. The plot meanders confusingly, often seeming to be just an excuse to send Lewis from one exotic location to another and to meet one guest star after another. These guest stars never appear in any scenes together, which is not a good sign. Also the final revelation of the villain’s secret identity should come as a surprise to no one.

It’s the impressive role of guest stars that is likely to be the reason anyone seeks this film out now. It’s probably no coincidence that these provide several links to the Bond franchise. First up, Lewis’ handler is Mrs Ringo Starr – the lovely Barbara Bach from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977), and, later on, he runs into Bond villains Donald Pleasance from ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967), Christopher Lee from ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974) and Joseph Wiseman from ‘Dr. No’ (1962), making his final film appearance.

Jaguar Lives (1979)

‘I’ll come with you so long as I don’t have to wear a shirt.’

Elsewhere he tangles with 1960s ‘It Girl’ Capucine and Western icon Woody Strode. Also present is film director John Huston, whose ill-judged acting career included Euro-bombs like ‘Tentacles’ (1977) and demented ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977) knock off ‘The Visitor’ (1978). None of these famous names makes much of an impression, with the notable exception of Pleasance, who has fun as the unhinged dictator of a banana republic.

The action and combat sequences could have saved the film, of course, but there’s little stunt work and the fight choreography is predictable and flat. Given Lewis’ lack of star quality, the combination of all these negative factors makes for an unsatisfying experience. Perhaps the most memorable moment is the climactic face-off on the battlements of an old castle. Not because there’s anything remarkable about the sequence itself; just that it was the middle of the night a few seconds earlier.

The final scene hints at sequels but it was no surprise when they failed to appear.

2 thoughts on “Jaguar Lives! (1979)

    • Or the glories of YouTube! It was just another Christopher Lee movie to tick off. I’d heard of it vaguely because it was part of John Huston’s tragic ‘acting’ career which is always good for a laugh (Tentacles (1977), The Visitor (1978)) so it was two birds with one stone for me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s