MGM has released the 1082 action flick Safari 3000 as a burn-to-order DVD. The title refers to a marathon road race that extends 3,000 miles across the African desert. Stockard Channing plays J.J. Dalton, a Lois Lane-like adventurous American reporter who has an inexplicable fixation on covering the race by entering her own car in the competition. Arriving in Africa (no specific country is actually cited) J.J. buys a clunker of an automobile, then meets cute with Eddie Miles (David Carradine), a rugged loner who has reputation as one of the top race car drivers. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to conclude that this odd couple will link up and Eddie will be J.J's official driver. You also don't win kudos for predicting that their friction-filled relationship will ultimately lead to some rolls in the sack as they develop an unlikely romance. The couple is constantly being challenged by the evil Count Borgia (Christopher Lee, who is clad in a bizarre black crash helmet that makes him resemble a cross between Darth Vader and a overturned spittoon). Borgia travels with his long-suffering Sancho Panza, Feodor (Hamilton Camp), who meekly bares verbal abuse from his boss. The film, directed by Harry Hurwitz, is one of those productions that seems to exist simply to afford the participants the opportunity for an exotic vacation in Africa, while collecting a pay check at the same time. (Imagine John Ford's lazy Hawaiian opus Donovan's Reef -with elephants.)
There is barely any effort to provide a story line. Most of the action consists of endless car chases with nary an explanation as to how the participants are refueling their vehicles over the 3,000 run in the most desolate of locations. The only supporting characters are bizarrely inserted into the mix without the slightest attempt to develop their personalities. These blink-and-you-miss them participants in the race are merely catalysts for some spectacular car crashes. Despite all of this, I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the unpretentious goofiness of Safari 3000. Channing is typically spunky and likable while Carradine and Lee get rare opportunities to show off their comedic talents. Lee is particularly amusing, spouting pretentious dialogue and quotes from the classics even while ludicrously clad in his bizarre costume. What makes the film durable is the spectacular scenery and impressive cinematography by Adam Greenberg (in one memorable scene a giraffe is captured in a long distance race against a car). Perhaps most improbably, the score is by the legendary composer Ernest Gold, who provided classic themes for Exodus and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Suffice it to say, his work on Safari 3000 will not be placed atop his list of grand achievements.
The movie is one of those guilty pleasures that doesn't have the slightest pretense of being anything beyond lightweight entertainment. It's a fun romp and will especially appeal to those who find The Cannonball Run too complicated and Bergmanesque to warm to.