Mystery DVD Club No 25: Eureka

Can we unearth greatness with our latest Mystery DVD? Er...

Eureka (1983)

So far in the Mystery DVD Club adventure, I’ve had the pleasure of the downright silly but still somewhat entertaining The Doll Master, and the downright terrible cockney martial arts mess, Purifiers. So, do things improve with Eureka? Well, not quite.

This snippet from the IMDB tells us: The film is based on speculation about the real-life murder of gold prospector and philanthropist Sir Harry Oakes, found decapitated in his mansion in the Bahamas in 1943. The case is still unsolved, with theories ranging from his son-in-law, his business partner, and organized crime figures interested in building casinos on Oakes’ private island.

This pretty much covers the main plot of the film, as we witness the single-minded Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) uncover the goldmine that will ultimately make him rich and warp his mind.

The problem is that, having achieved his goal relatively young, Jack finds that he now has nothing else to do and nowhere to go. His passion for life drained, he grows bitter and abusive and begins to suspect even his family of being jealous of his wealth.

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What ensues is a vicious battle of wits between Jack and his daughter’s lover, played by the ever-creepy Rutger Hauer, with a voodoo orgy thrown in for good measure.

Seeing as this film sprung from the same mind that brought us The Man Who Fell To Earth (director Nicolas Roeg), you may have some clue as to what you can expect here.

Events kick off in a spectacularly promising fashion, as we follow Jack grappling with snowy terrain in his search for gold. Mystic women gaze into crystal balls, psychotic men blow out their brains, spraying the pure white snow with blood, and magical stones rain from the sky. Some of the visuals here are truly breathtaking, such as the glittering gold pool that spills out onto the frozen blue landscape. Filled with symbolism, prophetic visions and dreamy imagery, the first twenty minutes or so make for an absorbing experience.

And then it kind of falls apart, as we’re delivered to the sunny climes of the Bahamas and have to endure a clichéd story about a grumpy rich man and his quirky family.

None of the characters here are very likeable, particularly Jack, the man we’re supposed to care for, making it difficult to really invest any interest in the events that unfold.

Another big problem is that the film is lacking coherence; it leaps from genre to genre and ultimately fails to tell an effective story.

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Indeed, the fantastical opening sequence is so far removed from the humdrum soap opera style that follows that Eureka feels like two entirely different films jammed together. When things slide into the chaos of warring family, crazed orgies complete with snakes, and melodramatics, you just sort of want to throw something to make it stop.

Had Eureka been a short 20 minute film filled with lush imagery, interesting characters and an interesting tale, as the first little chunk is, then it might have worked. But as an overblown, gruelling two hour marathon of banality and triviality, it dies a death.