OK, let’s start by saying that what hooked me was the cover art for the audio-drama version of Louis L’Amour’s The Diamond of Jeru.
Apart from the power of the author’s name – I don’t need to tell you that L’Amour is a legend in popular fiction – the artwork suggested this was just my kind of story.
So I came to the web page of the audio project, where I was able to learn more about L’Amour’s lost story, its audio adaptation and the movie.
I had to see it.
And as I explained a few days back, it was not an easy hunt.
But finally, thanks to the good people of Das Filmsyndikat, a fabulous specialty shop in Germany, I got me a copy of the DVD for 1.95 euro.
Filmed in 2001 in Australia, The Diamond of Jeru is a classic pulp yarn of the old school.
It’s 1955 – expat Mike Kardec (Billy Zane) is hired as a guide by two fellow Americans, Hellen and John Lacklan (Paris Jefferson and Keith Carradine) that plan to go diamond-hunting into the jungles of Borneo.
But when John Lacklan becomes suspicious of what could be going on between his wife and their guide, things take a dramatic turn.
Cue to a renegade cult of Dayak headhunters, a hunt through the jungle, assorted perils and difficulties, one wonderfully choreographed and realistic fight scene, etcetera.
Somebody described it as a cross between Casablanca and Deliverance, and it sort of sum up the main plot points – but somehow detracts from the whole.
This is not a cheap rip-off.
Based on a story that would have been just perfect for Oriental Stories or Adventure Magazine, The Diamond of Jeru is a very entertaining movie – with a great cast and great production values considering it was released as a TV movie.
Indeed, the movie feels a lot like a series pilot, and the further adventures of Mike Kardec could have made for a great TV series.
The leads are excellent – and Paris Jefferson is beautiful without being so in a conventional, TV-sort-of-way.
Everything makes for an unexpectedly classy sort of pulp story – with good tension, a solid plot and beautiful looks.
The German DVD editrion is a bare bones affair – but the quality of the audio and video are excellent, and considering the fast delivery and the absurdly cheap price tag, I couldn’t be happier.
Now I’ll have to get me the audio-drama.
And not just for the cover!
Meanwhile, the original draft of the story can be found on the project’s website, while the final version was published in Louis L’Amour‘s collection of exotic tales, Off the Mangrove Coast.
Well worth checking out.