Luggage Of The Gods

Director: David Kendall   
Mark Stolzenberg, Gabriel Barre, Gwen Ellison

I've said it before on this web site, and I'll say it again: I'm glad to be alive both here and now. I'm glad to be living in a country where there's a lot of freedom, even if the country I live in makes it more expensive to order DVDs from other countries since the inept DVD distributors of my country often don't bother to get them in the first place (and there's the extra inconvenience of certain Hollywood studios with DVD archive collections refusing to ship their DVDs to my country.) I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I was suddenly transported to an earlier time in my country and found myself stuck there. Every time I do so, I conclude I would not find myself in a very happy state, since I would be missing stuff like TV and the Internet. Still, things could be worse for me - I could not only find myself transported to an earlier time, I could also find myself transported to an earlier place. You see, I may be strong and powerful when it comes to movie knowledge and reviewing movies, but when it comes to most other things, I am pretty much a wimp. Let's say that I was transported to a communist country in the early part of the twentieth century. True, there would be all that free medical care for all my medical needs, but I suspect that it wouldn't be high quality medical care when compared to that from the western countries. But other things would be even worse than that. Because of my non-courageous personality, I would be able to be easily bulled by the communist authorities, and I would find myself placed in situation after situation for what they would consider best for the system, not for what would be considered best for me.

And with my luck, no matter how much I tried to be a good member of the people, I would probably eventually find myself shipped to a gulag for supposedly breaking the rules. As bad as all that would be, however, it would still be a better choice than some other famous points of history I could find myself in. One such era that makes me shudder when I think of it would be the age of the knight. True, all the vaccinations that I have had all the year would probably make me immune to diseases of the ere like the black plague, but I would probably be branded a witch when I revealed my vast scientific knowledge. And if I lost my glasses, I would be helpless. How about the Egyptian era? Well, I would hate having to all the time position myself so that people facing me would see the side of my face. And if I lost my glasses, I would be helpless. The age of the Incas and Aztecs? I would probably find myself on top of a pyramid and having my heart ripped out of my body to provide the gods a human sacrifice. And if I lost my glasses, I would be helpless. (By the way, I have wondered a lot over the years just what people in eras like those did without glasses, especially seeing - heh - that a large amount of any population needs them. Does anyone know?) But the era I am really glad not to be in is the caveman era. Finding myself dressed in ragged furs and wandering around the cold European continent, I would be asking myself why the caveman didn't stay where they evolved to in Africa, where it was warm and covered with plenty of food.

Other facts about living in the era of the caveman, such as battling bears in order to take possession of their cold caves, as well as there being no movies makes me feel fortunate to live where I am. Though I am especially glad that I didn't end up in the caveman era, at the same time I realize that Luggage Of The Godswith a little applied knowledge and a little bit of luck, I could find myself branded a king by the inhabitants of the era. Think about it for a little bit. When you see depictions of cavemen in books, TV shows, and movies, you typically see them as pretty naive by today's standards. Although I don't have a time machine to confirm this, I have a pretty strong feeling that this depiction is pretty close to what was the truth. With plenty of simple-minded caveman at my feet, and the fact that I happen to have a pretty high I.Q., I can only imagine the things I would teach these caveman that, as a result, would make them think I was some kind of a god. For example, I could teach them that when you have some kind of wound on your body, you should clean it before you wrap it up with some kind of bandage. I could also teach them the basics of farming, so that they would have a lot more food at their disposal and have to spend less time hunting and gathering. And if I could take stuff from the twenty-first century with me to use, all the better. I can only imagine how amazed cavemen would be with stuff like flashlights and lighters... though I wonder if I would be branded as some kind of caveman witch. That's why I say I would need a little bit of luck, as well as my knowledge, to succeed.

As you probably guessed by now, Luggage Of The Gods is a movie that concerns a primitive caveman tribe being exposed to items coming out of the modern twentieth century. Some of you are probably thinking that this early '80s movie was made to cash in on the success of The Gods Must Be Crazy. Actually, Luggage Of The Gods was made before The Gods Must Be Crazy hit U.S. shores, so I'll give the movie some slack there. And that's the nicest thing I can say about Luggage Of The Gods, which goes wrong in just about every other way you can think of. Let's start with the premise, which concerns a band of cavemen living deep in the wilderness. Okay, so far that's fine. However, soon we learn that these cavemen are not just living in the United States, but in the present United States, not the past. Maybe I could swallow the fact that a primitive tribe could live undetected in this modern age and country for so long - the movie The Last Of The Dogmen did this premise fairly successfully - but wouldn't the primitive people of this movie be, like in Dogmen, Native American instead of Caucasian? Yes, like the filmmakers of movies like Encino Man and Eegah! thought, these filmmakers' knowledge of history is poor enough for them to think there were once Caucasian cavemen in North America. Even when the first Caucasians (the Vikings) came to North America hundreds of years ago, they were more technologically advanced than their European cavemen ancestors. Enough of that - let's get back to the movie. Anyway, these primitive cavemen are regularly spooked by jet airliners that pass overhead. One day, due to a pressurization problem in the luggage compartment, one passing airliner dumps its luggage during its flight, and the luggage lands near the cavemen. The rest of the movie mainly concerns the cavemen's reaction to all the things they find with the luggage, though there is also a subplot about two shifty men from the modern outside world traveling to the luggage dump to retrieve some valuable forged paintings that were lost in the jet airliner's luggage dump.

I guess it's possible that a funny and engaging movie could be made out that premise, but you'd never know it by how it's done here. Luggage Of The Gods is so bad, I was sorely tempted to introduce a ratings system for this web site so I could get some pleasure out of stamping this movie with a "zero stars" rating. One of the things that greatly annoyed me about this movie was the characters - rather than the fact that there are no real characters in the movie. No protagonists who make us care about their situations, and no bad guys with real menace or background. The bad guys are essentially an afterthought. In fact, they could easily have been written out the script with no real consequence to the rest of the movie. And while almost all the movie involves the cavemen characters, none of them really stand out from each other. Except for a couple of times in the movie when they sing the 1960s pop hit "Build Me Up Buttercup" that they learned from working a ghettoblaster found in the luggage, they all speak one or two word sentences. Granted, these are primitive people, but if they are advanced enough to make and throw spears at rabbits (the movie makes it clear they are fierce rabbit hunters, ha ha), and draw pictures on rocks, wouldn't they have a reasonable amount of words in their vocabulary? It doesn't help that they are not speaking in English, but in caveman language, so we are never quite sure what they are supposed to be saying to each other. So there are a lot of questions like why the two cavemen get banished from their tribe, or the resolution of the love triangle the two cavemen get with one of the tribe's cavewomen. The only thing I got out of these worthless characters is some amusement from the fact one of them resembled a bearded David Hess (The Last House On The Left.)

These aren't characters - they are just essentially props used to mine the other kind of props of the movie (the various pieces of luggage scattered in the area) to try and get laughs. Clueless movie characters trying to take control of something that is unknown to them can be funny, but a lot of that humor comes from the personality of the characters, getting frustrated or confused for example. But better written characters probably couldn't have mined much comic gold with the way writer/director David Kendall handles things. Most viewers will probably forgive that many of the things dropped out of this movie's airliner (like a wheelbarrow, a barbeque, cupcakes, or an inflatable raft stored in a large wooden crate) would unlikely be in a real airliner's luggage compartment. But even more forgiving viewers will be shocked by the movie's lack of imagination with placing the primitive with the advanced. Two of the cavemen come across an alarm clock, for example, that eventually rings in their hands. What do they do? They beat the alarm clock with a stick until it stops. Oh, hilarious. As for the other cavemen, when they (eventually) lose their fear and examine the luggage, they do nothing funny with it. In fact, they seem to know what everything is used for. This is supposed to be a comedy, but there's no sense of anyone in front of or behind the camera trying. Maybe it's because of the whole low-rent feeling of the entire enterprise. The movie gives new meaning to the term "cheap and shoddy", looking like it was shot on 8mm and silently (with dialogue dubbed later), and in public parks within city limits. Sitting through this debacle, I wondered what the people in front of and behind the camera were thinking as they were making this movie. Most likely they were planning to not include this movie on their resume, not wanting to show other filmmakers they woud be bringing bad luggage in from another and failed movie relationship.

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See also: Big Man On Campus, The High Crusade, Missing Link