Out of curiosity, I rewatched “Dance of the Dwarfs,” a 1983 low-budget horror-adventure that was in heavy rotation on cable TV around the time it was released. Back then, cable TV didn’t have a lot of content to choose from, so you saw a lot of the same thing over and over. I ended up seeing this movie a few times then, and then not since.
It’s based loosely on “The African Queen.” And I mean, very loosely. A then-famous actress named Deborah Raffin plays an anthropologist, who hires drunk helicopter pilot Peter Fonda to fly into the jungle to investigate legends of a race of pygmies. The cast also features John Amos as a witch doctor. The location is unspecified, but I expect it’s Latin America based on the supporting cast of Latino stereotypes – bandits, street urchins, servants and a couple of hookers.
I don’t know if it’s a good movie, but I enjoyed seeing it again. Raffin is leggy and gorgeous. She does what the role requires of her. Fonda plays a down-on-his-luck drunk very well, in a stained luau shirt and tropical white pants; you can almost smell him. There are a couple of nice comedy bits, some decent action sequences. Raffin screams piercingly, but she is also an expert shot and thinks her way out of trouble. The monsters, when finally revealed, look cheap. Raffin and Fonda have no chemistry – you can understand why she comes to like and respect him, but not why she falls in love with him, other than that’s what the script requires.
The director, Gus Trikonis, did TV and exploitation movies. He started his career as a dancer in the movie “West Side Story,” and was Goldie Hawn’s first husband. His latest IMDB credit is 2001, on a TV series with the delightfully cheesy name. “18 Wheels of Justice.”He does a good job on this movie, there are some nice shots of the helicopter in flight with the jungle below. And the helicopter itself is gorgeously decrepit.
I watched the movie over several days. It goes well with lunch. I do not expect to watch this again; there are too many other options for entertainment today. But if it’s 1983 and you’re looking for something to watch, “Dance of the Dwarfs” is a good choice.