ACAPULCO GOLD (1976) Blu-ray
Director: Burt Brinckerhoff
Code Red Releasing

Disillusioned ex-child preacher Marjoe Gortner gets tangled up with drugs and whores in the 1970s comedy caper ACAPULCO GOLD, on Blu-ray from Code Red Releasing.

Arrested at an airport in Mazatlan when a drug smuggler dressed as a nun mistakes him for her contact and hands off a piñata full of heroin to him, vacationing insurance salesman Ralph Hollyoak (Gortner, STARCRASH) is looking at a forty-year sentence in a Mexican jail – "Tough titty," barks the American Consulate representative – until he makes the acquaintance of washed up America's Cup sailor Carl Solborg (Robert Lansing, ISLAND CLAWS) who briefly shares his cell after riding a burro into a bar under the influence. When Solberg is bailed out by wealthy Morgan Frye (John Harkins, BIRDY) to pilot his yacht from Mexico to Hawaii, Solberg busts Ralph out to serve as first mate on the three week trip to Hanalei Bay where Frye, his young mistress Sally (a pre CHiPs Randi Oakes), and bodyguard George (Phil Hoover, RACE WITH THE DEVIL) will meet them. While Solborg suspects that the two of them are unwittingly smuggling drugs to Hawaii, they are actually moving hidden gold that Frye plans to exchange for twenty million dollars in heroin from Chinese dealer Wang (Kwan Hi Lim, HARD TICKET TO HAWAII). Also converging on Hanalei Bay are local DEA agents Gordon (Lawrence P. Casey, THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE) and Iwanabe (Barlow Chu) in response to a number of hijackings of pleasure crafts for air contraband drop offs, and Los Angeles DEA agent Roy Hollister (PEYTON PLACE regular Ed Nelson) who needs a high profile bust to impress visiting Congressman Buelford (Robert I. Preston, DEATH MOON). Upon reaching Hanalei Bay, Ralph finds himself caught between Hollister who blackmails him into cooperating on a planned bust of the yacht and Sally who is sent by Frye to secure the boat's cargo but takes a liking to Ralph instead.

In the same year that Gortner would be splashed across nationwide drive-in and indoor theater screens in both Mark Lester's BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW and Bert I. Gordon's FOOD OF THE GODS for American International, ACAPULCO GOLD is nevertheless quite entertaining even though it lacks the star power and dynamically-staged action of distributor American Cinema Releasing Chuck Norris vehicles to come. Although somewhat uneven in humor and haphazard in structure (owing to the screenwriter's attempt to fashion a workable script from the best of several unsatisfactory drafts during production as covered in the making-of featurette), Gortner's amiability and loose cannon Lansing's irascibility go a farther way towards making their mismatched duo banter work than the script. Fresh-faced Oakes is also engaging enough to make the obligatory romantic subplot work even as the action is drawn out to the point where no one cares how the exchange is going to go down and however much the funky score of Craig Safan (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4) tries to make things seem wackier than they really are. Nelson's ruthless agent makes a better foil to the heroes than Frye or tough guy George while the other two DEA agents take up screen time on a side mission. Other than the "animals attack" classic DOGS – like ACAPULCO GOLD, an American Cinema Releasing production – director Burt Brinckerhoff's prolific career lay in episodic television, helming episodes REMINGTON STEELE and MAGNUM P.I. to ALF and 7TH HEAVEN before retiring in 2002.

Not to be confused with the 1973 documentary of the same name, ACAPULCO GOLD was released theatrically by American Cinema Releasing, and then on DVD – along with several American Cinema titles – in 2006 by Trinity Home Entertainment in an authorized edition utilizing an old video master but embellished with one of American Cinema's retrospective making-of featurettes and an optional Spanish dub track. Code Red Releasing's Blu-ray features a brand new 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer crisp enough to draw attention to a couple stock shots and reveal the faint camera reflections in the helicopter windows during a couple aerial shots. A night sequence late in the film looks rather murky but this seems to be the fault of the original cinematography as the forest and jungle greens, striking cloudscapes, and shimmering waters all otherwise delight the eye. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track gives depth to Safan's emphatic score while revealing some unevenness in the dialogue mixing, noticeable when the scene is underscored by music but even more evident in an early Los Angeles office scene with just dialogue.

Carried over from the Trinity DVD is American Cinema Releasing's making-of featurette (14:00) in which director Brinckerhoff recalls the joy of shooting in the Princeville location, Gortner's positive energy, Lansing's personality, and Oakes' beauty and athleticism. Co-screenwriter Don Enright (SPASMS) reveals that he was given pages from multiple drafts of the script to put together into a coherent script in a week before shooting. Since he could not do this by the deadline, he was brought to Hawaii and spent two weeks confined to a condo writing and incorporating elements as they were found by the production including locations and the Rolls Royce which had been brought to the island at great expense. He also reveals that the Rolls was stolen before an interior scene was to be shot and the rear axle broken, requiring the car to be towed during the shooting of the scene with the broken axle bumping and dragging on the road under the dialogue. Compose Safan reveals that he was brought in two replace a rejected score in a short amount of time, but that working on independent films (in a garage studio) allows for a greater degree of creative freedom and experimentation. American Cinema Releasing's head of marketing Sandra Shaw recalls working on the ad campaign and being shouted at by an ad company designer for making suggestions. Besides the film's theatrical trailer (0:51), the disc also includes trailers for THE SICILIAN CONNECTION, THE DEVASTATOR, FAMILY HONOR and RUNNING SCARED. (Eric Cotenas)