Jaguar Lives! (1979)

What’s a professional champion kickboxing badass who studied under Bruce Lee and kicked Chuck Norris’ ass supposed to do at the close of the 70s?  Launch an globe trotting espionage action franchise of course!  Unfortunately some launches aren’t as successful as others and may fall just a tad short.  I’m sure initial interest had to be high.  Directed by Earnest Pintoff of BLADE (1973) JAGUAR LIVES was packed with stars like Donald Pleasance, Christopher Lee, Barbara Bach, Capucine, Joseph Weisman, John Huston and Woody Strode.  The problem with this ensemble is that each has about 5 lines of dialogue and 4 minutes of screen time.  Except Pleasance who serves up a a heaping helping of ham and cheese.  Lee chews scenery in usual fashion.  Classing up a rather weak transitional character.  That and the face that the Jaguar visits more international destinations in the course of the film than the whole of the Bond franchise.  Some cities he just walks along during a voice over and some funky beats nodding at people as they point toward or away from the camera and we find yet another international setting.

The shadowy figure Esteban has been killing off the heads of crooked banana republics weakening the economy of the drug lords in order to swoop in and seize all of the power becoming the largest cartel in the world.  This scheme even has an official title.  The Killing of the Kings™brought to you by Esteban™.  Enjoy his unique guitar stylings while watching generalissimos die.  Just kidding.  Its not that Esteban.

This flick is awesome fun.  Every action/espionage trope is found in JAGUAR LIVES!  Not many gadgets because Lewis only needs his hands and feet but he has the cool cars and steals the helicopters he needs.  There are hot international ladies waiting to assist him in every locale and not even hot young nuns can resist the charm of the Jaguar.  To show the technological excellence of the Jaguar’s Agency G6 any international conversations are heard as voice overs while a satellite is shown in low orbit.  There is even a point where Cross’ old friend and partner offers him the opportunity to be his heir and take over control of his shadowy holdings.  No one else possesses the skills to be a “warlord” except the Jaguar.  When refused Caine (Christopher Lee) gives Cross the opportunity to allow fate to choose wether he lives or dies Cross must play a game where he sticks his finger in a box…some boxes are ok others will kill him…I’m not entirely sure how this convoluted mess works and neither is the Jaguar.  He says fuck it and goes after Caine.  He is then forced through a gauntlet that will try his skills.  At the final step of the gauntlet Caine reveals a tombstone saying “Jonathan Cross The Jaguar no longer has nine lives.” Needless to say Cross beats the baddies and Caine sends him along with a knowing nod and brotherly wave.

When finally facing off against Esteban…I won’t spoil it for you…there are two key sequences.  Cross shouts a challenge down to Esteban during the bad guy dinner party in the darkest of night.  Esteban screams in rage grabs a torch and charges up the castle steps to the top of the ramparts and leaps out to confront Cross.  It goes from the middle of the night to high fucking noon.  I shit you not.  Esteban now confused as well as enraged casts the torch aside and begins to trade blows with the Jaguar.  Roughly 45 minutes (not really but seemingly) into their duel both men decide to rip their shirts off and avail themselves of the halberds left on the rampart ruins.

You really should see this flick.  It kicks so much ass that it kicks its own without realizing it.  Sadly it did not spawn the prepackaged Joe Lewis Jaguar super spy of Agency G6 (hrm…sounds familiar).  Lewis kicks major ass and my only real critique is he looks painfully awkward wielding firearms-it doesn’t matter if its a handgun or a rifle he just looks uncomfortable with them.  I think many of you will mourn the loss of a series of Jaguar flicks.

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