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Guyana: Crime of the Century - Cult of the Damned
Guyana Crime of the Century - Cult of the Damned
Actors: Jennifer Ashley, Gene Barry, Erika Carlson, Joseph Cotten, Yvonne De Carlo
Director: Jr. Ren Cardona
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2005     1hr 55min

Nearly 1,000 people - even tiny babies and children - lay dead and rotting in the morning sun in the South American country of Guyana, all victims of cult leader Jim Jones, who had ordered the mass execution of his foll...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jennifer Ashley, Gene Barry, Erika Carlson, Joseph Cotten, Yvonne De Carlo
Director: Jr. Ren Cardona
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Vci Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 02/15/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 55min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Utter tripe
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 07/10/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Ahhh, we're finally seeing the oeuvre of famed Mexican director Rene Cardona, Jr. arrive on DVD. Such an event gives horror/exploitation fans the world over reason to cheer--or let out a huge raspberry as a show of defiance. Cardona burst on the scene back in 1964 with the smash hit "El Raspado" before moving on to a career in rancid, cheese infested exploitation fare like "The Night of a Thousand Cats," the horrifically boring "Tintorera: Bloody Waters," "The Bermuda Triangle," and "Guyana: Crime of the Century." Cardona had a knack for assembling recognizable talent from the United States and Europe, putting them in truly dreadful pictures, and then sitting back and waiting for the pesos to roll in. I suspect he saw precious few pesos if the two movies I've seen are any indication. After sitting through this tasteless account of the Jim Jones massacre followed by the two-hour plus cerebral novocaine that is "Tintorera," I'm thinking about heading down to Old Mexico for a refund. But, alas, such will not happen. Director Cardona passed away in 2003. One hopes that he spends his time in purgatory watching his films on a perpetual loop, preferably while suffering a chronic case of Montezuma's Revenge.

"Guyana: Crime of the Century" opens with the Reverend James Johnson (Stuart Whitman in a "I wonder who he's supposed to be?" role) preaching to a packed church crowd. This opening monologue, which runs on for what feels like forever, sees Johnson railing against the CIA, the FBI, the government at large, and anyone else in a position of authority. It's dreadfully dull, and definitely not a good sign of things to come. Anyway, we soon see some poor soul run over by a train. Huh? The next few scenes offer an explanation. Some folks show up at Congressman Lee O'Brien's (Gene Barry) office complaining about Johnson's religious organization. Grim stories of murder, extortion, and terrorism permeate the conversation. O'Brien expresses concern but does nothing initially. Meanwhile, we head on down to Guyana in time to see Johnson and his flock setting up quarters in the jungle. The people, a nice mix of black and white, seem to get along together quite well. Johnson, on the other hand, comes off as a raving lunatic with sunglasses. Who would follow this clown? Well, we know the answer to that little question already, don't we? The movie rapidly bogs down at this point, or I should say bogs down even more than it did as soon as it started.

Nothing much happens for the next couple of hours. We see lots of footage of Johnson haranguing his followers intercut with scenes depicting Congressman O'Brien's growing concern over the activities down in Guyana. Reverend Johnson runs a pretty tight ship down on the Guyana farm if what we see is any indication. Those children and adults unfortunate enough to get caught breaking the rules suffer punishments you wouldn't wish on your worst enemies. Check out what happens to the couple caught catching a few hugs in private--boy, talk about a strict stance on out of wedlock relationships! Then there's the kid and the electric shock therapy. When James Johnson says, "thou shall not," thou better listen. At some point in this glacial film, O'Brien assembles a team of local journalists and launches a fact-finding investigation in Guyana. He meets up with Johnson's legal team, Dave Cole (John Ireland) and Richard Gable (Joseph Cotten), in an effort to get to the bottom of the charges leveled against the settlement. Remarkably, he finds little to dislike despite a number of people wanting to leave with him. The group heads off to the runway only to die when Johnson's followers open fire. What happens next is shown in nauseating detail--grape kool aid and all.

"Guyana: Crime of the Century" is a crime, but not in the way Cardona imagined onscreen. It's a crime a filmmaker could make a piece of tripe like this and pass it off as serious cinema. No opportunity for grisly kicks goes missing here--Cardona's camera recreates the tortures and mass murders in extreme close up. The conclusion especially plumbs new lows in exploitation cinema. We've got babies crying while someone injects them with cyanide, people screaming and fighting to live, and bodies collapsing and writhing on the ground in agony. Wow! People went to the theater to see this? Even worse are the things Cardona forces his talent to go through. I felt nothing but pity for Joseph Cotten, an actor who once appeared in the greatest films ever made. Watching him in "The Thin Man" and then this dreck really hits where it hurts (and hurts where it hits). I'd swear Cotten was quite ill when he made the film, too. He's always leaning against a wall, and in one scene he nearly drops a cup before he can set it down. It's quite sad. John Ireland, Stuart Whitman, Gene Barry, and Yvonne De Carlo should also have known better than to appear in this movie. Oh, the lure of a paycheck!

Actually, I don't have a problem with making a film based on a human tragedy as long as there is some attempt made to gain an understanding about the event. For instance, check out the made for television miniseries about the Jonestown tragedy starring Powers Boothe. The miniseries is a far better project in terms of production values and performances, and one that tries to understand why Jim Jones did what he did. Cardona's film, on the other hand, is nothing but pure schlock filled with cardboard cutout characters and scenes designed for cheap shocks. Of course, I'm a huge hypocrite who went on to watch another Cardona picture, and I'll probably watch more. Why? So I can report back here to tell you not to watch them!'t watch this, okay? Thanks!

Forget it....
Scott Robins | Missouri | 04/08/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)

"..the only fairly good scene has been edited out. Or, if you have to see it, you have 115 looooonnnngggggg minutes to try to figure our what happened to the excellent actor Stuart Whitman's career, and did fine actors like Gene Barry and Joseph Cotton need the money (what there was of it) that badly?"
Interesting for the morbidly curious.
NoWireHangers | Sweden | 07/01/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This film was made very soon after the Jonestown tragedy and the names of the characters are slightly changed, but I do think it tells the story pretty much the way it happened. This is a European exploitation film, but don't expect it to be some sort of gore fest or horror film, because it's not. It also does not have the depth of the TV film, "Guyana Tragedy - The Story of Jim Jones". Without excuses or mercy, this film shows what happened, without analyzing the events. If watching movies is an act of voyeurism, this film appeals to your morbidly voyeuristic side (if you have that side, and I admit I do). To use and old cliché, I suppose you could compare the film to the proverbial car wreck; you don't want to look but you can't look away.

I'm sure this does not appeal to everybody, but with all my deepest respect and sympathies for the victims of this tragedy, I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this film. But those looking for a deeper look into the events and what lead up to it, check out "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones" instead (or get both)."
William C. Stanton | 09/12/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)

"This movie has parts cut out of it, don't waste your money on this inferior product!!!"