The amazing Duncan Jax made his cinematic debut in 1986 at the height of the G.I. Joe craze. The syndicated cartoon was still going strong, and the Joes even had their own breakfast cereal (Action Stars!). Just like the “Real American Heroes”, the world of Duncan Jax was a crazed mix of military gunfondling, super spy silliness, ninjas, and a baboon. Yep, baboon.
Unmasking the Idol (1986) is the first Duncan Jax adventure, with Ian Hunter as the secret agent / greatest ninja in the world. The story was conceived by producer Robert P. Eaton, whose own personal backstory will come back to haunt these films in a later installment. The plot is nearly incomprehensible, involving stolen gold presumably going to be used by evil ninja Scarlet Leader to purchase nuclear weapons to spark World War III. As if that wasn’t enough of a stake for Duncan, he’s also told in his mission briefing that Scarlet Leader is working with Goldtooth, the German arch-nemesis who killed his parents. That really baits the hook for ol’ Duncan.
Director Worth Keeter laid the groundwork here for his future as a director for over a hundred episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and related series. He’s got some other worthy credits, including the Sybil Danning / Wings Hauser vehicle L.A. Bounty and Pamela Anderson’s debut feature Snapdragon, so I’m sure we’ll be revisiting his outstanding oeuvre again someday.
Like many James Bond films, both Duncan Jax adventures begin in medias res, with Duncan showing off during some unrelated mission. We then get our requisite mission briefing from Star (C.K. Bibby) and a gearing-up phase with Shangtai Tuan playing the Q-role as the exasperated Sato. Missions like these NEVER go off as planned, so both films feature supporting casts of miscellaneous allies and enemies for Duncan Jax to berate, scowl at, or seduce, sometimes all three.
Unmasking the Idol, curiously retitled Duncan Jack und Mister Boon,
but with the amazingly over-the-top theme song left intact
He walks the night between the wrong and right,
but he’s drawn, like a moth, to the light.
The flame grows higher, his will can fight desire,
so he walks into the fire.
Ride on the wings… of the wind… to the sun..
but not… till the game is won.
Yeah, revenge is sweet, if you can stand the heat,
and can you stay in for the run?
The masked man and the devil’s gold
is a story about to be told.
Of course, Duncan’s most trusted ally is Mister Boon, his baboon sidekick. Boon’s skillset complements Duncan’s quite well since he is also trained in ninjitsu as well as tank driving and obscene gestures. Yep, tank driving, but trust me, you have not lived until you have seen a baboon kill a man with a shuriken.
After his adventure on Devil’s Crown Island in Unmasking the Idol, Jax and Boon would return in 1987′s The Order of the Black Eagle. In his second, and sadly final, mission, Duncan Jax must infiltrate the titular neo-Nazi terrorist group with the aid of fellow agent Tiffany Youngblood and a ridiculous false mustache. Predictably, everything goes pear-shaped and our heroes must escape deathtraps and recruit allies from some conveniently located South American rebels. Each of the rebels has a cute code name and related specialty, just like the members of the G.I. Joe team. A particular standout is Spike, played by Flo Hyman, a Silver Medalist on the 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team. Sadly, Flo died before filming was completed, and the film is dedicated to her.
As I write this, Order of the Black Eagle is currently on Netflix streaming, so I predict a drinking game is in order. Stay tuned and gird thy loins. There’s really not much one can do to prepare oneself for the overwhelming awesomeness of Duncan Jax.