When I told people at home that I was going down to Colombia to write for a few months this fall, there were a few common responses: Why Colombia? When are you going to get a real job again? Isn´t it dangerous there? And most often from the non-disbelieving, where in Colombia?
I wasn´t really sure at the time, but I thought Cartagena sounded like a good idea. On the Caribbean. Warm. There is something about the vibe in coastal towns that I like, though I´m not really one to lay around on the beach or even get in the water that much. So that was the answer I usually gave to my friends.
Romancing the Stone…. in Cartagena
What I didn´t remember at all was that Cartagena was the city where the adventure started in that classic 1980s movie, Romancing the Stone. At least a half a dozen people reminded me of that before I got here and shortly after, so one night at my hotel, I downloaded it from the internet (let´s assume I did that legally) and watched it. Here is my 2010 review of this 1984 flick, that unfortunately I first saw in high school, way too damn long ago.
The tag line for Romancing the Stone on IMDB – the movie database is “A romance writer sets off to Colombia to ransom her kidnapped sister, and soon finds herself in the middle of a dangerous adventure.” It was one of the first action/romance films of that era and there were a number of firsts, or close to firsts, that struck me when I did a little digging.
• Robert Zemeckis was the director. It was only his second directorial effort, the first being the awful Used Cars in 1980, which probably explains why it took him four years to get another job. But he followed up Romancing the Stone with Back to the Future (1985), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and Back to the Future, Part II (1989) and Part III (1990), helping to provide more proof of the axiom that the third movie in almost every series should be erased from everyone´s memory. He went on to later do Forest Gump, Castaway and Contact. This movie was basically the start of his successful career.
• He wasn´t the only one. It was Danny DeVito´s second movie, after his run on television with Taxi, as Louie De Palma (speaking of things I need to download). I say his second movie – there actually were some credits from movies before this one, but I think it is safe to say that he would appreciate everyone forgetting those existed. Not a list of must-sees.
• Which brings us to our two stars. Kathleen Turner had been in Body Heat (1980) and The Man with Two Brains (1983) before this movie, and this movie helped catapult her into a fairly respectable movie star during the 80s, before she completely crapped out in 1990 as a sex symbol. Her roles since then have been completely forgettable, save for a recurring role on Friends and more recently on Californication, where she basically cashed paychecks on the premise of poking fun at her long, long extinguished sex appeal. More on that in a bit.
• Michael Douglas had a long career before Romancing the Stone – if you can believe it, his first credited role was in 1969. He had a good run on The Streets of San Franciso (with remake fever in Hollywood, this has to be on some producer´s desk right now), but his only movie role of note before this one was in the incredibly good The China Syndrome (1979). After this movie, his career took off – Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, War of the Roses, Basic Instinct, Disclosure, American President and so on.
Which brings me back to Katheen Turner´s run as a sex symbol. Michael Douglas´s object of attention, at least movie-wise, in Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, was all the rage back in those days.
And just to throw some salt into that – Michael Douglas´s wife of a decade, Catherine Zeta Jones:
Here´s hoping that he successfully overcomes cancer, but regardless, he had led a hell of a life. And just to throw another log on the fire, he is reportedly worth about $145 million.
I originally said this would be some sort of movie review, so here is my review: good movie, watch it again soon. A bit dated, like most movies from 25 years ago, but a good ride from beginning to end that is worth checking out one more time. Now back to the stuff I like, the things that strike me as funny and/or odd.
• This isn´t particularly surprising, given the political situation in Colombia at the time, but none of the movie was filmed in Colombia. It was done in the States and Mexico, though they did a very nice job of recreating the famous stone walls of Cartagena in one of the final action scenes.
• I think one of the reasons, aside from the Cartagena connection, that people wanted me to watch it was that she was a writer in the movie. Not only a writer, but supposedly a repeat best selling writer. Given the shabby state of her apartment and obvious lack of funds, I found that particular connection a bit depressing.
• She flew Pan-Am from New York to Colombia. Ahhh, those were the days.
• The “stone” of the movie was an emerald. Given how many emerald shops I have seen in this country, I think that picked a pretty accurate precious stone. In fact, 50-95% of the worldwide production of emeralds comes from here, depending on the year and the quality. Colombian natural resources info.
• One of the opening scenes showed an advertising poster for her book. Avon was the publisher and the cost was $3.95.
And last, but not least for those of us that grew up in the 80s, the title song was sung by Eddie Grant. Lord, was he horrible, but did hearing his voice ever bring back a decade´s worth of memories in a flash:
Cartagena is such a beautiful city — here are some more of my pics from there. And more.