As far as consolation prizes go, High Road to China is definitely a consolation prize, but not an altogether bad one. Though it looks relatively low budget when compared to Raiders of the Lost Ark, it still manages to have just enough budget to keep from looking totally cheap. Things would have been a lot better looking if the director hadn’t opted for that dainty sort of washed-out brown-and-cream color palette that looks more at home in a ponderous Merchant-Ivory production about people struggling to come to grips with their mild dislike of tea. It’s a style of filming that seems to have been particularly common for films in the 1980s that were set in the 1920s. Instead of cheering as the hero punches out bad guys and swings over pits full of snakes and hyraxes, you spend most of your time worrying that tough-but-lovable Tom Selleck is going to get crumpet crumbs on the doilies (crumpets have crumbs, right?), making Aunt Martha slightly disappointed, though she would never show such bold emotion in the company of others. But that said, as far asRaiders rip-offs go, this is one of the better ones. It helps that, though the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark is obviously why the movie got made, the movie itself doesn’t feel the need to copy the plot other than being about a lovable rogue adventurin’ around in some past time period.

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