Ken Wahl (The Soldier), Lesley Ann Warren (Cop), Donald Pleasence (The Black Windmill), George Peppard (Cannon for Cordoba) and Bruno Lawrence (The Quiet Earth) co-star in this action-adventure yarn about a group of people in search of a missing plane with a cargo of $50,000,000. Barney (Wahl) and Gilbert (Pleasence) are local hunters with an ancient helicopter who first find the submerged wreck of The Yankee Zephyr. Sally (Warren), who runs a local mission, is persuaded to invest in their search-on the condition that she can tag along. Unbeknownst to them all, Theo Brown (Peppard) and his gang of mercenaries are watching and waiting for their chance to move in on the treasure. Treachery and hilarity go hand in hand as these unlikely soldiers of fortune vie for the vast wealth of The Yankee Zephyr-in this most entertaining and exciting adventure directed by David Hemmings (The Key to Rebecca) with a rousing and memorable score by Brian May (The Road Warrior).
What We Thought:
Race for the Yankee Zephyr is also known by the name Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr. This 1981 film stars Ken Wahl (TV’s Wiseguy) and Donald Pleasence (Halloween franchise). Pleasence discovers an old plane wreck stacked with WWII gold and treasure. With the help of Wahl, a helicopter pilot, he tries to save the wreck and its fortune. Unfortunately others are on the look out for it and try to get it first.
Wahl wasn’t a bad actor before his accident and troubles and he handled roles like this with ease. He was a good looking guy that did small action well. The film is like a buddy action movie with comedic relief. I had never heard of it until watching it, but I can see a lot of people having fond memories of it. Raiders of the Lost Ark came out the same year and that clearly crushed the action/adventure box office.
It’s that classic adventure film that checkmarks every trope you expect. There are chases, a good looking guy, a good looking woman, booze, money, bad guys, planes, water and more. It’s based on a true story about an American plane crash carrying the US payroll which was later discovered in Australia.
Race for the Yankee Zephyr is not great, but it’s interesting enough if you like buddy treasure hunt movies. It’s something I can see being remade today in the style of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Wahl was a good leading man and you could never go wrong with Pleasence and George Peppard either. If you remember the movie, the Blu-ray looks solid and sounds just as good.
Action / 91 min / PG / color
Director: David Hemmings
Starring: Ken Wahl, Lesley Ann Warren, Donald Pleasence, George Peppard, Bruno Lawrence, Grant Tilly