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Skullduggery (1970)
Movie Review by The Gravedigger

Skullduggery (1970) Dr. Sybil Greame (Susan Clark) is an archeologist on an expedition in New Guinea to find fossils of a prehistoric ancestor. Among her crew are two guys, Otto Kreps and Douglas Temple (Burt Reynolds), who have an entirely different agenda. While she is looking for remains they are searching for phosphorous deposits to mine. If they find them they'll be millionaires, since it's used in color television tubes. The first part of the movie is an expedition, in which they traverse a hostile landscape via canoe, then on foot and encounter some not-so-friendly natives. They eventually come to a valley where Dr. Greame does find a human-like skull. But when Temple finds another one and brings it to her she thinks he's pulling a scam because it's not even ten years old. This is when they discover the Tropi's, these small ape-like humans that live in the area.

One of the Tropis, a female named Topazia, develops a bond with Otto Kreps and it's through him that they are able to meet the entire tribe of them. Kreps and Temple have also found the phosphorous and get the information back to their contact in the city, a shady guy named Van Krusen, Since the Tropis can't be disturbed from their site and it's difficult to get people in there to work, a system is devised to put the Tropis to work mining the rock. They get paid in canned hams, which they love to eat. Yet Van Krusen isn't satisfied with this and begins plans of breeding the Tropis as slave labor. This is when the movie veers in a totally different direction and becomes a court-room drama.

The Tropi Topazia becomes pregnant and it looks like the father is actually Otto, which means that the Tropis are human. But the child dies in labor. Temple gets a doctor to sign a death certificate that Otto is indeed the father. Then, in order to get the Tropi's plight worldwide attention, he tells everyone he killed the child so that he'll be taken to court and be able to plead the Tropis' case--that they are indeed human. Experts are called in but it's determined that there is no set definition of what it is "to be human". Which I guess is the point of the entire movie.

This is simply a very weird movie. The Tropi costumes are great, basically a bunch of small Asians that look like Chaka from LAND OF THE LOST. A whole language is even devised and they sound like Orangutans. And I actually like Burt Reynold's performance, for a change. Recommended.

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