Apr 12, 2013

Fugitive from the Empire: Jonny and Hadji Grown Up

There have been many Europeans or Americans involved with South Asians, on tv (Maya, Jonny Quest, Gunga the Indian Boy), in books (Haji of the Elephants), in comics (Corentin) -but they are nearly always teenagers.  An exception came in 1981, in The Archer, also known as The Archer and the Sorceress, also known as Fugitive from the Empirea tv movie pilot that never became a series

The rather convoluted plot draws on Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian.  In a weird post-apocalyptic world, barbarian Toran (Lane Caudell, left) sees his tribe wiped out by the Evil Empire, and goes off in search of revenge.  He hooks up with a gay-vague South Asian thief named Slant (Kabir Bedi), who at first is in it for the money, but then begins to care for Toran.  The two are quite physical in their interactions and rescue each other several times.  The addition of a third team member, Estra (Belinda Bauer), does not detract from the romantic interaction; in fact, at the end of the movie Estra goes off on her own, leaving Toran and Slant to their own fade-out.

There isn't much beefcake, so the gay subtext is the only reason to watch The Archer; the plot is nonsensical, the special effects laughable, and the dialogue purple prose at best.  But on a Sunday night in April 1981, watching grown-up versions of Corentin and Kim or Jonny and Hadji was enough.

28-year old North Carolina native Lane Caudell had been playing Southern athletes, rednecks, and musicians for several years, mostly in tv movies like Hanging on a Star (1978) and Good Ol' Boys (1979).  He didn't do much of gay interest afterwards: a starring gig on Days of Our Lives and two country-western albums, including one entitled I Need a Good Woman Bad.  Oh, and he liked his character so much that he named his son Toran Caudell.

35 year old Kabir Bedi, however, was already well-known in India, Italy, and the U.S., with credits in several buddy-bonding movies, including Sandokan (1976), The Black Corsair (1976), and The Thief of Bagdad (1978).  In 2010 he starred in the Hindi movie Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun (Don't Know Why), an entry in India's first gay film festival.