Chief Zabu is either a terrible movie that deserves to fade into obscurity, or a brilliant satire of the uncomfortable comingling of money, power, celebrity, and politics. I’m still not sure which of the two it is.
Minor-league real estate agent and sometimes comedian, Sammy Brooks (Zack Norman), has convinced his good buddy and boss, Ben Sydney (Allen Garfield), to invest in the up-and-coming fictional country of Tiburaku. Tiburaku. You see, it is expected to be named as the newest member of the United Nations. When that happens, the floodgates will open to foreign contractors to build up the small country’s infrastructure to attract tourist dollars.
“…to invest in the up-and-coming fictional country of Tiburaku. Tiburaku.”
To obtain the necessary capital to secure their investment, Ben and Sammy look to Skip Keisel (Ed Lauter), an absurdly wealthy man-child who isn’t even permitted to touch his money unless he has daddy’s permission. Along with their middleman friend, George Dankworth (Alan Arbus, looking like Art Garfunkel’s long-lost brother), the men throw a party to introduce the president of Tiburaku, a hulking man named Chief Henri Zabu (Manu Tupou), to the investors. At this party, Ben makes the acquaintance of Hollywood actress Jennifer Holding (Marianna Hill). Sparks fly almost immediately, and Ben begins to sense the Hollywood lure.
However, no one can have a happy ending unless Tiburaku is admitted to the U.N. and Skip manages to convince his father to release the investment money. In the meantime, Sammy confronts his fear of performing stand-up comedy. Sammy and Skip’s wife, Monica (Lucianne Buchanan), have an illicit affair. Ben has to keep everyone in line while trying not to become unglued in the process.
"…either a terrible movie that deserves to fade into obscurity, or a brilliant satire."