There’s a stinky sulfur cloud hanging over Werner Herzog‘s Rescue Dawn, a Vietnam-Laos escape-from-a-POW camp film set in the mid ’60s and costarring Christian Bale, Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies. It’s no secret to anyone who’s taken the time to read the chat boards attached to Rescue Dawn ‘s IMDB page that the odor in question has nothing to do with Herzog or the film itself, which no one has seen because it hasn’t yet been cut into viewable feature-length form, but from a pair of hotshot L.A. operators — funny-money financier Elie Samaha and a young wannabe producer named Steve Marlton who runs a production-finance company called Gibraltar Films) and owns a West Hollywood club called Pearl. The long and the short is that Rescue Dawn was financed as some kind of tax-shelter deal (nothing wrong with that, happens all the time), but at some point the scheme collapsed due to unpaid loans and the actors and crew who finished work on the Vietnam war film in San Francisco last fall didn’t get paid themselves, and now an oily, AFM-member distribution company Conquistador Entertainment (beware of any distribution company that features disco club music on its website!) is raising money to pay for post-production by pre-selling worldwide distribution rights. (Variety says Conquistador principals Pascal Borno and Scott Karol have sold undetermined distrib rights to Pathe UK and to several other distributors and territories.) Rising Star Holdings is listed as one of Rescue Dawn‘s production entities (the word “holdings” usually refers to a tax shelter deal), along with Top Gun productions, by all appearances some kind of flim-flam outfit whose only apparent previous credit before Rescue Dawn is the 1959 Henry Fonda TV series “The Deputy”. Samaha and Marlton are listed on the Conquistador site as Rescue Dawn‘s executive producer and producer, respectively, along with at least one basketball player, the L.A. Clippers’ Elton Brand, and possibly another — a guy named Gerald Green who has the same name as Celtics’ Gerald Green — also taking producer credits. I’ve been asked not to mention this whole magilla, but any sentient person in Kabul, Osaka and/or Terre Haute can read the whole sordid saga in pieces by just searching around on the IMDB and the various pertinent company sites. Directed and written by Herzog and based on his 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Rescue Dawn “recounts the true story of German-born Dieter Dengler, who dreamed of being a pilot and eventually made his way to the United States, where he joined the military during the Vietnam War era,” says the Conquistador website. The story’s about Dengler (Bale) being shot down on his first mission and crash-landing in Laos. While the rest of his squadron searches for him, Dangler is captured and tortured by Pathet Laos troops, eventually landing in a camp with other American POWs (Zahn among them). To escape certain death, Dengler and the other POWs make a daring escape through the jungle and build a raft to take them downriver. After Duane (Zahn), his last fellow escapee, is beheaded by a local villager, Dengler finds himself alone once again. After 22 days struggling to survive, Dengler is finally rescued by a U.S. plane, only to find himself under scrutiny by the CIA because of his knowledge of the illegal incursion into Laos.”