Combustible Celluloid
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With: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, John Rhys-Davies, Ken Gampu, June Buthelezi, Sam Williams, Shai K. Ophir, Fidelis Chea, Mick Lesley, Vincent Van Der Byl, Bob Greer, Oliver Tengende, Neville Thomas, Bishop McThuzen
Written by: Gene Quintano, James R. Silke, based on a novel by H. Rider Haggard
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 100
Date: 11/22/1985

King Solomon's Mines (1985)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Haggard Adventure

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Indiana Jones was partly inspired by H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel, as well as its first two big-screen adaptations, released in 1937 and 1950; this 1985 release, produced by the infamous Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan at Cannon Films, was a quickie copy of the Indiana Jones movies. There isn't even any denying it; poor John Rhys-Davies traded in his kindly Sallah role in those films for the villainous Dogati in this one. In its day, King Solmon's Mines must have been looked upon with scorn for being an inferior ripoff, and, to be sure, it isn't a very good film, but it gets points for being bright and cheerful and for trying to have fun.

Richard Chamblerlain stars as the Jones-like Allan Quatermain (complete with a nifty hat), who has been hired to help find the father of pretty Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone). The father (Herbert Lom) knows how to translate a map that leads to the legendary mines, apparently filled with diamonds. John Rhys-Davies plays one of the bad guys out to get the treasure for himself, accompanied by a Nazi bad guy who also wants it. Ken Gampu plays Umbopo, a character from the novel, who appears to be a sidekick, but has an important purpose.

In a fun sequence, the characters climb on board, and fight their way off of, a train and then a plane. In one of the most ludicrous ones, our captured heroes are dropped by cannibals into a giant cauldron filled with vegetables for soup; Quatermain tips it over and they escape by rolling down a hill while inside it. Aside from ridiculous things like that, the troubling treatment of non-white characters, the lousy visual effects, the wooden Chamberlain and the squealy Stone, there are many delights to be had. Among them is Jerry Goldsmith's cheery, thundering score, and the snappy pace.

I also liked a scene in which the heroes find refuge with a tribe of locals that spends all their time hanging upside-down from trees; director J. Lee Thompson actually manages a few lovely moments here. Thompson was known for The Guns of Navarone, the original Cape Fear, some Planet of the Apes sequels, and several Charles Bronson films, as well as Mackenna's Gold (1969), which, perhaps ironically, or perhaps not, is another of the films that inspired Indiana Jones.

If Olive Films' 2017 Blu-ray release came with a commentary track, we might hear again the funny story that was told in the fun documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films; apparently one of the producers asked for "that Stone woman" to be cast as the female lead, and the casting director responded with the up-and-coming Sharon, but what was meant was actually Kathleen Turner from Romancing the Stone. Oh well. Sharon Stone may be a bit shrill -- and was reportedly not fun to work with -- but she's still easy on the eyes. The disc looks fine, with strong picture and sound, with optional subtitles, but no other extras.

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