King Solomon’s Mines review
King Solomon’s Mines is the first Allan Quatermain film starring Richard Chamberlain, who would go on to reprise his role a year later in the sequel Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, but it’s not the only adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s novel. With that said, it’s certainly the one that most closely resembles an Indiana Jones movie, particularly 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Screenwriters Gene Quintano and James R. Silke model Quatermain’s stylistics and mannerisms after the Harrison Ford character, and even many of the adventure scenes feel ripped from Steven Spielberg’s oeuvre. Still, there’s a reason that the Indiana Jones formula is so successful, and King Solomon’s Mines adds enough humor and action to give it more depth than just an offshoot of a popular blockbuster series.
Chamberlain is joined by Sharon Stone playing his female protagonist Jesse Huston, who sets the entire film into motion after she enlists Quatermain’s help in finding her father (Bernard Archard). This leads them through a number of crazy scenarios including nearly being boiled alive by a group of cannibals, fighting off Germans and Turks in Africa, encountering a giant spider in the mythical King Solomon’s mines, and haphazardly flying a plane with Quatermain hanging from the wing.
King Solomon’s Mines is certainly full of action, and for the most part it doesn’t let up through its entire 100 minute running time. Director J. Lee Thompson does highlight the goofy nature of the plot rather than allow it to get too serious; however, this does often feel like a mistake, especially in scenarios where Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom) and Dogati (John Rhys-Davies) murder a bunch of their own men to gingerly use them as stepping stones across a puddle of quicksand. Still, for viewers looking for Indiana Jones-style adventure, the film manages an energetic pace that makes up for the rather dull overarching plot.
Chamberlain excels during his humorous bits, too, with a quip for nearly all the bad luck that happens to them. He’s the most enjoyable part of the Allan Quatermain films, and he manages to develop a good rapport with Jesse Huston despite some questionable performances from Sharon Stone. Other than Chamberlain, though, no other characters are very memorable.
Similarly, the story itself lacks direction – it’s more or less just an adventure with Quatermain and Jesse bumbling through Africa meeting murderous tribes and animals. The script also treads dangerously close to racism, not to mention the rampant sexism eschewed by our charismatic hero. Whereas Indiana Jones films excelled due to Harrison Ford’s gruffness and attitude, King Solomon’s Mines‘ comedy feels too reliant on the usual low-brow jokes: the natives want to kill them, or Jesse does something stupid. As the film wears on, so too does the dialogue.
King Solomon’s Mines is an admirable attempt at copying the Indiana Jones formula, but it misses the mark in just about every aspect. I’d also argue that it is the weaker of the two Chamberlain Quatermain films, with a fairly uninteresting plot paired with a smattering of action sequences. Perfectly acceptable watching for a quick fix if an Indiana Jones film isn’t handy, but certainly not on par.
Click next for the Blu-Ray review.