King Solomon's Mines (1985) (part 1 of 6)

SUMMARY: Richard Chamberlain stars as legendary adventurer Allan Quatermain, in an adaptation of the classic novel that’s basically a brazen Indiana Jones knockoff. Also starring Sharon Stone, John Rhys-Davies, and Herbert Lom.

Cannon didn’t just thrive on ninja films and extending the careers of Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson. They also took the occasional stab at the adventure genre. (They also made several attempts at legitimate A-list movie material, but this isn’t really the time or place to go into that.)

Like any good exploitation outfit, Cannon knew how to ride a trend like there was no tomorrow. Hot on the heels of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom, they released King Solomon’s Mines, based on the classic novel by H. Rider Haggard. Starring Richard Chamberlain as Allan Quatermain, it features Sharon Stone in an early role as the heroine, and John Rhys Davies as one of the villains. It was fairly crappy, yet oddly watchable, in a “Well, it’s either this, or sit in the living room flicking the lights on and off for an hour and a half” sort of way.

Nevertheless, it spawned a sequel, which I’ll probably be examining in the near future. And a few years before the sequel, Cannon released a really bad 3-D flick called Treasure of the Four Crowns, which I would gladly give my appendix to own on DVD.

Our movie today is loosely based on the original novel by H. Rider Haggard. And by loosely, I mean barely at all. The basic premise is there, as are some of the characters, but if you go into the novel expecting a shrieking blonde heroine, treacherous Germans, and sadistic Turks, you’re in for a big surprise.

The novel was written in 1885, and was a surprising success for the time period. It inspired pretty much every adventure film made in the last century, most prominently the Indiana Jones films. So naturally, there have been several attempts to adapt the novel, with probably the best being the 1950 version with Stewart Granger—though I’ve heard the 2004 version with Patrick Swayze is rather good as well.

Funnily enough, our feature today isn’t even the worst version of the story to have ever been filmed. The worst version is a direct-to-video turd pile called Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls, released by the Asylum (who else?) in 2008 to capitalize on the most recent Indiana Jones movie. So you might be asking, “Why not tackle that one instead?” And the answer is simple: Nothing happens in that movie at all. Not one single goddamn thing.

Besides, knowing my computer, it would not only refuse to play the disc, but it would also achieve sentience and self-terminate in order to save itself. It’s kind of a dick that way.

This brings us to our feature today, directed by a slumming J. Lee Thompson. Actually, you could describe the whole of his career in the ‘80s as slumming and you’d get no argument from me. Take some bad comedy, some unpleasant racial stereotyping, and a ton of action to try to cover over the fact that the film is crap, and you get King Solomon’s Mines.

I give it 6 out of 10 clownish Germans. Let’s check it out.

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Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: King Solomon's Mines (1985)

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