For all intensive purposes, the film that spawned our feature presentation was a major success. King Solomon’s Mines, released in 1985, had an estimated budget of $12 million and grossed over $200 million in the United States. This can probably be attributed to the similar box-office victory achieved by 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which just happened to star another dashing, smart aleck treasure hunter.
Thinking they could go back to the well for a second dip while skimping on the budget costs, Cannon Films (never a good sign) released a sequel, namely Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. It grossed around $3, proving some audiences can be only be fooled once.
The greatest thing about this movie is its cast, populated by a number of actors and actresses who I’m sure would love to forget it was ever made. First there’s Richard Chamberlain, made famous by his TV mini-series The Thorn Birds and a host of other solid credits. We also get a pre-celebrity, pre-Catwoman Sharon Stone, here trying out acting everything being filmed by the camera. Honestly, the woman acts as if her character was a manic depressive, snarling and wailing one moment and laughing like a jackal the next.
Rounding out the cast is the legendary James Earl Jones, who obviously didn’t care about the dignity of his own race when signing to be in this movie (more on that later). Unfortunately, even with a decent cast (well, excluding Stone), this movie sunk faster than a bowling pin through chicken grease…or something.
When trying to explain the plot of this humdrum rehash, very few words surface in my brain. We begin the film with a man chased by African warriors wearing white hoods. They chase him to Allan Quatermain’s house, where his wife, Jesse (Sharon Stone), is making him try on a suit. He doesn’t like suits, ya see, because he’s a bold, daring adventurer who enjoys the outdoors. Jesse wants him to be sophisticated, and is excited about them eventually moving to America so they can get away from the wild jungles of the Dark Continent. Gee, will these two ever get along?
Alan fights off the warriors and brings the beleaguered gentlemen into his home. The man, it turns out, is one of Alan’s friends, and he was part of an expedition that was trying to find a lost city of gold (ladies and gentlemen, we have a title). Alan’s brother lost the group, so our hero vows to find out what has happened despite Jesse’s futile objections. He teams up with a bloodthirsty native named Umslopogaas (AKA James Earl Jones) and a holy man named Swarma (character actor Robert Donner).
To make a long story short, the rest of the movie is spent having the group getting into various booby traps and scrapes ala Indiana Jones. The movie is so much like The Temple of Doom, in fact, that at some point I threw my hands in the air and wondered why no one was getting sued. Quatermain even gets his own brassy instrumental theme song, which plays literally every one to two minutes. It plays when he kills a lion, shoots a rock, eats lunch, visits the little boy’s room…man, you’d think this guy had a self-esteem problem.
Another way in which the film tries to emulate the Harrison Ford franchise is by adding in elements of the grotesque. Just as Doom had people eating monkey brains and insects crawling out of walls, Gold throws hilariously fake looking rubber serpents, decomposing skeletons, and more at the screen in an attempt to make the audience squirm. At best, this is tiring, and at worst it’s just laughable. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen James Earl Jones cutting off the heads of rubber snakes.
Speaking of Darth Vader, what was he thinking when he starred in this movie? The character of Umslopogaas is patently racist, an eclectic mix of stereotypes that have him wearing leopard fur clothing, teeth necklaces, Divo earrings, and carrying an axe made from a bone for crying out loud. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Swarma role is a gold mongering, boot licking, skittish buffoon in a turban. Talk about offensive…
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold’s biggest problem is its complete disinterest in trying to be better than average. The film knows it’s meant to be nothing more than a quick cash-in on a Hollywood trend, and thus decides to rest on its laurels and wait for the money to arrive. Thankfully people were smart enough to avoid this wreck, which only serves to bore and annoy.