King Solomon’s Mines (1985)
King Solomon’s Mines (1985)

Genre: Action and Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: November 22nd, 1985 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: J. Lee Thompson Actors: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, John Rhys-Davies, Ken Gampu, Sam Williams

 


 

E

lderly Professor Huston (Bernard Archard) is forced to translate Canaanite artifacts by the murderous cutthroat Dogati (John Rhys-Davies), who in turn reports to Nazi Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom) – a man intent on discovering the whereabouts of the legendary King Solomon’s Mines. Meanwhile, expectedly, the journey of adventurer Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) begins in the dense jungle. He leads the unprepared, whining Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone), also accompanied by thickset native guardian Umbopo (Ken Gampu), into the unfriendly African city of Tongola.

Jesse hired the worldly guide to transport her to the House of Isis, in the hopes of locating her missing father. En route, she’s kidnapped by Dogati’s thugs, but manages to escape to her destination as Quatermain gives chase. At the House of Isis, Huston learns from shady merchant Kassam (Shai K. Ophir) that her father was mixed up in the acquisition of a map to the mines and its unimaginable treasures – and that it’s up to her (aided by Quatermain, of course) to catch up to the abductors.

The film is incredibly fast-paced – there’s barely any time to concentrate on the characters, locations, or motives. Character development occurs modestly as action sequences continue to involve all three main personas. Constant motion and ceaseless choreography accompany every inch of the story, with frequent transitions to new sets, high-speed chases, and explosive getaways happening every few minutes. So much visual excitement unfolds at breakneck speeds that it’s difficult to take it all in; it seems as if there’s enough content for more than one feature. Fortunately, the nonstop peril is of the light-hearted, injury-free kind, peppered with insincere gunfire and verbal jests.

Much of “King Solomon’s Mines” is an attempt to capitalize on the success and innovation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Arriving a year after “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” this familiarly action-packed derivation appears hopeful of reminding audiences of the aforementioned film’s obvious superiority (“Raiders,” not so much “Temple of Doom”), thrillingly set during a perilous historical time period (as this one’s setting is comparably fixed within ancient cultures and locales). Quatermain is adorned in similar clothing, combats German soldiers and Turkish thugs, negotiates with spear-wielding cannibals, fends off crocodiles, avoids booby-traps (one of which is identical to the one seen in “Temple of Doom”), witnesses sacrificial ceremonies in subterraneous constructs, and improvises plans on the spot. When the dialogue is not copying the tone and humorousness of “Raiders,” Jesse prates silly drivel for comic relief, which only draws attention to her character’s idiocy. Chamberlain is equally incapable of imitating Harrison Ford’s charisma, resorting instead to wide-eyed grins and foolish quips.

Some of the stunts are exact copies of those found in Spielberg’s original classic, while others are so outrageously unrealistic that they bring unwanted attention to their poor conceptions. Invincibility graces all of the protagonists and the primary villains, which serves to annoy more than amaze. Complementing the silliness is Quatermain’s willingness to resort to childish nonsense to avoid capture – which is just undignified enough that Indiana Jones would never stoop to such a level. Even the music by Jerry Goldsmith, here a forgettable blend of trumpets and percussion, seems to mimic John Williams’ famous score. “King Solomon’s Mines” also showcases noticeably deficient special effects (during airplane and train sequences), though the gargantuan spider monster and mutant hippopotamus creature toward the climax are definitely something different.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10

 

King Solomon's Mines (1985)