King Solomon’s Mines (1985) — It won’t leave you Indiana Jonesing for more

“Next time we steal a plane, I’ll let you crash it!”

Justin’s rating: X marks the dud

Justin’s review: The incredible success of Raiders of the Lost Ark sent 1980s Hollywood in a tizzy to find the next sweaty hunk of machismo to cash in a pulp adventure. Michael Douglas got his turn in Romancing the Stone, Tom Selleck did High Road to China, and around the middle of the decade someone dug up aging leading man Richard Chamberlain to try his hand at King Solomon’s Mines.

Let’s be frank: This isn’t the kind of movie you watch hoping to see some hidden Indiana Jones-like gem from the ’80s. You watch it if you’re fascinated with botched attempts to reverse engineer hit movies. Practically element from Raiders is present in King Solomon’s Mines — from a biblical objective to a stirring soundtrack from a great composer to mean Germans to a semi-hapless female sidekick — but it’s all reassembled poorly and without any skill. It’s the kind of thing that Cannon Group specialized in doing back in the day, really.

King Solomon’s Mines has problems right from the get-go, as its opening section plays out like it’s Act Two of a movie. We’re following heroes and villains in a city who haven’t been introduced one whit, but they’re doing stuff and they certainly hope you’ll be instantly on their side. Allan Quatermain (Chamberlain) has been hired to help Jesse (a very young Sharon Stone) find her missing father in Africa during the first World War. A Turk named Dogati (John Rhys-Davies, sacrificing Indiana Jones cred to be here) and a group of fat, dorky WWI Germans become part of this pursuit, as Jesse’s father has knowledge of a map leading to the fabled mines of King Solomon.

Cue a whole bunch — and I mean a Costco family pack size here — of slapstick and stereotypes and racism. It’s Indiana Jones, yes, if Jones wasn’t really that good at his side gig and had to resort to luck and several sticks of dynamite to help him through the day. Allan and Jesse fight the bad guys on a train, on a plane, and on very early automobiles. It’s a road trip where no one seems that concerned about getting to an actual destination because they’re keeping themselves entertained.

It really doesn’t help that both of our main stars are simply horrible in these roles. Chamberlain is so stiff and unconvincing, he could be Chuck Norris’ neglected understudy, and Stone hadn’t really grown into her acting chops yet. There’s no chemistry between them either, even though the movie expects us to believe that they’re in love around the 20-minute mark. And let me tell you, when you don’t care about your protagonists, there’s no hope of enjoying a movie on anything but a source for mockery.

What’s really curious is that out of all of the Indiana Jones “homages,” what the filmmakers don’t hurry to get to are any actual expeditions through ancient temples laden with booby traps. It’s seriously about 70 minutes into this before we get to any ancient structure expedition. But hey, why have that when you can have inexplicable upside-down tribes and comically huge cauldrons?

King Solomon’s Mines isn’t without its moments and ambition, but its erratic tone, cringe-worthy portrayal of Africans, and lackluster leads hold this back from being even a second-rate Raiders.

Didja notice?

  • Who works in an office with a working spike trap?
  • John Rhys-Davies! Sharon Stone! Jerry Goldsmith!
  • Slavery jokes… huh. At least he sets them free.
  • “Rare child mummy”
  • Whole lotta unnecessary slapstick
  • She threw the gun?
  • Of COURSE she’s an archaeology student
  • Everything about how they try to get through this train is embarrassing
  • These bad guys are about 90% empty threats
  • Crotch shot followed by triumphant music
  • Girls are such bad pilots, amirite?
  • Yay! Dropping bombs is so much fun! Look at the body parts fly!
  • Quatermain uses Jesse as a human shield at least twice in this movie
  • That’s one comically big cauldron
  • Well thank goodness Jesse had brilliantly white lingerie in the jungle
  • What was up with the upside-down tribe anyway?
  • Nobody’s going to be living in that village, I guess
  • Why not toss a crazy witch into things?

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