My mind can work in some pretty strange ways. For example, let me explain how I came to own today’s movie. See, back in 2005, I had rented The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen to watch one night. Now all of the various characters in the movie were well known to me…except one. Now I had heard of Allan Quatermain but really was not familiar with him so I decided to look him up and find out more about him. Well that led to my reading some books, which also led to me looking up other movies, with the end result being my obtaining King Solomon’s Mines (1985) at a movie stop several months later.
The plot: Professor Huston is examining an artifact, which might be a map to a legendary treasure, but when he says he needs more time, Dogati, a Turkish slave trader, kills the professor’s assistant and tells the professor to translate the artifact tonight. Sometime later, Professor Huston’s daughter, Jessie, hires famed adventurer Allan Quatermain to help her find her father. The travel to the city of Tongola but as they are heading towards a store called the House of Isis, they get separated and Jessie winds up being kidnapped and taken to see Dogati and his partner, German Colonel Bockner, but her kidnappers accidentally let her fall into a vegetable cart. Jessie and Quatermain manage to evade her captors and make it the the shop, where they find the body of Professor Huston’s assistant and learn that the professor was translating a supposed map to King Solomon’s mines. When they try to leave the shop, they run into Dogati and Bockner, but manage to escape when some dynamite that Quatermain had lit explodes. After a brief car chase, they sneak on board a German train heading to Barumba, Quatermain and Jessie search for her father and find him being tortured in the caboose, but when the train brakes suddenly due to an elephant crossing the tracks, Jessie ends up falling into the caboose. Dogati sends one of his henchmen to deal with Quatermain, then threatens to disfigure Jessie unless the professor tells them where the mines are located. The professor reluctantly agrees and afterwards, he orders one of Bockner’s men to kill the Hustons. Meanwhile, Quatermain, who had been thrown from the roof of the caboose, managed to grab onto a chain from the passing car, climbs underneath the caboose, and shoots the soldier before he can kill the Jessie and her father, while Quatermain’s servant, Umbopo, defeats the henchman on the roof. Quatermain separates the caboose from the rest of the train and, at the urging of Professor Huston, agrees to help Jessie get to the mines before Dogati and Bockner, while Umbopo takes the professor to a nearby village for safety. Seeing a plane land at a nearby airstrip, Quatermain and Jessie steal a plane and, while passing overhead, manage to disrupt Dogati and Bockner’s journey, but their plane is hit and they are forced to land. Spying the twin mountains where the mines are supposed to be located, they head in that direction, but are soon captured by a tribe of cannibals and placed into a giant stew pot. Quatermain and Jessie manage to rock the pot enough so that it tips over and begins rolling down the hill, When it comes to a stop, the two find themselves surrounded by lions and are forced to wait inside the pot but when the Germans begin attacking the cannibal tribe, the lions run off and they manage to escape. As they walk through the jungle, they are grabbed by a tribe of natives that hang upside down from the trees. The natives clean and feed them then give Jessie a diamond laced crown before carrying them off towards the mines, while the hinder Dogati and Bockner’s men, carrying several of them up into the trees before dropping them. Quatermain and Jessie see a statue that is similar to the one found in the shop but they are soon captured by another tribe called the Kukuana. The priestess that leads the tribe has Quatermain hung upside over a pit filled with crocodiles and begins lowering him into the pit when Umbopo suddenly appears. Using the distraction caused by Umbopo’s appearance, Quatermain manages to free himself and begins attacking the priestess’ bodyguards but the priestess, Gagoola, has some of her men take Jessie into the caves. Umbopo reveals himself to be the rightful ruler of the Kukuana but just as the tribesmen bow to him, the village is attacked by Dogati and Bockner’s men. Quatermain and Umbopo head off to rescue Jessie, followed by Dogati and Bockner. As Quatermain and Umbopo enter the caves, the German army follows them but becomes stuck in quicksand. Dogati shoots the trapped men, then uses the bodies to safely cross but when they reach the cave entrance, Bockner shoots Dogati then orders the remaining men into the caves. Meanwhile, Gagoola tries to sacrifice Jessie but Quatermain and Umbopo rescue her and, while leaving the caves, enter the burial chambers of the former queens of the Kukuana’s, including the Queen of Sheba. Gagoola appears and Umbopo chases after her, while Quatermain and Jessie run from the approaching Bockner, ending up in the treasure room. Gagoola presses a hidden switch, causing the chamber to seal and a spiked ceiling to begin lowering but when Quatermain and Jessie manage to stop the ceiling, the chamber begins to fill with water. Bockner uses some dynamite to blow open the chamber door, freeing Quatermain and Jessie, who are carried off by the waters, then he enters the chamber and claims the treasure, but an injured Dogati appears and has Bockner begin filling his hat and pockets with diamonds, and even has him swallow some diamonds. Meanwhile, Umbopo catches up with Gagoola but she throws herself into a lava pit, causing a minor eruption that results in Dogati being partially buried when the treasure chamber’s ceiling collapses. Bockner shoots into the ceiling, completely burying Dogati, then he manages to catch up to Quatermain, Jessie, and Umbopo as they are using stepping stones to cross a lake. Demanding they hand over their diamonds, Quatermain places them on a rock but as Bockner steps forward to grab them, he triggers a trap which drops him into the water, where a monster grabs him in it’s jaws and drags him underwater. As they continue to escape the mountain, Quatermain is separated from the others and ends up fighting with Dogati, but he manages to kill Dogati by tossing him into some lava. As the leave Umbopo and the Kukuana’s, Quatermain and Jessie each reveal that they had kept one of the diamonds, before kissing outside the village gates.
King Solomon’s Mines (1985) met with pretty negative reviews from the critics, currently holding an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The general consensus was that it was shallow remake of an earlier film that spent too much time parodying Indian Jones. The movie was nominated for two Razzies, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Musical Score. In spite of the heavy criticism, the movie did manage to make a slight profit, earning over $14 million off an $11 million budget. A sequel, that was filmed back-to-back with this film, was released the next year.
I think this movie tries really had to be a bunch of different things and ends up hurting itself in the end. The acting was ok at times but there were several times where it was just too campy to take seriously. I was surprised that John Rhys-Davies took a role that was so similar, and yet completely opposite, of his role of Sallah from the Indiana Jones franchise. The story was based on the book by Henry Rider Haggard but it intentionally parodied and referred to Indian Jones throughout the movie. The special effects were ok but there were times that the rear screen filming could have been better, particularly when Quatermain is suspended above the crocodiles. An entertaining movie that can make you laugh….some of the time.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5