BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Alright, alright, alright. I get it. I TOTALLY understand why so many critics railed against this Indiana Jones wannabe action adventure flick when it was originally released. Starring Richard Chamberlain as Harrison Ford (kidding), King Solomon’s Mines is as shallow as B-movies come. That doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable, it simply means that it proudly wears its influences like, well, like a brown beaten-up fedora upon its head.
The campy film is fatally flawed with a very simple, and very similar code: Be like Dr. Jones. But, you know what? The cast and crew got the formula right and, when they couldn’t sell the film by its special effects, upped the ante with a heavy dose of wink-wink, nudge-nudge camp.
And it largely works. Sure, it’s a cheap knock-off that musses up the beloved source material. Be angry about that if you must STILL be pissed about this adaptation. Just consider the movie to be something else entirely. If you grew up with this film, you already know what I mean. It’s fun and harmless and never hides its cinematic intentions.
Olive Films released the ill-fated sequel, Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, sometime last year on blu-ray. The disc is still available if you’re willing to pay a heavy price for the rushed sequel (that is not as good as this one if you ask me). It makes since then that in 2017 we finally see the debut of Chamberlain’s and Sharon Stones adventure on blu-ray. The results aren’t half bad either.
True, there is a lot of you have to forgive in this tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Henry Ryder Haggard’s 1885 novel, but that sort of comes with the territory of B-movies. Consider that the film’s producers – Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus – spearheaded 23 film releases in 1985 alone and you’ll understand why this matters. Their brand – falling under Cannon Films – prided itself in producing easy to digest action-adventure flicks. Most of their output is now being rediscovered, repackaged, and released on blu-ray as, you guessed it, cult classics. I couldn’t be happier about that fact either.
Personally, I love King Solomon’s Mines as the popcorn-munching flick that it is. It’s lighthearted fun and full of quirky beats throughout that make it more akin to the serials of a bygone era than anything else at the time. It is, essentially, one action scene after another with little exposition to wash it down. Everyone just reacts. It’s as if director J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear) simply amped up the camp factor – with a big scene being how our two protagonists escape a gigantic pot of veggie stew at a cannibal’s feast – and extended that to the action, too.
King Solomon’s Mines is no different than any other B-movie; it’s just a little more honest with its cashing-in intentions. And for Cannon Films that admission makes all the difference in the world. The loosey -goosey adaptation is paper-thin, full of character actors (including John Rhys-Davies of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Herbert Lom of The Pink Panther fame), and borrows heavily from Raiders and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom so much so that it morphs its hero into someone he never was.
In King Solomon’s Mines, we get an unshaven Chamberlain dragged behind a train and facing spiked ceilings that come smashing down; we see him try one quip after another as the risks get hairier; hell, we even get to see him in costume garb that is more than a little too beige and beaten-down for its own good. Personally, I don’t care. King Solomon’s Mines is a cheese-eating blast.
And then there is Sharon Stone. As Jesse Huston, Stone perfectly nails down the companion part; she’s funny and quirky without ever being annoying. As the plucky young archaeologist who has hired Quartermain to assist in finding her father, Stone delivers a memorable performance which, paired with Ken Gampu as Umbopo, Quartermain’s “concierge” through Africa, makes for good banter.
With Lom as the German Wagner-obsessed colonel and Davies as the Turkish mercenary, these WWI-era villains never had a chance against Quartermain and his posse. King Solomon’s Mines is in deed a B-movie treasure that never takes itself seriously. Too bad the critics at the time of its release did.
King Solomon’s Mines is now available on blu-ray thanks to Olive Films and their great taste in movies.
MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Runtime: 100 mins
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Writer: Gene Quintano
Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom
Genre: Action | Adventure
Tagline: The Adventure of a Lifetime
Memorable Movie Quote: "Turks are afraid of fire?... Germans too."
Theatrical Distributor: Cannon Group
Release Date: November 22, 1985
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 21, 2017
Synopsis: Fortune hunter Allan Quatermain teams up with a resourceful woman to help her find her missing father lost in the wilds of 1900s Africa while being pursued by hostile tribes and a rival German explorer..
Home Video Distributor: Olive Films
Available on Blu-ray - February 21, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A
The new 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is glorious ripe and totally erases all memories of just how crummy this film has looked over the years. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio is clean of faults. Cinematographer Alex Phillips shot the film and his eye is a strong one. The crisp details are at once noticeable and so is just how intelligent the camera operator is at bringing this B-movie to life. Shot outdoors, there is a nice shine to the visuals – which only highlights some of the weaknesses in the visuals (the flight scene) – and the daylight is expressive in posing heat and picking up fabulous details in costume and skin. Shadows are strong, too. Black levels are thick and detailed. While there is some grain, the amount of work down on the digital restoration is impressive and never takes away from the 35mm quality of the original. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack presents strong dialogue, solid two-channel sound effects and presents Jerry Goldsmith’s score with all the cheesy ceremony it deserves.