King Solomon's Mines (1985)

Country: United States
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, John Rhys-Davies,
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard

As a young man at college, there were a few things that I did that were not really beneficial to the course I was studying. These weren’t bad things by any stretch of the imagination, but show that I was not as diligent in my studies as some of my class mates. One of these areas in which I strayed was in my library habits. While my class mates were borrowing books on design and typography, I was engrossed in the classic section. By classics I don’t mean William Shakespeare or Thomas Hardy – I mean Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard. In particular, I remember the three leather bound editions they had of She, King Solomon’s Mines, and Alan Quatermain. Naturally I devoured them all.

Also at this time, Cannon Films released King Solomon’s Mines starring Richard Chamberlain as Alan Quatermain. The film also featured a virtually unknown actress named Sharon Stone (remember this is 7 years before Basic Instinct and she hadn’t acquired her sexual predator image). This is possibly her first big role.

Naturally, having recently read the book, I went and saw King Solomon’s Mines at the cinema. The cinema was all but empty and I walked out pretty disappointed. Later, when the film was released on video, I caught the film at a student video night, and watching the film with a very relaxed and light hearted audience, I came away with a very different viewing experience. The movie was still crap, but in an enjoyable way. Everything in it is so over the top. It was never meant to be an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s novel, but rather a non-stop roller coaster ride. Once viewed in that light the film is very entertaining.

The action adventure begins with Professor Jebidiah Huston examining a small statue of a women. It looks Egyptian and is inscribed with markings and symbols all over the body. The Professor has spent all his life searching for King Solomon’s Mines and believes this may be a map to their actual location. Before the Professor can decipher the statue, the party is interrupted by evil Turkish merchant, Dogati (John Rhys-Davies). Dogati demands that the Professor decipher the map now and tell him where the mines are. The Professor refuses.

Several months later, Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone) comes looking for her father. She has been sent a letter saying that she can meet up with him in the village of Tungola. She is to meet him in an establishment run by slimy trader Kassam (Shaike Ophir). But first she must get to Tungola. That’s where great white hunter and guide, Alan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) comes in. He leads Jesse Huston’s party to the remote jungle village.

Waiting for Jesse Huston are two men. The first is Dogati who has not been able to make the Professor tell where the mines are. The second man, who is Dogati’s partner out of necessity, rather than friendship and trust, is Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom). Bockner is a pompous German soldier who plans to take the treasure at the mines for the glory of Germany (and his own personal gain, of course).

Once in Tungola, Jesse manages to get herself kidnapped a couple of times, requiring Quartermain to come to her rescue. During the mayhem, Quatermain learns that Dogati and Bockner have Jesse’s father and are transporting him by train to a German military camp in Burumba. Being and action adventure film, Quatermain and Jesse catch the train and scramble on board. But once again, Jesse gets captured and is taken by Dogati and Bockner to her father. Dogati threatens to torture Jesse unless the Professor reveals the location of the mines. The Professor breaks and tells all.

Once again, Quatermain comes to the rescue and saves both Jesse and the Professor. But it is now too late, both Dogati and Bockner are making their way towards the mine and the fabulous riches there within. The Professor pleads with Quatermain to race to the mines first, (with Jesse in tow, too). Reluctantly he agrees and the race is on.

In modern times, the shadow of Indiana Jones looms large over most ‘old fashioned’ action adventures. And undoubtedly, King Solomon’s Mines is drinking from the same well, but you’ve got to remember that there were action adventure films before Indiana Jones. Granted Indiana Jones did it better than most, and that’s why it is used as a template and so many movies are compared to the series. The story of King Solomon’s Mines itself, has been filmed (or variations of) at least four other times. The story is a much loved classic, and it is a classic because it is a good old fashioned adventure, and that’s what the film strives to be. It isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but it is darn good fun – particularly if you don’t expect too much from it, and it is viewed with an audience.

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King Solomon's Mines (1985)

King Solomon’s Mines (1985)

Country: United States
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, John Rhys-Davies,
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard

As a young man at college, there were a few things that I did that were not really beneficial to the course I was studying. These weren’t bad things by any stretch of the imagination, but show that I was not as diligent in my studies as some of my class mates. One of these areas in which I strayed was in my library habits. While my class mates were borrowing books on design and typography, I was engrossed in the classic section. By classics I don’t mean William Shakespeare or Thomas Hardy – I mean Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard. In particular, I remember the three leather bound editions they had of She, King Solomon’s Mines, and Alan Quatermain. Naturally I devoured them all.

Also at this time, Cannon Films released King Solomon’s Mines starring Richard Chamberlain as Alan Quatermain. The film also featured a virtually unknown actress named Sharon Stone (remember this is 7 years before Basic Instinct and she hadn’t acquired her sexual predator image). This is possibly her first big role.

Naturally, having recently read the book, I went and saw King Solomon’s Mines at the cinema. The cinema was all but empty and I walked out pretty disappointed. Later, when the film was released on video, I caught the film at a student video night, and watching the film with a very relaxed and light hearted audience, I came away with a very different viewing experience. The movie was still crap, but in an enjoyable way. Everything in it is so over the top. It was never meant to be an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s novel, but rather a non-stop roller coaster ride. Once viewed in that light the film is very entertaining.

The action adventure begins with Professor Jebidiah Huston examining a small statue of a women. It looks Egyptian and is inscribed with markings and symbols all over the body. The Professor has spent all his life searching for King Solomon’s Mines and believes this may be a map to their actual location. Before the Professor can decipher the statue, the party is interrupted by evil Turkish merchant, Dogati (John Rhys-Davies). Dogati demands that the Professor decipher the map now and tell him where the mines are. The Professor refuses.

Several months later, Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone) comes looking for her father. She has been sent a letter saying that she can meet up with him in the village of Tungola. She is to meet him in an establishment run by slimy trader Kassam (Shaike Ophir). But first she must get to Tungola. That’s where great white hunter and guide, Alan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) comes in. He leads Jesse Huston’s party to the remote jungle village.

Waiting for Jesse Huston are two men. The first is Dogati who has not been able to make the Professor tell where the mines are. The second man, who is Dogati’s partner out of necessity, rather than friendship and trust, is Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom). Bockner is a pompous German soldier who plans to take the treasure at the mines for the glory of Germany (and his own personal gain, of course).

Once in Tungola, Jesse manages to get herself kidnapped a couple of times, requiring Quartermain to come to her rescue. During the mayhem, Quatermain learns that Dogati and Bockner have Jesse’s father and are transporting him by train to a German military camp in Burumba. Being and action adventure film, Quatermain and Jesse catch the train and scramble on board. But once again, Jesse gets captured and is taken by Dogati and Bockner to her father. Dogati threatens to torture Jesse unless the Professor reveals the location of the mines. The Professor breaks and tells all.

Once again, Quatermain comes to the rescue and saves both Jesse and the Professor. But it is now too late, both Dogati and Bockner are making their way towards the mine and the fabulous riches there within. The Professor pleads with Quatermain to race to the mines first, (with Jesse in tow, too). Reluctantly he agrees and the race is on.

In modern times, the shadow of Indiana Jones looms large over most ‘old fashioned’ action adventures. And undoubtedly, King Solomon’s Mines is drinking from the same well, but you’ve got to remember that there were action adventure films before Indiana Jones. Granted Indiana Jones did it better than most, and that’s why it is used as a template and so many movies are compared to the series. The story of King Solomon’s Mines itself, has been filmed (or variations of) at least four other times. The story is a much loved classic, and it is a classic because it is a good old fashioned adventure, and that’s what the film strives to be. It isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but it is darn good fun – particularly if you don’t expect too much from it, and it is viewed with an audience.

King Solomon’s Mines (1985)

Double O Kid (1992)

Country: United States
Director: Duncan McLachlan
Starring: Corey Haim, Brigitte Nielson, Wallace Shawn, Nicole Eggert, Basil Hoffman, John Rhys-Davies, Karen Black, Anne Francis, Seth Green
Music: Misha Segal

In the last twenty years, writing for children’s television, films and books has changed quite dramatically – thankfully for the better. In days of yore, only a few select companies (or people) really put in the effort to craft quality entertainment for children. Say what you like about the ‘House of Mouse’, but generally they put out quality material – unlike some other people /companies who seem to believe that the youth market is less demanding than the adult market and therefore it is easier to make a film to please them. A case in point may be the Double O Kid. It is insultingly bad. I don’t know if it found and audience, or made a profit when initially released (IMDb suggests it went straight to video), but today, where quality children’s spy films such as Agent Cody Banks, Spy Kids and even Cats and Dogs, are produced, schlock like this wouldn’t even get a look in.

The film opens with with a sequence that actually doesn’t even make sense within the context of the film. Two henchmen, one of them is incredibly long legged Brigitte Nielson (Red Sonja, herself) – so I guess she’s a henchwoman – are working for a master criminal named Cashpot (Wallace Shawn). Posing as cleaners, the hench-people break into a top secret facility (although it looks like it was filmed at a high school) and crack open the safe. They retrieve and photograph some documentation from the Federal Aviation Administration. As they are about to leave, the alarm goes, and guards rush to investigate. First viewers are served a fat slice of slapstick, where the male henchman (I don’t know the actor’s name), throws a bucket of soapy water onto the floor. The guards slip and slide, and fall over. Then strangely, after this light hearted moment, this hard-ass perp pulls a gun and cold-bloodedly shoots the guard as he flounders on the ground – complete with shuddering body as the bullets connect. For a children’s film it is rather gruesome – but seems even more incongruous when juxtaposed against the slapstick antics of only seconds before.

The film hasn’t even reached the title sequence yet, and I am asking ‘who is this films intended audience?’ Is it young kids who would laugh at seeing adults fall over – or older teens who want a more violent kind of action?

Next up we have a computer animated title sequence with a chess motif. The chess thing comes up later in the film, so I guess it quite okay. I am guessing that the titles were put together by Jay Johnsen who put together all the computer graphics throughout the rest of the film. By today’s standards, the computer animation is rather primitive – but that is to be expected, after all the film was made almost twenty years ago.

Now we finally meet the hero of the film. He is seventeen year old Lance Elliot (Corey Haim). Lance lives in Philadelphia and fantasizes about being a secret agent named ‘Eagle Dawn’. As ‘Eagle Dawn’, Lance provides annoying little nuggets of voice over commentary as he goes about his daily routine. He describes leaving home as ‘escaping from an interrogation centre’ and while being followed in a car by his mother and younger brother, he announces ‘enemy vehicle in pursuit – closing in fast.’ So while Lance is supposed to be the hero of this film, his character is written in such a way that he comes off as a mixture of ‘paranoid fantasist’ and ‘smarmy arrogant dick’.

But at least unlike other ‘fantasist’ juvenile spies, Lance actually does work for the CIA – as part of their Summer Recruitment Campaign – an initiative to get the kids off the street. But Lance hardly lives the exciting and thrill packed world of a spy. Instead he makes coffee for his superiors and runs small errands.

That brings us back to the villain of the piece, Cashpot. Cashpot has a meeting with a computer magnate, Rudolph Von Kessenbaum (John Rhys Davies). Kessenbaum has been hired by a consortium of business men to aid in the suppression of a ‘Green Report’. This report, if adopted by the governments of the world, would put this unknown consortium out of business (I think consortium is just a nice euphemism for ‘oil producers’) The scientist who are putting together this ‘Green Report’ are going to be on a airplane flying over the Bermuda Triangle in a days time, so the Consortium want Kessenbaum to upload a virus to the plane and make it crash. Kessenbaum is outsourcing this part to Cashpot who is a computer virus genius. But to complete his plan, Cashpot needs some information and a special keycard from the Federal Aviation Administration. You may remember my description of the pre-title sequence. I would suggest that sequentially that scene should go here in the movie – perhaps? Maybe it was a flash-forward? Who knows – it doesn’t really make sense!

Meanwhile things are looking a little bit more exciting for Lance. When his direct superior, Trout (Basil Hoffman) forgets to post a parcel to Sam Wynberg at the FAA, he uses Lance as a courier. Flying to Los Angeles, Lance arrives just at the same time that Cashpot’s hench-people are shaking down Wynberg for the FAA Keycard. Wynberg hides the keycard in some folded up banknotes, that he passes to Lance as a tip for delivering the parcel.

The hench-people aren’t dummies (actually they are – but somehow they worked this out), however, and soon realise that Lance has the keycard and the chase begins. Being a fantasist has it advantages though, especially when you are being chased by goons, and Lance manages to muddle his way through various attempts by Cashpot’s inept hench-people as they try to retrieve the keycard and capture Lance. Along the way, Lance forms an alliance with a girl names Melinda (Nicole Eggert), who he meets as he is trying to flee from some roller-blading hockey goons.

I have already spent way too many keystrokes outlining this film. The action sequences are unconvincing and poorly staged. The music sounds like it was recorded on a toy Casio keyboard, and the plot is all over the shop. The biggest insult however is the ending. I have no qualms about spoiling the film, because I hope that you are never forced into a situation where you have to watch it. Earlier I mentioned the ‘chess motif’ in the title sequence. For the climax, Cashpot and Lance duke it out on a computer chess set. That would be okay – but Lance wins the game in two moves. This is crap – if you need a teen fix, watch Agent Cody Banks or If Looks Could Kill instead.

Double O Kid (1992)