In recent years I’ve been trying to fill in many of the gaps in my list when it comes to movies of the 80’s. One such film was 1986’s King Solomon’s Mines. It was clearly an attempt by Cannon Films to piggyback on the success of the Indiana Jones films. The film wasn’t quite the box office champ that Cannon had hoped for, but I really enjoyed watching it for the first time last year. The lackluster box office, though, didn’t affect the fact that a sequel had already been filmed right after the first film was produced. So, in 1986, Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone returned for Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.
We pick up with Quatermain (Chamberlain) and Jesse (Stone) preparing to get married. That gets interrupted, though, when one day an old friend of Quatermain’s emerges from the jungle, having been chased by natives. Before he dies he tells Quatermain that his missing brother is still alive and has found a legendary lost city of gold. Quatermain decides that he must go and find this place, and his brother. At first he leaves Jesse behind, but she soon catches up and joins on the adventure. Also along for the journey is a warrior named Umslopogaas (James Earl Jones) and an Arab con man named Swarma (Robert Donner…who I always remember for playing Exidor on several episodes of Mork & Mindy).
The team has to deal with several deadly obstacles on their way to finding the lost city. This includes a temple where the floors retract from underneath them, and an underground lake with a fire-spurting whirlpool at its center. Eventually they do end up in the city of gold where Quatermain is reunited with his brother. Now, however, they have to contend with an evil holy man, Agon (Henry Silva) and his witch queen, Sorais (Cassandra Peterson…aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark). Once the evil priest is booted out of the city he rallies a bunch of enemy forces to attack the in a final battle that is best described as Helm’s Deep on a budget.
The previous film, King Solomon’s Mines, was over-the-top nutty fun. Very worthy of the Cannon moniker, to say the least. Lost City of Gold, though fun to a degree, has the crazy meter dialed way back from its predecessor. It’s worth noting that the first film was directed by J. Lee Thompson, director of many Charles Bronson films and the poster child for over-the-top 80’s movies. Lost City of Gold is directed by Gary Nelson, fresh off a stint with Disney, making flicks like The Black Hole and the original Freaky Friday. So, we’re talking about two very different directing styles, and it does make the sequel a bit of a let down compared to the first installment.
Whereas in the first film, Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone both seem to have a tongue-in-cheek approach to their performances, this time it all comes across as very flat. This is especially odd considering some of the more out there approaches we get from the supporting players. This may be one of the strangest efforts I’ve ever seen from James Earl Jones, who usually has a built in respectability, but often serves as the comic relief in this film. Henry Silva as the chief bad guy is slightly unhinged, but that’s to be expected for Silva. I did enjoy seeing Elvira herself, Cassandra Peterson, but if my memory serves correctly, her character doesn’t utter a single word o dialogue.
The movie does have some fun moments, and I do admire the creativity it displays at times. I mean, how can you resist as pillar of fire shooting out of a whirlpool at the center of an underground lake? The lead up to this scene is also kind of fun, with a high speed boat ride through the tunnels of a cave. You do kind of have to look past the somewhat cheesy special effects in scenes like this. The green screen work is borderline public access cable tv quality. Still, the fact that this is a fairly low-budget production does give the film a certain charm.
After having so much fun with King Solomon’s Mines, the follow up does disappoint a bit. Still, I am willing to give the film a certain degree of goodwill. It is a mildly entertaining adventure story with a few decent gimmicks. Without J. Lee Thompson’s bat guano approach, though, it falls quite a bit short of its predecessor’s level of fun.