Friday, March 18, 2016

King Solomon's Mines (1985)

Finally!  Cannon Films arrives to an appointment for a B-Movie Enema!  Let us rejoice!

So yes, this blog is all about the little movies.  Those that get forgotten because they weren't as big budget as Star Wars, or as classic as Casablanca, or as divisive among the sexes like Titanic (and, trust me, all the dudes LOVE Titanic).  Then we get the 80s powerhouse studio, Cannon Films, and they kinda blow the lid off of what truly is a B-movie.

They would produce big time action movies like Delta Force, or spend tons of money on a single star like Sylvester Stallone.  They make sci-fi movies with a huge scope like Lifeforce or Masters of the Universe.  Or grand adventures like today's film, King Solomon's Mines.

None of the movies I mentioned above were made on small budgets.  All of them were massively funded.  However, by looking them, you wouldn't know it.  Effects were cheap, the actors weren't very good.  The directors often made upheavals in the script destroying whatever chance the film had to be good.  Schedules were too tight.  The list goes on and on.  This gives Cannon their well-earned reputation as being schlock merchants.

Now, I'm not going to go as far as to say these movies were bad, but they were train wrecks.  One after another, Cannon just pooped these sons of bitches out. Sure, there were some legitimately good ones in there.  I'd say Tobe Hooper is one that really got a lot of stuff done with Cannon that is more than worthy to check out.  I'd also say that Cobra is pretty badass.  Even Charles Bronson had something good to hang his hat on in 10 to Midnight.  But, my god, oh so many Cannon Films were terrible abominations.


For this week's movie, I decided to pick one that I haven't seen.  Well, I should say I don't think I've seen it.  Maybe when I was a kid I saw it, but I only remember these Allan Quartermain movies being released as a kid, but I don't remember if I took to them.  I should have, as I was a huge Indiana Jones fan, but I don't remember them.  After a couple hours, I'm sure I will find out if I wished those memories of this movie away or what the deal is.  So let's take a look at the synopsis from IMDB:

"Fortune hunter Allan Quartermain 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."

Okay, cool, but something seems off with that description...  It's probably a bad sign to realize that entire synopsis was one, long sentence.  Uh oh.  I hope the movie didn't cut as many corners as that guy who wrote that synopsis...

Our movie opens with an old man looking over a totem with an ancient language on it.  A bad guy comes in wearing red, and I'm irritated it is Indy's friend from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  He says the old man is going to translate the writing, and one of the guys with the old man tries to escape, declaring he's not going to do any such thing.  Our bad guy, named Dogati, lets loose a spiked booby trap and kills the fleeing man.

The main part of the movie starts and we see Allan Quartermain (Richard Chamberlain) and Jessie Huston (a young and really hot Sharon Stone) working their way through the jungle.  We're not even through the credits and we're getting hit in the face right away with schtick between these two.  She's sassy.  He's overconfident.  Ay ay ay...  If there's another hour and 35 minutes of this, we're in real trouble.

But hey, Herbert Lom (from the Pink Panther series) is in this!

So we get some interaction between Colonel Bockner (Lom) and Dogati.  Bockner, I guess, is uppity about the Africans in this little town they are in, and Dogati has issues with Quartermain.  As Allan and Jesse make their way through the town, we're beat over the head of how much this is like Indiana Jones by having Jesse kidnapped and Quartermain going through town trying to find her.  The (Quarter)main difference is this movie is fucking horrible.

At least this movie, which seemingly takes place in Egypt (at least this part) has actual Africans in it as opposed to Gods of Egypt.

Jesse gets away from the bad guys and calls a guy a "camel jockey" which I'm fairly certain is racist.  But that kind of vague and (yeah, I'm gonna say it) charming comment that makes you chuckle a little bit from the possibility that it was a racist thing.  Quartermain calls the same guy a "towel-headed creep" too, and that is a little less charming.

While talking to the towel-headed creep, we get a look at why this movie is terrible.  There's a lot of jokey shit in this action.  They are questioning the camel jockey and they are doing this thing where they keep turning him to face whichever one of them is talking to him.  It's annoying as all fuck.  Bockner threatens Jesse's father by saying he will have only two words for him if he doesn't get what he wants - talk or die.  Jesse's father responds by saying that is three words with a winky smile as if he's cheesing to the camera.  Fuck this movie.

Let's talk about Bockner and his involvement for a moment.  He's a German. There are Germans around.  Germans who act like Nazis.  Now, I guess this is probably part of the original novel this is based on, but this movie is vaguely "1900s" but the Germans act like Nazis but dress like pre-World War I.  It's as if to say Germans are always Nazis no matter what era they come from.  Have you figured out yet this is an attempt at an utter rip off of Indiana Jones?

One thing that really doesn't help this movie either is that Quartermain and Jesse are utterly unlikable.  I mean, I guess they are okay by design, but they are so, so, so full of schtick.  It's like every line is said with a smile as if to say to the audience, "Ain't I a stinker?"  I guess they tried to make this movie as if it was made in the 30s or 40s, but you can't do it so literally.  Indiana Jones worked because it captured a tone and a feeling for those old adventure serials.  This is also trying to capture the comedy as well.  That doesn't work outside the framework of the movie being made in the 30s or 40s.

There is one pretty good joke in the movie, though.  Quartermain and Jesse (with a straight up bushman buddy), sneak onto a German train.  They are sneaking about and Quartermain is going to bust into one of the trains and use his gun to take control of the car.  The only problem is the car is full of German soldiers with bigger guns.  He plays it off like it is a test of their reflexes and he ends up singing a song and making friends with them.  That's good.  The rest of the jokes are not.

Now, it may seem as though, with all I've already said, we're nearing the end of the movie, right?  No.  We're only about 30 minutes in.  For the most part it has been action set piece after action set piece against blue screen, bad schtick, and a brief scene in which Jesse talks about how she is a student giving her and Allan a brief moment of being humans as opposed to action figures on a playset.  We're barely able to catch our breath by the time the next fight breaks out.  There is so much happening, your eyes begin to glaze over.  You don't know what to care about.  You don't know who is doing what.  You don't know how there is still a full HOUR left in this movie.  I mean Quartermain shot a German soldier in the fucking balls and I couldn't care enough about something that I generally love to see in a movie.

Some of the lines themselves don't even make sense.  There's a scene in which Sharon Stone is in a plane that they are stealing to try to catch up with the main bad guys to stop them from getting to these mystical mines.  They start yelling at each other more quips and schtick when she's in the plane and he's trying to climb in but it's all going crazy and stuff.  Most of which doesn't mean anything.  She says her father always wanted a boy and that son would have known how to make the plane work.  He tells her he's going to kill her at some point and that they are on the same side. See?  These are reasons why Cannon Films sucked.  It was like a guy who was born in France who spoke Russian who was learning to speak German, but wrote the movie in English.

Apparently, Allan Quartermain can fly a plane too.  Because a guy in the early 1900s who was an adventurer naturally would also be able to fly a bi-plane.  Of course the plane gets hit by some German gunfire and it crashes and explodes.  If I didn't have to type this, I'd just be sitting here with both middle fingers proudly raised to the TV.

Next up, our intrepid duo find themselves in a village of tribe people who are cannibals.  They dump them into one of those cartoony pots to boil them with vegetables.  You know, stuff indigenous to Africa - corn, cabbage (grown in the bountiful desert that is their home), mushrooms, carrots, and tomatoes.  They get out of it by tipping the pot over and rolling away.  At this point, you start to see that real classic Cannon Films production values as it's just an obvious tiny little crock rolling down a fake model terrain - a shot they use constantly interchanged with them rolling around on the inside.
This movie's idea of a traditional African meal.

After a whole movie of action scenes and seeing bad Africans doing "dumb" (in the eyes of the white characters), or trying to eat white people, we slow down to meet a tribe who live in the trees and hang upside down and lavish Jesse with gifts.  It's assumed they are giving her these gifts because they've never seen a white woman - proving that age old suspicion that black guys just like white women.  As ridiculous this whole scene is, it's actually the best scene of the movie.  Allan and Jesse are likable in their much more realistic flirtations (even though they kissed in the pot after they escaped the cannibals).  If the movie would just take a moment to have these little scenes like this, they might have been onto something.

Unfortunately, this moment is short-lived and we have to go back to this goddamned shitty movie with all the action scenes - this time with yet another African tribe that wants to feed Quartermain to crocodiles.  How they are saved is really confusing as a guy who kinda looks like their African buddy from the earlier part of the movie (that totally feels like 3 hours ago) comes and claims the throne as the rightful ruler, but I don't know if that is their friend or what the hell is going on.  I do get it when the Germans come and blows the fuck out of the village.

Oh god...  The action scenes are starting to make more sense than the dialog.  Even after you've been bludgeoned to death by the non-stop action.

At one hour and fifteen minutes, Dogati stands alone on screen and proclaims, "At last!  King Solomon's Mines!"  And I feel the same way.  That should mean we are finally in the final sequence of the movie and I won't have to endure much more. They get into the main chamber(lain) of the mines, and they find Queen Sheeba encased in a crystal - for what reason, I cannot say because the dialog all sound like wet farts now.  Also there's a giant spider lurking in the mines that kills one of the bad guys.  It's fake as shit looking.  Jesse and Allan find the main stash of treasure, and, like the perfect heroes they are, start stuffing their pockets and getting quite excited over the treasure like Daffy Duck.

Just as Bockner is about to find them, they get trapped in the treasure room with a spiky ceiling coming down on them.  As they finally stop the ceiling from crushing and impaling them, the room begins to flood. However, Bockner actually helps them escape when he blows the door open.  Bockner and Dogati have their own final confrontation for several minutes before we finally get back to Allan and Jesse who barely escapes the collapsing mines despite Bockner chasing them down.  But he gets eaten by a dragon while he exclaims, "The German Army will now stand for it!"  (See what I mean about this script being written by a guy whose fourth language is English?)

The short-lived "good" part of the movie.
The most disappointing and disparaging thing about this movie is that there are so many Cannon Films, for all their faults, that are actually charming.  Even all the Bronson movies that deal with rape and prostitution and general horrible people committing horrible crimes have a charm to them that is undeniable.  Masters of the Universe, for all its terrible elements, still has a level of enjoyment when viewed.

There's one other movie that you better believe I will someday cover that is 100% better than this pile of garbage that also features a black guy, a blonde, curly-haired, pretty girl, a bearded hero, and a treasure to be found in a mine.  It's also a Cannon Films production.  It's also pretty bad, but has that charm I was just talking about.  That movie is Firewalker with Chuck Norris, Lou Gossett, Jr., and Melody Anderson.  That's a movie I did see often as a kid and an adult.  It has so much more going for it while still being basically the same movie as this one.  But it's like it doesn't try to be Indiana Jones.  It's just a shitty Chuck Norris movie instead.

Another running gag in this movie that is so annoying isn't quite on the level of the constant schtick that exists between Allan and Jesse.  It's the constant nationalism that is carried out by Dogati and Bockner.  They are constantly saying things about German stuff or Turkish stuff or comparing their people's traits to one another.  It's dumb.  It's annoying.  It happens in every fucking scene they have together.  Yeah, we get it guys...  One of you is a German.  The other is a Turk.

If there is one word that I could apply to the so-called "comedy" of this movie it would be Jewish.  This movie's comedy is so Jewish.  Now, I know you're probably thinking I'm some sort of antisemite, but bare with me here...  I've seen this in a few other "family-friendly" movies that play up comedy despite their main genre (like this is an adventure, not a straight comedy).  The comedy is written in such broad strokes that sometimes plays in a manic way (usually through the women's performances) and the use of many quips (usually from men) that it just feels like a 70 year old Jewish guy was sitting at a typewriter regurgitating jokes and stylings from when he was a young man getting started in Hollywood that was bland enough to be non-offensive to a wide audience.  But it's that manic shit that is so hammy that you can almost feel the breaks waiting for people to laugh that makes it so fucking horrible.  That's Sharon Stone throughout the entire 100 minute runtime for this movie.  So yeah, this movie feels very Jewish (also notices the bad guys are Germans and Muslims and Africans - to me, this nails down my point) in how it is written.  And not the good Mel Brooks kind either.

So I guess I should just go and drink this one off.  I'll be back with a good movie next time.  One that I recently discovered and actually fell in love with.

AND, NO, it is not the sequel to this turdfest, Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold.
Oh, fuck you, movie.

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