Cheesy lines, poor pacing, editing and uninspired action sequences that are poorly shot, and some even lifted from Raiders and the serials of the 30s weigh this film down that not even a score by Jerry Goldsmith can save.
Shot back to back with its sequel Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, the fictional hero created by H. Rider Haggard leapt onto the big screen while it seems everyone was cashing in on the Indiana Jones craze.
Quartermain, played by Richard Chamberlain, is helping Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone) try and find her father, who has disappeared during his search for the legendary mines of King Solomon. Along the way, Quartermain is menaced by German forces led by Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom), who is aided by, and occasionally thwarted by Dogati (John Rhys-Davies).
From there, it’s a no-holds barred jaunt across darkest Africa as our heroes try to beat the baddies to the treasure, but they seem to find themselves constantly menaced by trouble on all sides. Whether it’s a giant spider, being hung upside down over crocodiles, or stealing a plane from a German encampment.
Whereas in Raiders the cliffhanger, serialized nature of the film worked, and of course, served as homage to the films of the 30s, this one feels like a step back, and while it clearly is made in homage to both its source material and the serials, its clunky editing and lack of dramatic pacing really bogs this down, so that even with a run time of 100 minutes, it feels a lot longer.
While it’s fun to watch Rhys-Davies and Lom chew scenery as villains, the film seems small and constrained, and doesn’t even seem to want to take advantage of the locations they are shooting in.
And, I’m not sure who I think is worse in this film, Stone, or Chamberlain. Stone is reduced to a screaming vapid damsel in distress, while Chamberlain just doesn’t seem to be able to convey himself believably as an adventurer of Quartermain’s stature, and while I loved him in Shogun, he seems decidedly out of his element here. Even all dudded up like an action hero doesn’t make it believable, especially with such poorly shot action sequences, which, if they had been better, would have at least improved my opinion… but nope.
And speaking of out of place, Jerry Goldsmith’s score is great, and seems completely misused here. It just doesn’t fit.
I dread now, the idea of watching the sequel, but it’s like a train wreck, you just can’t look away. So I may venture into it again. But I also want to get back to the lists I was working on, which were put on hold while I moved house, and now that I’m settling into my new place, and my computer is occasionally agreeable again, I think we’ll be taking on some classics again soon enough.
Still… the sequel will just be out there… waiting for me.
Maybe I should take it on after all?