Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA, 1985. The Cannon Group, Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Productions, Cinema ’84, Limelight. Screenplay by Gene Quintano, James R. Silke, based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard. Cinematography by Álex Phillips Jr.. Produced by Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Production Design by Luciano Spadoni. Costume Design by Tony Pueo. Film Editing by John Shirley.
The team at Cannon decided to cash in on the success of the Indiana Jones franchise, dragging a cast and crew out to Zimbabwe to film this and Allan Quatermain and the City Of Gold in one go. Based, oh so loosely, on the novel by H. Rider Haggard, previously adapted to the big screen in 1950, this version updates the setting from the 1880s to the First World War, allowing for its main character (Richard Chamberlain) to dress in an almost exact replica of Harrison Ford’s costume, while the musical score comes dangerously close to a lawsuit in replicating John Williams’ themes.
Chamberlain has been hired by Sharon Stone (giving a self-aware, squeaky performance meant to emulate Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom) to help her find her archaeologist father, who was kidnapped by bad, greedy men (led by John Rhys-Davies and Herbert Lom) and forced to interpret the riddle on an ancient statue that gives away the location of the titular Biblical king’s diamond mines.
One distraction after another has the main characters going on car chases, flying airplanes, barely escaping being cooked in a giant cauldron (the cardboard stereotypes of rural African life are appalling enough to induce laughs of their own) and eventually surviving the mysteries of the mines, while hoping to pocket a diamond or two of their own.
If it were played as outright parody it would be a lot of fun and make perfect sense, the action set pieces that Golan and Globus pull off on a relatively small budget would be that much more impressive as well, but it never nails the self-deprecating humour of Spielberg’s masterwork, playing it too straight for the quality of what it’s got going on.
As a result, everything looks cheap, the most fun action sequences only make the film seem that much more soulless, and every actor appears to be thoroughly embarrassed to be there (and many of them outright said as much after the fact).