(US - 1985)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson. Written by Gene Quintano and James R. Silke. Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, John Rhys Davies, Ken Gampu, Shai K. Ophir, June Bethulezi, Sam Williams, Bernard Archard. (PG-13, 100 mins)
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus wanted Cannon to have its own Indiana Jones, and the answer came in the form of Allan Quartermain, the heroic adventurer and protagonist of H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines and a subsequent series of adventures. Cannon's KING SOLOMON'S MINES was released on November 22, 1985, in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the novel. It opened at #1 at the box office and stayed in the top ten for several weeks, proof that the public was still jonesing for some RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM-style adventure. It proved to be one of Cannon's bigger successes, despite almost across-the-board negative reviews that dismissed it as a RAIDERS knockoff. Well, of course it was. That was the whole point.
THE MUSIC LOVERS, THE LAST WAVE), Chamberlain was usually part of an ensemble and not the lead in feature films and ended up enjoying his biggest successes on the small screen. He starred in the popular NBC series DR. KILDARE from 1961 to 1966, getting his breakout role after two other up-and-comers--William Shatner and James Franciscus--turned it down. After appearing in several big-screen movies, the success of the two MUSKETEERS films got Chamberlain two expensive TV adaptations of other Alexandre Dumas works for NBC: THE COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO (1975) and THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1977). In 1980, Chamberlain hit his career pinnacle with the gargantuan NBC mini-series SHOGUN, based on James Clavell's best-selling novel. SHOGUN captivated America and established Chamberlain as the king of the mini-series, the extended, multi-part format made popular by ROOTS (1977), JESUS OF NAZARETH (1977), and CENTENNIAL (1978), the latter featuring Chamberlain as part of its large cast. While it's difficult for those accustomed to today's technological conveniences and the internet and the ease of binge-watching to fathom a time when homes didn't have DVRs or even the ancient relic known as the VCR, America did indeed drop what it was doing and, for five consecutive nights in September 1980, orchestrated their lives around Richard Chamberlain and SHOGUN. Chamberlain was bigger than ever, and it led to ABC mini-series THE THORN BIRDS, another phenomenal success that had audiences glued to their TVs for four nights in March 1983.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY but, while people tuned in, these later projects didn't pull in the ratings of SHOGUN and THE THORN BIRDS. Chamberlain starred in the one-season CBS series ISLAND SON in 1989 and his output slowed after that. He starred in CBS' TV-movie THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS in 1996, but for most of that decade, he focused on stage work. He occasionally popped up in a made-for-TV movie like ABC's remake of NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1991) or a late-comer mini-series like CBS' TOO RICH: THE SECRET LIFE OF DORIS DUKE (1999), where he played the faithful butler and companion of the billionaire tobacco heiress, played by Lauren Bacall, but he generally stayed out of the limelight and gravitated to stage work, possibly due to offers dissipating with age as he entered his 60s, but probably more likely because of persistent rumors that the very private actor was gay. A 1989 People article more or less outed him, but Chamberlain never publicly confirmed it until his 2003 memoir Shattered Love. In the years since, the now-80-year-old Chamberlain has had small roles in a few indie films that didn't expand much beyond the festival circuit, guest spots on TV shows like WILL & GRACE, NIP/TUCK, and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, as well as recurring roles on CHUCK, BROTHERS & SISTERS, and LEVERAGE.
|Chamberlain and director J. Lee Thompson
score. The script by Gene Quintano (TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS) and James R. Silke (NINJA III: THE DOMINATION) has some amusing elements, like Bockner using the dead bodies of his officers as a bridge to cross quicksand or yelling at a drowning officer to "Stop sinking! That's an order!" Lom and especially Rhys Davies are terrific as the villains, both chewing the scenery with comical gusto and seemingly having fun with the project, despite what was a sometimes arduous shoot on location in Zimbabwe. There's some pretty blatant racism in the script that comes across as rather cringe-inducing today, and it's not just the comic relief of the perpetually frightened Umbopo, who's too scared to ride in a car and stops just short of exclaiming "Feets don't fail me now!" Nor is it just the tribe of savage cannibals putting Quatermain and Jessie in a giant pot to boil. It's Jessie calling untrustworthy merchant Kassam (Shai K. Ophir) a "cheap-suited camel jockey" and a "towel-headed freak." It's an unfortunate misstep in an otherwise immensely likable and highly entertaining film.
(US - 1987)
Directed by Gary Nelson and Newt Arnold. Written by Gene Quintano. Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, James Earl Jones, Henry Silva, Robert Donner, Doghmi Larbi, Aileen Marson, Cassandra Peterson, Martin Rabbett, Alex Heyns. (PG, 100 mins)
KING SOLOMON'S MINES was successful enough to warrant a sequel, though that sequel was planned all along. Shot concurrently with the first film in 1985 by a different director and crew, ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD almost gets by on the easygoing charm of Chamberlain but is a vastly inferior film. It looks cheaper, moves slower, and lacks the playful revisionist goofiness of KING SOLOMON'S MINES. It was a troubled production that could've used J. Lee Thompson at the helm. The director was Gary Nelson, another journeyman who made some good films but lacked the expertise of a seen-and-done-it-all pro like Thompson. Nelson directed the Disney films FREAKY FRIDAY (1976) and THE BLACK HOLE (1979), as well as the Gary Coleman comedy JIMMY THE KID (1982). He started directing NIGHTHAWKS (1981) before disagreements with star Sylvester Stallone resulted in Nelson getting fired and Bruce Malmuth stepping in, though many sources claim Stallone directed most of the film and Malmuth was merely present on the set and collecting a paycheck by being the guy yelling "Action!" to skirt around the DGA's "Eastwood Rule" that a fired director can't be replaced by the film's star, a rule created in 1976 when Philip Kaufman filed a grievance after Clint Eastwood fired him from THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES and took over as director himself.
|This cheery publicity shot of the stars constitutes
the most convincing acting associated with ALLAN
QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD