Sunday, July 16, 2017

Film Review: ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (1986, Gary Nelson)

Stars: Hoo Boy of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Richard Chamberlain (THE MUSIC LOVERS, THE LAST WAVE), Sharon Stone (CASINO, BASIC INSTINCT), James Earl Jones (STAR WARS, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, SNEAKERS), Henry Silva (SHARKY'S MACHINE, BULLETPROOF, GHOST DOG), Cassandra Peterson (ELVIRA MISTRESS OF THE DARK, PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE), Robert Donner (COOL HAND LUKE, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER). Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard (KING SOLOMON'S MINES, SHE). Screenplay by Gene Quintano (SUDDEN DEATH, OPERATION DUMBO DROP) and Lee Reynolds (WHO AM I, DELTA FORCE 2). Directed by Gary Nelson (FREAKY FRIDAY, THE BLACK HOLE). Music by Michael Linn (AMERICAN NINJA, BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO) and Jerry Goldsmith (TOTAL RECALL, ALIEN, GREMLINS). Second unit directed by Newt Arnold (BLOODSPORT, BLOOD THIRST).
Tag-line: "24 Karat Entertainment!"
Best one-liner: "We're starting to piss off somebody's god!"

I've written before at length about the "Cannon Quatermain Canon"––the two films, KING SOLOMON'S MINES and ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, were made simultaneously in 1985, were based on outworn adventure novels by H. Rider Haggard, and were shamelessly attempting to cash in on the success of the INDIANA JONES series.

These films, even moreso than the average American globetrotting adventure film, are xenophobic, racially insensitive (they actually use brownface on Robert Donner to transform him into the excruciatingly offensive Indian character "Swarma"), and generally spit-take inducing. I honestly can't tell if these films are an elaborate joke on the audience, a spoof of the genre's racist tropes, or a genuine attempt at action-adventure entertainment by woefully out of touch individuals.  [It's also worth noting: Cannon's FIREWALKER (with Chuck Norris) was made in the same period and is definitely cut from the same cloth.]

The plot concerns Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain, who deserves better)

Note how his fedora differs from Indiana Jones' in that it is handsomely garnished with a swatch of leopard print from Jo-Anne Fabrics.

and Willie Scott––er, I mean Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone, who also deserves better)

She doesn't even get to sing.

are searching for... not the Ark of the Covenant nor the Sankara Stones nor the Holy Grail, but, I shit you not... a legendary white African tribe who lives in a lost city of gold. At one point, Sharon Stone is made to exclaim, "The white race does exist!" I cannot overstate how unsettling this is.

James Earl Jones (who also obviously deserves better) shows up in a tailcoat, a plastic bone tooth necklace, a Native American feather headpiece, and no pants.

He is playing the warrior sidekick "Umslopogaas," and he wields a giant axe that is conspicuously lightweight and shiny, almost as if it is a piece of plastic covered in reflective paint (which it is). At one point he is captured by the guards of the white tribe's lost city, who are black men wearing white hoods. Again, these decisions appear to be so plainly tone deaf and misguided that it is better to believe they are not deliberate.

According to James Earl Jones, he only signed up for this picture because it allowed him to piggyback his shoot dates with an African vacation. I hope it was a nice vacation.

Master of crazy-eye Henry Silva rules the Lost City like Jim Jones, wearing community theater biblical robes and a Gene Simmons wig. He is clearly based on "Mola Ram" from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (complete with a floor-opening sacrificial chamber and a mine full of slave labor), and the major difference is that he does not rip out his victims' hearts, but rather dips them in gold. He screams things like "Which one of you is going to die for slaying our sacred beast?" and appears to be having something approaching a good time.

And wait a minute, who is that on the left, in the Valkyrie breastplate?

Why, it's none other than Elvira (!) herself (Cassandra Peterson), who mostly lounges around and gives the evil eye, which makes her role in this mess the most enviable, from an actor's standpoint.

ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD is treasure trove of cheap costumes, depressed actors, incompetent matte work, and mind-bogglingly terrible ideas. There are giant maggot attacks, a wild raft ride (that attempts to mirror TEMPLE OF DOOM's mine-car chase),

and a zany bazaar salesman whose wares include bulletproof spandex.

Furthermore, Quatermain solves literally 95% of the problems he faces with trick-shooting (at tomatoes, natives' faces, trap doors, stalactites, etc.) which is a great message for the youth, too, sure.

In the end, the film is troubling, bizarre, baffling, and frankly the whole thing has aged about as well as the Gold Dust Twins. Now you must atone for your sins by watching the entire catalogues of Ousmane Sembéne, Sarah Maldoror, and Gadalla Gubara. Whew.

1 comment:

J.D. Lafrance said...

"In the end, the film is troubling, bizarre, baffling, and frankly the whole thing has aged about as well as the Gold Dust Twins. Now you must atone for your sins by watching the entire catalogues of Ousmane Sembéne, Sarah Maldoror, and Gadalla Gubara."

LOL. Awesome! This ALMOST makes me want to watch this... almost. But I'll take your word for it. And this is coming from an appreciator of Indy Jones wannabe movies.

Have you ever seen NATE AND HAYES? Love to read your take on that somewhat underrated gem.