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TR.N Research Indy's Influences Legacy Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold
 
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold
 

Released by The Cannon Group, Inc - 1987

Directed by: Gary Nelson
Written by: Gene Quintano & Lee Reynolds
Produced by: Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan, Michael Greenburg, Avi Lerner

Starring:
Richard Chamberlain .... Allan Quatermain
Sharon Stone .... Jesse Huston
James Earl Jones .... Umslopogaas
Henry Silva .... Agon
Robert Donner .... Swarma

 

The production company of Golan-Globus was a prolific film entity throughout the 1980s. However, even though it produced a good number of pictures, few if any can be considered enjoyable. Most, in fact, are fairly sore on the eyes, unless you are the type that likes to laugh at bad films.
Golan-Globus was the troubled cinema think tank that provided audiences with Cyborg, Enter the Ninja, The Delta Force, and a slew of laughable installments in the Death Wish franchise. (Note to readers: The original Death Wish is a great film not affiliated with Golan-Globus.)


Stone & Chamberlain

Regardless of this dubious record, Golan-Globus remained afloat and apparently saw enough success in their adaptation of King Solomon’s Mines to follow it with a sequel two years later. Once again mining H. Rider Haggard’s tales of Allan Quatermain, Golan-Globus produced and released Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.
The parallel to the Indiana Jones series in the title is obvious. The producers shrewdly made sure that they adapted a work with Quatermain’s name in the title just as Lucas and Spielberg did for
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, to capitalize on the popularity of the main character and make sure that audiences knew what the film was about.

The film opens with Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone reprising their roles as Quatermain and Jessie. The movie begins with promise. There is a more serious tone to the picture as compared to the first film. One of Quatermain’s friends is found feverish in the jungle, ranting and raving about a lost city of gold. Strange natives murder him, and Quatermain wonders if his younger brother, who went on the expedition, is still alive.
Determined to find him, Quatermain sets out into the dangerous unexplored Africa with Jessie, an African warrior friend played by James Earl Jones, and a mousy Indian priest. From there, the film plummets downhill quickly.


Right: James Earl Jones.

But before I get into that, it’s time for a quick history lesson. 1987 was a dark year for Golan-Globus. They produced a series of mega flops that included the film adaptation of Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and the film reviewed here.
All three of these films share common traits. They suffer from deplorable special effects, sub par even in films from three decades before. The production value is jaw-droppingly low. The plots of these films are inane and sloppy. I have seen all three of these films in recent years and
Allan Quatermain and the City of Gold is by far the worst of them all, and that’s saying something.

As confused as the original film was, it shines when compared to its sequel. Once again, we are subjected to one contrived action scene after another without any decent pacing. If that’s not frustrating enough, scene after scene contain either a major technical flub, pages of contrived dialogue, or some of the most distractingly inferior set pieces you will ever see, or all three at once.
We’ve all seen errors on screen, even in the Indiana Jones films. Remember the reflection of the cobra in the Well of Souls before the DVD version erased it? Do you recall Indy’s pistol switching from a revolver to a .45 and back again during the Ravenwood Bar fight? These are forgivable flubs, often unavoidable in the editing process or due to technical limitations regardless of the exhaustive effort put into the Indiana Jones films.


Canoe adventure.

Now let us examine this Allan Quatermain film. The earth splits open in one scene in what could have been a cool death trap, but alas, the black plastic mattress is shining up at us, clearly visible only a few feet below as a stuntman hits it squarely. I was under the impression that the bottomless pit was a special effect perfected back in the films of the 1930s like King Kong. Guess not.
There is a brief moment in this scene with a disgusting reveal of one of Quatermain’s old adventure buddies, now a rotting corpse, vaguely reminiscent of Indy finding Forrestal in the Peruvian Temple.
Later, Quatermain and his companions hang on for their lives as their canoes fly uncontrollably through an underground river. All the while, every character is surrounded by a bright blue halo. Now, while blue screen composites had not been perfected in the 1980s, a small black line was fairly typical and acceptable. A bright blue halo was not only unacceptable, it could be achieved only if the lighting on the subjects was poor. These are the worst blue-screen effects I have even seen in film.

A few of the shots in this scene are process screened, but watch closely and you will see the background scenery jump and change suddenly. Why? Because the background material had run to the end and started over from the beginning again. Usually, they would cut that and take it over again. Not here. The makers of this film have to be the most negligent filmmakers alive.
In some shots, our heroes row the canoe backwards and in others, unconvincing puppet miniatures double for our boating heroes. Every stuntman’s wire harness is clearly visible in every shot throughout the film. These technical flubs are so jarring they cannot be ignored. Can the story make up for this? In the case of Indiana Jones, "Yes." In the case of Allan Quatermain, "No."


Cornered Quatermain.

Quatermain and his companions, after escaping a cave filled with massive man-eating rubber grubs, puppet bats, and a random lion, stumble upon a lost city of peaceful people that resemble flower children of the 1960s. They appear to live at an existing museum or outdoor shopping mall that has been modified to weakly resemble an ancient city. The childlike people are ruled by an evil religious despot who believes in human sacrifice.

Here are the pale parallels to Indiana Jones. This Mola-Ram-like cult leader worships a lion god and sacrifices people by lowering them into a pit of molten gold via a double-door opening in the floor of his temple. Underneath the temple, he has enslaved people to dig the gold for him in a set that looks like the Wal-Mart version of the mine in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Interestingly, the theatrical trailer of the film provides a glimpse of some Indy-inspired sequences that were cut from the movie itself. In the trailer, there are shots of Quatermain using a bullwhip stolen from a guard to disarm an evildoer in a rickety wooden elevator over the molten pit and fight off a series of baddies on a staircase.

The rest of the film is as dismal as the setup. Ridiculous supporting characters and dialogue make it impossible for Chamberlain, Stone, and Jones to retain a shred of dignity, though they look like they are trying really hard. It’s a shame too, because Chamberlain does look cool in some scenes in the beginning with all his gear on and Stone is as beautiful as ever. (Also, see if you can spot Cassandra Richardson, now famous as vamp television hostess, Elvira.)


Angry Quatermain.

In an ending too fantastic to be believed, and too contrived to be laughed at, Quatermain finds a way to climb atop the giant golden lion head on the temple roof and, using a battle axe, continually catch bolts of lightning out of the sky and smash them via the axe into the lion head. The lightning heats up the gold and sends it down on the despot and his evil army in molten liquid form, killing them all.
So in the end, Quatermain saves his brother and the lost city and I am left with questions. "Did the British really develop a silk-thin shirt during World War I that could stop spears and swords?" "Why didn’t the evil despot just move out of the way when he was pushed into the trickle of molten gold?" "How many lions is Quatermain going to kill in this movie?" "What is James Earl Jones doing in this film?" "Why wasn’t Quatermain electrocuted by the multiple lightning bolts coursing through him?" "Why would Quatermain leave his pistol and bulletproof shirt just lying around for the despot to steal?"

These are questions only a logical movie could answer. Alas, this film is not one of those. In the film, Quatermain says, "I have seen some amazing things in my life, but nothing can compare to this." I agree Quatermain. I have never seen a film this amazingly terrible, filmmakers so amazingly negligent, nor a story so amazingly thoughtless. Stay away, adventure fans. Stay away. (MF)

 

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