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TheRaider.net Research Indy's Influences Legacy King Solomon's Mines
 
King Solomon's Mines
 

Released by Hallmark Entertainment – 2004

Directed by: Steve Boyum
Story by: H. Rider Haggard (novel)
Screenplay by: Steven H. Berman, Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster
Produced by: Greig Buckle, Robert Halmi Jr., Larry Levinson & Russell D. Markowitz

Starring:
Patrick Swayze .... Allan Quatermain
Alison Doody .... Elizabeth Matiland
Roy Marsden .... Captain Good
John Standing .... Dr. Sam Maitland
Gavin Hood .... Bruce McNabb

 

The famous tale of King Solomon’s Mines and its hero Allan Quatermain is to filmmaking what the writings of William Shakespeare are to the theatre. Nineteenth century writer H. Rider Haggard painted a story that continues to inspire the imaginations of filmmakers. Like the countless versions of Hamlet, every incarnation of King Solomon’s Mines contains new ideas and interesting interpretations.

The original black and white adaptation, made in 1937, was a tale of high adventure as only the golden age of Hollywood could tell it, in the style of its contemporaries such as Gunga Din. Those kinds of grand adventure films are capsules of their time and sadly, can never be replicated, nor their spirit completely recaptured.
The 1950 adaptation of King Solomon’s Mines is a Technicolor classic of epic scope, dignified performances, and thought-provoking dialogue. The film is a perfect balance between an adventure-filled fiction and an anthropological documentary. To date, it is the most critically acclaimed adaptation.
The version starring Richard Chamberlain in 1985 is a vapid satire, a film for pop-culture popcorn stuffers that abandons the essence of Haggard’s story in favor of cheaply echoing Indiana Jones to exploit its then recent success.


Swayze as Quatermain.

Nineteen years passed before Allan Quatermain was seen on screen again. This time, he came to television, in an epic-length miniseries. Hallmark Entertainment adapted King Solomon’s Mines for their cable channel in 2004.
This version stars Patrick Swayze as the great white hunter Allan Quatermain. Playing Elizabeth, Quatermain’s female employer, is Alison Doody, whom all Indiana Jones fans know best as Elsa from
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. She is the second Indiana Jones alum to appear in an adaptation of King Solomon’s Mines, succeeding John Rhys-Davies, who appeared in the 1985 version.
Quatermain’s first foray into television results in an impressive accomplishment that easily stands equal with the acclaimed 1950 version and thankfully does much to erase the memory of the 1985 adaptation. At just under three hours in length, this version is the longest of them all, and it fills that space with great material.


Exploring Africa.

Once again, Quatermain is hired by a young woman to help her find her father, who has been lost in the unexplored wilds of Africa. From the outset, this is a much more character driven adaptation than the previous versions.
The biggest character exploration in this version is Quatermain, whom in the other versions is either a stalwart icon of experience and strength or a shallow, adventuring cad. Quatermain’s difficulties in dealing with the death of his wife and regaining custody of his son are subplots that give the great white hunter an added dimension in this version. Swayze brings the character to life with believable humility and dignity in a solid performance.
Doody is equally up to the challenge of effectively reinventing the Elizabeth character. Still a very feminine presence in the story, Doody plays a determined and intelligent, but inexperienced woman without the overt and stereotypical weakness of the Deborah Kerr version or the screaming lunacy of the Sharon Stone incarnation. Doody brings out Elizabeth’s love for her father quite effectively in a way not seen before.
Quatermain’s companions are equally developed instead of being mere pack bearers. The tribesmen and the villains encountered along their journey are also real characters rather than figureheads and human props.

This version is more accessible to a modern audience, utilizing a modern sense of action, pacing, and editing. At the same time, it is the version that Indiana Jones fans can really sink their teeth into. Never before has Elizabeth’s map been an object of such importance, and here it is given a priority akin to the headpiece of the Staff of Ra in Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Entering a tomb.

In the film, aside from the obligatory but well-executed chases, escapes, and gunfights, there are two sequences that scream echoes of Indiana Jones. In the middle of the film, our heroes locate a tomb in the desert that supposedly holds a key that they need to eventually enter Solomon’s fabled mines. They enter the underground tomb by torchlight and Quatermain and Elizabeth approach a sealed, stone coffin in a shot composed in a very similar fashion to Indy and Elsa at the knight’s tomb in Venice.
Quatermain and Elizabeth proceed to push the lid away together, Swazye on the left and Doody on the right, just like Indy and Elsa. At the same time, Elizabeth proceeds to blow away the sand on the lid to read the hieroglyphs and carvings, just as Elsa does in the knight’s tomb.
At this point in the film, I could not help but wonder, "Was Doody remembering
Last Crusade while filming this? She must have been, and probably wondering how many times in her career she would have to blow dust off tombs and push the lids open."
Soon after, Doody is held hostage with a gun to her neck, in a scene that immediately conjured up the image of Vogel with his Luger pressed against Elsa’s neck in
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The satisfying difference between Quatermain and Indy in this situation was twofold.
For one, Doody’s Elizabeth is not Elsa and does not betray Quatermain as Elsa did to Indy. Secondly, regardless of Elizabeth’s loyalty, Quatermain only feigns lowering his rifle and quickly brings it to bear again with no intention of taking his eyes or his aim off his enemy. In this moment, Quatermain makes Indy look like a chump.

At the climax of the film, Quatermain and Elizabeth enter the legendary mines and encounter a chamber of booby traps that are reminiscent of the chamber in which Indy sees the idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Instead of darts coming out of the walls, Quatermain must deal with spears shooting up through the floor.
When Quatermain and Elizabeth enter the inner treasure chamber, there is another moment in which Doody must have been flashing back to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When trying to decide whether or not to reach for a significant gem in the chamber, Quatermain looks at Elizabeth and says, "There’s only one way to find out."
This is the second time that line has been delivered to Doody under such circumstances. The first time was when Indy and Elsa stand together in the Grail chamber and Indy steels himself to drink from the wooden cup, saying the exact same thing before taking his fateful swig.


Alison Doody's return
to adventure.

After a rousing escape from the collapsing mine, Quatermain and Elizabeth retreat to safety, and I was left to reflect on not only how fun the film was to watch, but what an effect Alison Doody’s presence in the film had on my viewing experience as an Indiana Jones fan.
Even though I knew that Elizabeth is traditionally, and likely forever will be, a true character and companion in the Haggard story, I was continually thinking to myself, "Keep an eye on her, Quatermain. She might betray you!" and, "Is she actually going to make it out of the mine alive or fall into a bottomless pit and perish?" Keep in mind, Alison Doody’s performance of Elizabeth is nothing like Elsa and she is a treat to see on screen again, but Indiana Jones fans like this writer will look at her with an added dimension and have fun speculating.

The latest incarnation of King Solomon’s Mines is a great achievement both as an adaptation and an adventure in its own right. Finally, there is a worthy successor to the Stewart Granger picture that brings Allan Quatermain’s grand adventure into modern cinema. Check this one out if you are an Indiana Jones fan. (MF)

 

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