Created by H. Rider Haggard in 1885, Allan Quatermain was the protagonist of thirteen adventure novels, spanning fifty years of an English-born hunter/adventurer who found an affinity with the people of Africa in their affairs dealing with the English, the Germans, and others. But in the adaptation of King Solomon’s Mines, Quatermain is slicker, funnier, more dashing, thanks to his portrayal in the 1985 20th Century Fox Adaptation, now available in high definition through Olive Films.
This edition, with Richard Chamberlain portraying the adventurer, was the fourth of five adaptations of the novel, also earning a sequel (Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold) and a spot for Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Directed by J. Lee Thompson and scored by Jerry Goldsmith, the film is a blend of adventure, humor, 1980s panache, and typical colonialism.
Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds, Three Musketeers, and host of other pop culture moments, plays Quatermain with a bit of a wild heart and a little tongue-in-cheek persona, showing how the character impacted the Indiana Jones films. But because of its strong focus on humor and the ridiculousness, it feels more akin to Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile than the more ‘serious’ Harrison Ford flicks. [Of course, having Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) show up as the Turkish villain Dogati probably helps make that connection.]
While Quatermain sets out to conduct Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone) safely to find her professor father, he finds himself clashing heavily with Dogati, who is in cahoots with the German military force led by Bockner (Herbert Lom). Ultimately, everyone ends up on the quest to find the mysterious King Solomon’s Mines, hoping to either find the riches for themselves, or keep them safe from outsiders. All of this plays out with bad acting, dashes of humor, and some scenes you never see coming … like Chamberlain and Stone rolling down the hill in a giant cannibal tribe’s pot or the nine lives of Dogati.
Overall, it’s a humorous adventure with the ultimate caveat that greed doesn’t pay, but it certainly provides its fair share of adventures.