Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (1987)


ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (1987) 

Label: Olive Films
Release Date: March 31st 2015
Region Code: A
Rating: PG
Duration: 99 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Video: HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Gary Nelson
Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, James Earl Jones, Cassandra Peterson, Robert Donner, Henry Silva

I remember watching King Solomon's Mines (1985) in a second-run theatre sometime in '86 and enjoying it quite a bit. At the time I would have been thirteen and already a huge fan of the Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark plus the sequel and this was something squarely designed to cash-in on the success of that action-adventure blockbuster and the following series of adventure-romance films like Romancing the Stone. Coming into this viewing I thought for sure I had watched this but now I am doubting if I even knew there was a sequel to begin with, so it was a pleasure to watched this with a fresh set of eyes.

It appears to be a few months after the events of the first film and Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain, The Swarm) and his fiance Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone, Total Recall) are living comfortably on a plantation in Africa with plans to travel to America where they will e wedded. Jesse is clearly beside herself with happiness at the prospect of marrying but adventurer Allan doesn't seem quite ready to forgo the adventuring lifestyle just yet. As fate would have it the night before they are to embark to the US a stranger arrives at their estate and dies shortly after, but not before informing Quatermain that his long lost brother Robeson (Martin Rabbett) has found the legendary Lost City of Gold and is being held captive there by a lost race of white people. With this information in hand Jess and Quatermain put together a hasty expedition into the heart of the African jungle and along the way they enlist the help of an African warrior named Umslopogaas (James Earl Jones, Conan the Barbarian) and a cowardly Fakir named Swarma (Robert Donner, Vanishing Point).

Our adventurers must cross the treacherous Sahara desert and only just barely survive elaborate booby traps and an attack by a swarm of warrior tribesmen during which Umslopogaas brandishes his battle axe like the whirling blades of a fan thereby dispelling the numerous spear and arrows hurled at them. It's a scene straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon and poor James Earl Jones has this look on his face that clearly says I only did this for the money. Afterward Quatermain launches fireworks into the air and of course the the primitive tribesmen assume he must be some sort of white devil, thus they allow the adventures passage through their territory unscathed. There's some sketchy race stereotypes throughout the movie, the primitive people are depicted about as poorly as you would expect from an Italian cannibal from the '70s, just has a slightly larger budget but this is clearly an PG rated exploitation film. The worst offender is the portrayal of the bug-eyed Indian mystic Swarma, a cowardly and greedy type who craves the golden treasures of the lost city and is the butt of many a joke.

The action-adventure set pieces are fun if a bit uninspired, an underground river puts the group up against serpents and a geyser of flame threatens to consume them but the preceding underground rapids ride will douse your enthusiasm long before the first canoe goes up in flames as the cast comically duck out of the way of low-hanging rocks through what looks like a water slide.

Arriving at the Lost City of Gold Quatermain is reunited with his long lost brother who has not been help captive against his will but is enjoying life in the idyllic village, which is not all that impressive, for a Lost City of Gold this pace is a letdown. The city is ruled by two sister Queens, the good Queen Nyleptha (Aileen Marson) and the evil Queen Sorais (Cassandra Peterson of Elvira notoriety), the latter of whom has aligned herself with the High Priest, Agon (Henry Silva, Ghost Dog). Agon is a frizzy haired weirdo who brought to mind Kevin Dubrow, the late singer of Quiet Riot. The maniacal high priest enjoys his power over the community and leads through fear, regularly dipping his followers headfirst into a vat of molten gold creating a series of macabre statues. It's not quite Temple of Doom but that's what they're going for, it's a pretty lazy script through and through, and feels very episodic without the benefit of any proper follow through.

As you might expect our adventures must wage war against the evil priest and free the city from his tyranny so it can once again return to the ways of an idyllic and peaceful society... or some such nonsense. The finale is overwrought and runs out of steam long before our adventures enter the Lost City of Gold. The finale features Quatermain melting an enormous statue of a lion which stops Agon and his followers in their tracks in an ironic sort of way, it's certainly silly.

Richard Chamberlain is an easy guy to like with charisma to spare, some decent comic timing, he seems game but there's only so much he can do with what's written on the page, and this is some weak stuff. Sharon Stone has even less to work with in what amounts to a cameo as a woman in distress that just pops up from time to time, pretty sure this was not a break-out role for her.

At the end of the day this is what you have come to expect from a Cannon Films action-adventure film, these are after all the same fine people who brought you Ninja III: The Domination (1984), and if you loved that gem of b-movie making I can pretty much guarantee you will find enough to enjoy with this one. Obviously after years of digesting cheap Italian knock-offs I have developed a high tolerance (or maybe even a craving) for this type of stuff and I am pleased as punch to see it on Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films with an AVC encoded transfer in the original scope aspect ratio, the image is pretty decent but grain seems to be unnaturally heavy throughout, but there is a decent amount of fine detail and some minor depth to the image. It may not be Criterion-worthy, but it's certainly Cannon-worthy, just kidding. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 does a decent job exporting dialogue, score and effects. Notably much of the score is recycled from the first film which is largely a poor man's knock-off of John Williams iconic Indiana Jones score, apologies to Jerry Goldsmith, but true.

Unfortunately the only extra on the disc is a trailer for the feature film, there's no making of documentary, no audio commentary or a booklet with new writing on the film from some random film historian. This having been a Golan-Globus production there must be some entertaining behind-the-scenes anecdotes someone could have shared with us. but it was not to be. I do appreciate just having this trashy action-adventure sequel in HD, while it may not be a great slice of action-adventure cinema I do find it to be a great deal of fun with a few cold brews and couch full of friends.

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