King Solomon’s Mines Blu-ray Review

Cannon Films takes on Indiana Jones with Sharon Stone and Richard Chamberlain

H. Rider Haggard’s Victorian-era novel “King Solomon’s Mines” was a sensation in its day and practically created the entire Lost World genre of English adventure. Director J. Lee Thompson’s (Cape Fear) 1985 adaptation for Cannon is a fun rip-off of Indiana Jones that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The b-movie stars Richard Chamberlain and a very young Sharon Stone in one of her first leading roles. Intrepid explorer Allan Quatermain searches over Africa looking for the fabled mines of King Solomon and its treasures in this rolling adventure film.

It’s somewhat ironic that Allan Quatermain, one of the original inspirations for Indiana Jones, would end up in his own film being little more than a mere homage to the movie character that came after him. Made in the wake of the massive box office success of the Indiana Jones franchise, King Solomon’s Mines is a derivative homage with its own b-movie charms. The Cannon Group knew how to put entertaining movies together despite their fundamental cheesiness. Treasure hunter Allan Quatermain teams up with a feisty woman to find her missing father kidnapped in the wilds of primitive Africa, while pursued by hostile tribes and a rival German explorer.

The Cannon Group got more right than wrong when making King Solomon’s Mines

The cast has a host of recognizable faces still familiar to today’s audiences. Richard Chamberlain plays the dashing Allan Quatermain, doing his very best Harrison Ford-as-Indiana Jones impression. Sharon Stone is Jesse Huston, the woman in search of her father that becomes Quatermain’s adventurous companion. Stone’s acting isn’t the greatest in King Solomon’s Mines – her inexperience shows at this stage in her career.

It’s a campy showing that may be why the film is still remembered for its lighthearted joie de vivre. Quatermain and Huston fight their way across Africa, overcoming a variety of death-defying situations. Their enemies include the sinister Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom), a German explorer also looking for King Solomon’s fabled treasure, and a Turkish slave trader played by John Rhys-Davis. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that John Rhys-Davis, an actor in Raiders of the Lost Ark, was given a prominent part.

This is an adventure flick through and through, barely taking a breath between its action set pieces. The ninety minutes fly by as Quatermain has to escape more and more dangerous situations, from a train full of Germans to a tribe that wants to boil Jesse and him together. It may help that legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith does his best to aid things with a rousing score that recalls John Williams’ iconic work on Indiana Jones.

King Solomon’s Mines is one of those Cannon films that aimed a bit higher than usual and delivered a satisfying adventure film with fun moments. It’s a film that has to be understood in the context of the 1980s and the Indiana Jones phenomena, long before fans had grown jaded on the beloved franchise. Chamberlain is a little dull as leading man and Sharon Stone’s hammy performance isn’t great, but they fit perfectly in this expensive b-movie homage to Indiana Jones.

The Cannon Group got more right than wrong when making King Solomon’s Mines. It definitely has its fans with an unironic appreciation of its virtues. A local UHF channel loved it, seemingly play the forgotten movie on a monthly basis, years after Richard Chamberlain had faded as a star. It was successful enough to earn a sequel, Allan Quatermain and The Lost City of Gold.

Video

Olive Films has licensed King Solomon’s Mines from MGM with a relatively solid transfer. The 1985 production shows strong color saturation in mildly softer picture fidelity than a brand-new 2K scan would produce.

The elements are in clean, stable condition. The 100-minute main feature is presented in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution. The compression receives a decent AVC video encode on a BD-25. A tiny amount of chroma noise is seen in a few scenes.

The transfer appears to be an older telecine effort with mild edge enhancement. Close-ups have an appealing sharpness with appreciable detail. A lively contrast works in its favor, especially in the brighter exteriors shot on location in Zimbabwe. Definition and clarity are fairly high for this kind of b-movie production from Cannon’s back catalog. It’s a fine presentation that definitely improves on prior home video editions.

Audio

Jerry Goldsmith’s heroic score sounds fine in the 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio, almost overpowering the rest of the mix at times. The sound design is disappointing for an adventure film built around several different stunt sequences. Something seems to have gone wrong with the original mix, though it’s nothing that impedes dialogue.

Cannon’s movies often skimped on big audio moments and King Solomon’s Mines looks better than it sounds.
Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font, inside the scope presentation at all times.

Extras

No special features are included. This is one film where a fan commentary may have been fun.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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