CANNON MONTH: King Solomon’s Mines (1985)

Richard Chamberlain described this movie as “…very much a Raiders of the Lost Ark type of movie – very tongue-in-cheek and full of adventures and stunts. Bullets flying, lions eating people, witches up in the trees. All that stuff.”

Yes, pretty much, but nowhere near as fast, exciting or successful. But man, I find so much love in my heart for this movie and I figure it’s probably because it was on cable so much that I eventually liked it.

And well, it’s Cannon and has a major Cannon bit of ridiculouness behind it.

Kathleen Turner was reportedly offered $1.5 million to play Jesse Huston but turned it down as it was to similar to her part in Romancing the Stone. Cannon Group leader Menahem Golan demanded they get “that Stone woman”, meaning Turner, and that’s how Sharon Stone was cast, which if it were any other studio I’d think was an urban legend but given that it’s Cannon, I’m more inclined to blindly agree.

Also, as a lifelong marketing person, Cannon’s big media campaign on this film pushed it hard enough to make it a success, which was important, as the sequel Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold was made directly afterward and was ready to come out just as quickly. Sadly, the third movie, Allan Quatermain and the Jewel of the East — which would have adapted She and Allan — was to be directed by Golan, but it never happened.

Jesse (Sharon) has hired Allan Quatermain (Chamberlain) and his companion Umbopo (Ken Gampu) to find her father, a man lost on the way to King Solomon’s Mines. This puts them at odds with Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom) and a slave master named Dogati (John Rhys-Davies).

Yes, in true Cannon style, if you can get someone from the movie you’re making your own version of, get them. As Sallah, Rhys-Davies is a fondly remembered character in two Indiana Jones movies. Also, as Cannon will do, they made him the bad guy.

Evil priestesses, gigantic crocodiles, exploding vulcanos, enormous diamonds, romantic tension, quicksand, a monster known as the Mokele-mbembe — this one really has it all. Critics absolutely hated it, but you knew that, and audiences pretty much loved it and you knew that too.

Based on the H. Rider Hagard novel, the screenplay was by Gene Quintano, who would later direct National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, and James R. Silke, who dependably wrote Revenge of the NinjaNinja III: The DominationAmerican Ninja and The Barbarians for Cannon.

It was directed by J. Lee Thompson, whose 80s were filled with the kind of movies I rented all the time, such as Happy Birthday to Me10 to MidnightThe Evil That Men DoMurphy’s LawDeath Wish 4: The CrackdownMessenger of Death and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects.

In the years afterward, Chamberlain has changed his point of view on the movie, saying that the $5 million dollar budget was more like $2.50 and that Cannon pitched the movie to him as a big budget rival to Indiana Jones with a great supporting cast and Thompson directing. The truth was that the sets and effects didn’t look like they were for a blockbuster, Sharon Stone was hard to work with (allegedly crew members would go into her trailer and urinate in her bathtub) and Thompson wasn’t that interested in the movie.

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