Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: King Solomon's Mines (2004)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on June 19, 2007.)

I believe this movie originated as a two-part cable TV miniseries, which you can kind of tell from the way it’s structured. I read H. Rider Haggard’s novel KING SOLOMON’S MINES ’way back when I was in high school (the only Haggard I’ve ever read, as far as I can recall). I don’t remember all the details from the novel, but I suspect the screenwriters went fairly far afield in creating this movie, which comes across as a combination of Indiana Jones, Tarzan, and a B-Western. I like all three of those things, so I enjoyed the film quite a bit.

Patrick Swayze is Allan Quatermain, and probably wisely, he plays him as an American rather than attempting an English accent. Not surprisingly, Swayze makes a fine, steely-eyed, two-fisted action hero. He’s surrounded by a good cast, including a big galoot sidekick, a couple of old-timers, a beautiful blonde, and some dastardly villains. The first half of the film is really structured like a Western and has that feel, with our group of intrepid heroes being trailed by a gang of owlhoots who are also after the same treasure, with everybody riding horseback and carrying six-guns and Winchesters. There’s even the scene where Swayze straps on his gunbelt, loops a bandolier of ammunition across his chest, and then puts on his hat, all the time looking grim and determined. Hell, they might as well be going into Mexico for lost Aztec treasure or some such.

The second half of the movie is that Indiana Jones/Tarzan hybrid I mentioned, with warring native tribes, witch doctors, fights to the death to determine who’s going to be the king, underground passages full of death traps, an idol with a gem called the Stone of the Ancestors mounted on it . . . good Saturday matinee/Republic serial stuff, in other words. The script lapses into cliches a little too often, especially toward the end, and there are some gaps in the logic, mostly of the “Okay, why don’t they just go ahead and kill ’em instead of giving them the chance to get away?” variety. In a movie like this, though, that’s pretty much forgivable as far as I’m concerned. Overall, I found this version of KING SOLOMON’S MINES to be a lot of fun.


George said...

I've seen KING SOLOMON'S MINES at Wal-Mart in those big bins. Next time I see a copy there, I'm buying it! Nice review!

Ron Scheer said...

Some of us read the novel last summer, and so it's pretty fresh in my mind. I'd like to see how it "translated" to the screen. Thanks.

SPENCER said...

I've read all the Quatermain books and love them. The movies have always screwed it up, but the Swayze version, I feel, captures the flavor of the novels the best. There is no love interest---that was added by the screenwriter, but everything else is pretty faithful. The worst Quatermain movies are the Richard Chamberland ones from the 80's that updated him to be Indiana Jones. Now moviegoers think Quatermain is a rip-off of Indiana Jones, not realizing Haggard's character was first.