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Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold
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by Jack Sommersby

"An Unexpectedly Fine Sequel"
4 stars

Lower your expectations and you should have a pretty splendid time.

Well, gosh darn, color me surprised because the kitsch Allan Quartermain and The Lost City of Gold has, miraculously enough, turned out to be something actually recommendable being that the original, 1985's lackluster King Solomon's Mines (loosely based on the 1887 adventure novel by H. Rider Haggard), was produced by the same infamous studio Cannon Pictures and starred the same lead actor Richard Chamberlain who was woefully miscast the last time around. Here, Chamberlain, again handsomely bearded, is much looser and appealing and abler in his comic timing; yes, his 1950s treasure hunter Allan Quartermain is a blatant knockoff of Harrison Ford's illustrious Indiana Jones, but while the usually-stiff Chamberlain strained for effects before he's now relaxed and reasonably charming - he gets you on his side from the get-go and sustains audience interest throughout. He's not as romantically dashing as the material calls for, both because Chamberlain is still too studied an actor and he's again been unfortunately paired with the gorgeous but shrill actress Sharon Stone as his love interest, the archeologist Jessie Huston. (At times you feel Chamberlain would like to wallop her for her uncouth overacting.) As the movie opens, Jesse has tried domesticating the thrill-seeking Quartermain, going so far as giving him a British-tailored three-piece suit that he reluctantly puts on at their Africa domicile, and it were as he were made to put on a straightjacket - he discards the inappropriately restricting thing like a snake sheds its skin. Quartermain is set to return to America to marry Jesse, but when he gets wind that his long-lost, presumed-dead brother is alive in a "city of gold" he enlists his friend and warrior Umslopogaas (a boat-payment job by a wasted James Earl Jones) and Jesse to go with him, crosses the Sahara Desert, and makes his way through an array of treacherous life-and-death situations. Where before veteran director J. Lee Thompson served up a truly sloppy production with clunky editing and muzzy lighting, the new director, Gary Nelson, who gave us the spectacularly eerie 1979 sci-fi classic The Black Hole, is sure-footed and visually expressive. Working with David Lynch's regular cinematographer Frederick Elmes with J-D-C Scope cameras in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Nelson gives us vibrant, canny widescreen compositions that are at times truly dazzling - he gets the maximum out of almost every frame, and so much so that film students would be well advised to compare this and the original to see the difference an expressive director and cameraman can make. I don't think a Cannon production has looked this good, and the fact that Nelson can also stage action sequences with some finesse certainly doesn't hurt. You're carried along by the picture even when the middle section (once our hero finds this lost city) sags a bit; also a minor handicap is the ridiculous-looking Henry Silva (so memorable in Burt Reynolds' Sharky's Machine) as the high-priest villain Agon, sporting a wild-haired fright wig that looks like he stuck a wet finger in a light socket and is about as menacing as a fly on a drinking glass. But things eventually pick up in the last-third with some fine special effects involving a liquid-gold underground bath and Quartermain demonstrating more admirable athletic prowess in death-defying booby traps. Overly-judgmental prigs will no doubt try to shuck off an unassuming sequel like Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold as an inconsequential piece of cinema, but it succeeds admirably given its built-in limitations and emerges as a curious look-see for those in the mood for the kind of lazy Saturday-afternoon viewing you can happily surrender to without shame.

When you get right down to it, it's preferable to the disappointing "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=33787&reviewer=327
originally posted: 09/23/20 18:39:13
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  30-Jan-1987 (PG)



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