King Solomon's Mines (1985 film)

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King Solomon's Mines
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJ. Lee Thompson
Written byGene Quintano
James R. Silke
Based onKing Solomon's Mines
1885 novel
by H. Rider Haggard
Produced byYoram Globus
Menahem Golan
CinematographyAlex Phillips Jr.
Edited byJohn Shirley
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Distributed byThe Cannon Group
Release date
  • November 22, 1985 (1985-11-22)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[1] or $12.6 million[2]
Box office$15,057,465[3]

King Solomon's Mines is a 1985 action adventure film, and a film adaptation of the 1880 novel of the same name by H. Rider Haggard. It stars Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, and John Rhys-Davies. It was produced by Cannon Films. It was adapted by Gene Quintano and James R. Silke and directed by J. Lee Thompson. This version of the story was a light, comedic take, deliberately referring to, and parodying, the Indiana Jones film series (in which Rhys-Davies had also appeared). It was filmed outside Harare in Zimbabwe. The film was made and released exactly 100 years after the release of the novel on which the film is based.[4]

King Solomon's Mines was followed by a sequel (filmed back-to-back), Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986). It was originally planned to be the first in a trilogy, and there were two attempts to film a third movie: first, a film that would have been based on She and Allan, another Haggard novel, and then a film which would have been titled Allan Quatermain and the Jewel of the East, to be directed by producer Menahem Golan. Neither attempt was successful, in part due to the financial failure of Lost City of Gold.


Jesse Huston hires Allan Quatermain to find her father Professor Huston, who is believed to be lost on an expedition to find the fabled King Solomon's Mines. Quartermain and his companion, the mysterious Umbopo, penetrate unknown country, following a map believed to be genuine. Professor Huston has actually been captured by a German military expedition on the same quest, led by Colonel Bockner and Turkish slave-trader and adventurer Dogati, a long-standing adversary of Quatermain. Huston is being forced to interpret another map, also believed to be genuine.

Quatermain's group rescues Professor Huston, who confirms the mines are real and implores Quatermain to stop Bockner and Dogati from finding them. The group enters the tribal lands of the Kukuana, who capture them. The tribe is under the control of priestess Gagoola, who has Quatermain hung upside down over crocodiles. After defeating Gagoola's warriors, Umbopo reveals himself as an exiled tribal chief and the rightful ruler of the Kukuanas.

As the tribesmen submit to him, Bockner and Dogati attack the village. Amid the ensuing chaos, Gagoola captures Jesse and flees into caves in the depths of the Breasts of Sheba, the twin mountain peaks where the mines are located. Quatermain and Umbopo go after them while being pursued by Bockner and Dogati. At the entrance to the mines, Bockner and Dogati's party is hampered by a moat of quicksand. Bockner orders his men forward into the moat, but they have trouble crossing it. Dogati shoots down all of them and most of his own men, using their bodies as stepping stones to cross the moat. As they approach the entrance, Bockner shoots Dogati and takes command of the party.

Inside the mines, Quatermain and Umbopo rescue Jesse and find the resting place of all the former tribal queens, including the Queen of Sheba who is encased in crystal. To keep her power as the Kukuanas' ruler, Gagoola attempted to sacrifice Jesse, who has a strong resemblance to the Queen. Umbopo pursues Gagoola.

As Bockner and his men arrive, Quatermain and Jesse flee but end up in the cavern's treasure chamber, which is full of raw diamonds and other treasures. As they collect some diamonds, Bockner hears their voices from outside the chamber. However, before he can enter, Gagoola activates a switch and seals Quatermain and Jesse inside the chamber. The switch also triggers a trap that causes the ceiling of the chamber to lower on them. Quatermain and Jesse stop the ceiling trap, but then the chamber begins filling up with water. A stick of dynamite set by Bockner outside the chamber door explodes, sending them both out to safety.

Bockner enters the chamber and lays claim to the treasure, only to be confronted by a wounded Dogati, who was wearing a protective vest that shielded him from the bullets. He then forces Bockner to swallow diamonds, intending to cut him open to retrieve them later on. Meanwhile, Umbopo corners Gagoola. But rather than face his judgment, she leaps down a volcano's shaft and is incinerated when landing in molten lava. The reaction causes eruptions throughout the mines. Dogati is partially buried when the chamber's ceiling collapses, but Bockner is unharmed. He gloats to Dogati after claiming more diamonds for himself. He leaves the chamber after firing at the ceiling, burying Dogati alive. Quatermain, Jesse and Umbopo flee for their lives through the collapsing caverns. They cross over a booby-trapped lake, only to be stopped by Bockner, who demands they surrender their diamonds. Quatermain places the diamonds on the central stepping stone that triggers the trap and tells Bockner to come take them himself. Bockner complies and falls into the lake, only to be seized in the jaws of a Mokele-mbembe and killed. The trap resets itself and the diamonds rise back to the surface, but Umbopo warns Quatermain and Jesse not to take them, saying they belong to the mountain.

The trio continue their escape through the caverns, which becomes more dangerous as the lava chamber they are in is full of fire and falling rocks. Quatermain tells Umbopo to take Jesse through to safety while he follows them. But before he can do so, he is struck down by Dogati, who survived the cave-in. A fight between them ensues, but Quatermain wins when Dogati falls into a lava pit and dies. Quatermain escapes from the mines just as the volcano explodes, sealing the entrance forever.

Returning to the village, Umbopo assumes his place as the ruler of the Kukuanas. He and his people bid a farewell to Quatermain and Jesse. While exiting the village, they each reveal they had kept a diamond as a souvenir of their adventure. The two then kiss.


Richard Chamberlain in costume as Quatermain


It was Richard Chamberlain's first feature since The Last Wave. "I haven't seen any scripts of anything I wanted to do", said Chamberlain prior to filming. "But I love doing miniseries, so it's not as if I've been pining away all this time. King Solomon's Mines is not a remake of the old Stewart Granger trek through the jungle. It's a sensational script. It's 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."[5]

Kathleen Turner was reportedly offered $1.5 million to play the female lead but turned it down because the role was too similar to the one she played in Romancing the Stone.[6]

The film was shot on location in the Mashonaland region of northeastern Zimbabwe over ten months. The crew included many Israelis and South Africans, which caused some objections from the local Arab population. The Arab League protested the depiction of all the Arab characters as slavers. Richard Chamberlain said, "I happen to think that people are people and I don't care where they come from as long as they do a good job.... This is a comedy, and one of the best defenses against out-of-date stereotypes is to poke fun at them. It shows how absurd they are."[2]

It was shot simultaneously with a sequel.[7]


The film's score was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, and performed by the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra. Restless Records issued an album on LP and cassette; Milan later released it on compact disc minus the cue "The Ritual" and paired with Alan Silvestri's The Delta Force. In 1991 Intrada Records released an expanded version, later reissued in 1997; Prometheus released the complete score in 2006. Quartet Records issued a two-disc edition in 2014 with the Prometheus content on disc one and the original album presentation on disc two.

Quartet release[edit]

Tracks in bold premiered on the Intrada CD, tracks in italics premiered on the Prometheus edition.


Box Office[edit]

The film earned $5 million in its opening weekend.[8] The film overperformed in every single media market in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin as well as some media markets in southeastern Minnesota. That overperformance was largely attributed to the Cannon Group, Inc. overspending on marketing in those media markets before reigning in their own spending. The overperformance at the box office in those media markets allowed the film to not only make all of the production money back, but to go even further and make several million dollars in profit for the Cannon Group.[9]


King Solomon's Mines holds an 8% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes from thirteen reviews with an average rating of 3.7/10.[10] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 29 out of 100, based on five critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[11] Though it made a profit, the film was panned by critics, many of whom felt it was not as good as the 1950 film version with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr.[12] The film "did significantly better with general audiences than it did with critics" as audiences were "far more forgiving a movie that was 'intended' to be extremely cheesy" while professional critics "correctly pointed out that it wasn't nearly as good as the Stewart Granger version of the same movie, while failing to acknowledge that it wasn't supposed to be as good, and at no point took itself seriously as movie."[13]

It was nominated for two Razzie Awards, including Worst Supporting Actor for Herbert Lom and Worst Musical Score for Goldsmith.[14]


The direct sequel, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, was released in 1987 with both Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone returning. Director J. Lee Thompson did not return, choosing instead to direct Murphy's Law with Charles Bronson. The sequel was directed by television veteran Gary Nelson and was a critical and box office disappointment.

The Cannon Group had originally planned a trilogy of films, the third film was to be an adaptation of She and Allan but this was ultimately abandoned after the extreme negative reception of Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, coupled with the financial difficulties of the company at the time.

In 2011, a new sequel was proposed by Menahem Golan called Allan Quatermain and the Jewel of the East. The script was written by Golan and Richard Albiston, to be directed by Golan himself. The plot concerned Quatermain attempting to rescue his daughter from Chinese treasure hunters in the Congo. According to the 2015 documentary Golan: A Farewell to Mr. Cinema, Richard Chamberlain had agreed to return as the title character, but Golan died before the film began shooting.[15]


MGM released the film on DVD on February 10, 2004.[16]

On December 3, 2014, Umbrella Entertainment in Australia released a Region 4 DVD of the movie.


  1. ^ Andrew Yule, Hollywood a Go-Go: The True Story of the Cannon Film Empire, Sphere Books, 1987 p95-96
  2. ^ a b Cowell, Alan (29 April 1985). "IN ZIMBABWE, A REMAKE OF 'SOLOMON'S MINES'". New York Times.
  3. ^ King Solomon's Mines at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "King Solomon's Mines (1985) - IMDb". IMDb.
  5. ^ Ryan, Desmond (21 May 1984). "ANOTHER SWITCH IN THE WINGS". Philadelphia Inquirer. p. E.1.
  6. ^ Willistein, Paul (13 Dec 1985). "Kathleen Turner: She's a sex symbol with both feet on the ground". Morning Call (Fifth ed.). p. D.01.
  7. ^ Michael Sneed and Cheryl Lavin (Mar 17, 1985). "Labor Pains . . ". Chicago Tribune (FINAL, C ed.). p. 2.
  8. ^ Mathews, Jack (Nov 27, 1985). "ALTMAN STILL AIMS AT OFF-TARGET FILMS: FILM CLIPS: ALTMAN FILM CLIPS". Los Angeles Times. p. oc_d1.
  9. ^ The Movies of the Eighties by Ron Base, David Haslam - Portland House, 1990
  10. ^ "King Solomon's Mines (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  11. ^ "King Solomon's Mines (1985) reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  12. ^ Goodman, Walter (1985-11-23). "Film: In Updated Form, King Solomon's Mines". Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  13. ^ The Cannon Film Guide: Volume I, 1980–1984 by Austin Trunick
  14. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  15. ^ "King Solomon's Mines / Trivia". TV Tropes. Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  16. ^ "Allan Quatermain & The Lost City of Gold : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 2013-09-08.

External links[edit]