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King Solomon’s Mines (Blu-ray Review)

King-Solomon's-MinesPeople may not remember this, but Indiana Jones was once pretty popular.  Haha, okay so maybe he still is.  But, Raiders of the Lost Ark was a phenomenon.  And back in the day when there was a phenomenon, as a rival studio or an upstart, you did your best to keep up and rip off the hot properties.  Its sort of a lost art that has been lost in an age of remakes, reboots, soft reboots, reimagings and overall trying to keep a brand’s name on the marquee rather than asking audiences to try something “different”.  For Cannon Films, their hand went into the Jones’ well with bringing literary adventure hero Allan Quatermain back to the big screen with King Solomon’s Mines.  The film was on the heels of the second Indiana Jones film, The Temple of Doom in 1985.  It proved to be a solid hit, riding on the same wave that something like Romancing The Stone also was.  Cannon shot a sequel back to back and was ready to cash in on it in 1987 with Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (Also available from Olive Films).  King Solomon’s Mines will be making its US Blu-ray debut from Olive Films this week on Tuesday, February 21st.

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Film 

Hired by Jesse Huston to find her father who she believes disappeared in an attempt to find the fabled mines of King Solomon, Allan Quatermain will run afoul of the evil Colonel Bockner, a German explorer also on a quest to locate the mythic treasures. And neither Bockner nor his partner in crime, the merciless Turkish slave-trader, Dogati, like the competition.

If it isn’t obvious within ten minutes, King Solomon’s Mines was made by people who might’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom once and then tried to remake it by memory.  The characters, relations, action and overall vibe closely follows that Henry Jones Jr adventure moreso closely than it does Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And that’s kinda neat, because that’s not typically the Indiana Jones film you see people trying to emulate when crafting the knock off.

Our leads in the film, Allan Quatermain and Jesse Huston, are obvious Dr. Jones and Willie Scott clones that someone who hadn’t even seen an Indiana Jones movie could tell.  Sharon Stone is channeling her inner Kate Capshaw HARD in this movie.  While Stone was always the looker, she’s no Kate Capshaw.  If anything, one might grow more of an appreciation and understanding of Willie by checking this one out.  Stone was even who Cannon wanted for the film.  It was an accident.  Menahem Globus had said he wanted that “Stone girl” for the role. So they went out and got Sharon Stone. What he meant was Kathleen Turner from Romancing The STONE.  Which makes sense as they ported John Rhys-Davies from Raiders here.  While I’ve been hard on Stone, this is early in her career and she would get much better roles and performances while becoming an iconic actor in the 90s.

One good thing about the film is that its BAM-BAM-BAM nonstop action.  It’ll take a couple seconds and breathe, but immediately jumps right back in.  And the action pieces are all quite different.  There are fist fights, car chases, a fight on a train, a dogfight, cavern explorations…this thing runs the gamut.  Unfortunately the film doesn’t have the money or the talent behind the camera to make all of it look convincing.  However, with the advent of time, comes the junky b-movie charm to returning to it.  It features some of the worst rear projection of the era.  I could argue that they are actually trying to pay tribute or look back to the films of that era and look like one, but I’m more than positive its a case of no budget/bad effects. Oh and the panted railroad tracks that Richard Chamberlain was getting dragged on were adorable.

It is what it is, that’s pretty much all you can say when it comes to King Solomon’s Mines.  I must give it that the film is non-stop with its action, barely sitting down to breathe ever.  This makes for a breeze of a watch.  Yeah, its a junky film that doesn’t have the money or talent to keep up with its contemporaries, but that sort of drive gives it a little extra charm.  Hindsight also help this film be watched under a different light.  If you’re a fan of Cannon, this is one of the essentials.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail:  While this isn’t an image that is going to wow anyone, it is pretty impressive with how bold and full it feels.  Most of that has to do with it coming from what looks to be a very clean print.  Colors are strong, and while the image is soft, its probably the sharpest the picture has ever looked on home video.  Details do prevail well, like showing the aging of tombs, definition of cobwebs or just the wrinkles, fabric or patters on the uniforms/costumes the characters wear.

Depth:  Dimensional work is primarily average for this film.  A lot of the rear projection sequences are flatter than would be ideal.  There are some moments that do some decent work on opening up the picture.   Movements are cinematic like and contain minimal blurring.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and really strong and solid.  Some details can be lost in the darkness, shading and black or darker colors fabrics, surfaces and hair colors.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty desert adventure-like, but yellows, greens and reds tend to come through in a bold fashion.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent through the duration of the feature.  Its a bit soft, but you can still make out dirt, wrinkles, stubble, make-up and more in close-ups and some medium shots on the faces of the actors.

Noise/Artifacts:  There are some dirt and specs in the image from time to time, but mostly this is an impressively clean print.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  King Solomon’s Mines puts out a nice action-packed stereo track that really does the trick.  Its got a lot of good volume shifts to bring some impact with sounds and big moments in the score.  You’ll see a healthy balance of sound, effect and vocals, actually.  This is a track that really does the trick and probably true to its theatrical presentation.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear, loud and audible during all times.

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Extras 

King Solomon’s Mines contains no bonus material.

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Summary 

King Solomon’s Mines isn’t even the best Indiana Jones knock off, but it still tries to produce the thrills and fun of those on a low budget, B-level stage.  And that’s fine.  This Blu-ray looked and sounded well enough to my own eyes and ears.  Sadly, no bonus features are on this.  Its a film you really wish had them.  If you’re looking, check out the Cannon documentary where they cover it in a segment.  This is recommended for those Cannon collectors and Indiana Jones adventure enthusiasts.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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