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Movie Review : Celluloid Fool's Gold In 'Quatermain'

February 02, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Let's hear it for jungle exploration. You can hunt for legendary lost civilizations. Search for a city overflowing with gold. Swap insults with tribesmen who look like they have their hair teased by the same stylist who fixes up Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue.

It's all in a day's work for Allan Quatermain, the rugged but trim adventurer who's scouring the African jungle for his lost brother in "Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold" (citywide). Intended as a sequel to 1985's "King Solomon's Mines," this agonizingly dull update features lots of gorgeous Zimbabwe scenery, an idiotic plot, bug-eyed natives and . . . well, lots more of that gorgeous scenery.

As in "Mines," the film features Richard Chamberlain as Quatermain and Sharon Stone as his lovely fiancee, Jesse. They are joined on their search by a tribal tough-guy (James Earl Jones) and a greedy mystic (Robert Donner), who all go trudging through treacherous jungle thickets and canoe down roaring rivers. (Our favorite was an underground torrent that bore an uncanny resemblance to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.)

It should come as no surprise that they eventually discover the lost city. But gold--especially in large quantities--has a way of bringing out the worst in people. When the intrepid explorers arrive, they find the city ravaged by a power struggle between an evil high priest (Henry Silva) and his slinky cohort (Cassandra Peterson of "Elvira" fame), who are plotting against the town's good-natured queen (Aileen Marson).

From there, you're on your own. The movie seems largely aimed at fans who can't wait for the next installment of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Unfortunately, most of the battle scenes were so ineptly staged that they weren't half as exciting as a shouting match we witnessed in the theater lobby between a patron and a refreshment stand attendant.

Chamberlain has none of the breezy, irreverence that made Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones such a delightful hero. In his Banana Republic khaki duds and a bullet-proof undershirt, he exudes the dashing spirit of a game-show host.

The rest of the cast is good largely for unintentional laughs, particularly Silva as the high priest, who with his wild eyes and bushy locks seems to have been made up to resemble a turn-of-the-century version of Moammar Kadafi. As for Jones, it's a long way from "Othello" to this insulting role, which features him as a glowering spear-carrier, sporting an elephant-tooth necklace and worshipfully dubbing his explorer pal as "Great Warrior." If you've ever wanted to do any research into why sequels are usually so rotten, "The Lost City of Gold" (rated-PG for occasional cartoonish violence) is a great place to start.

'ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD' Producer Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Director Gary Nelson. Writer Gene Quintano. Camera Alex Phillips. Music Michael Linn. Editor Alain Jakubowicz. Production Design Trevor Williams. With Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, James Earl Jones, Henry Silva, Robert Donna, Doghmi Larbi, Aileen Marson, Cassandra Peterson and Martin Rabbett.

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

MPAA rating: PG (Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.)

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