"Half of Africa's been explored on rumor, hope, legend..." "And blood" The same could be said of the film industry. The 'recupero,' as the Italian film industry dubbed it, was one of the most forlornly hopeful forms of film-making: offsetting part of the cost of the film you wanted to make by filming another on the cheap back-to-back with as many of the same cast, crew and locations as possible in the hope that at least one of them would be a hit even though just about the only recorded case of that ever happening was when Il Magnifico Straniero, shot back-to-back with Bullets Don't Argue to 'use up waste materials,' became a surprise hit after changing its title to Fistful of Dollars. Much loved by exploitation merchants, it was no surprise that Cannon films would adopt the practice, especially after their two back-to-back Missing in Action pictures proved surprisingly profitable. Having ripped off Rambo, Indiana Jones seemed the next obvious target, but their back-to-back sequel to 1985's King Solomon's Mines, one of their least unsuccessful films (well, it lost less than most of them), proved a disaster on every conceivable level. While H. Rider Haggard wrote enough unfilmed Allan Quatermain novels to keep a franchise running for a decade, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold is one of those films that's so bad it's just bad, making you glad they called it a day after this one.
On paper it has everything you need for a somewhat average movie except enthusiasm and belief, as Haggard's Great White Hunter Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) postpones his wedding to a hyperactive and very loud Sharon Stone to find a lost city of gold in search of his missing brother (Freudians could probably read something into the fact that Quatermain's brother is played by Chamberlain's longtime companion Martin Rabbett), battling hostile tribes, booby traps and the elements en route and braving the most pathetic backprojection seen this side of the original Dr Who in a comically cranked-up log ride through an underground river. All of which happens in the least interesting way possible - this is the kind of film where they don't even try to hide the wires on the stunt performers and where the extras just look bored in the final battle. Even the score is just barely edited musical selections from an uncredited Jerry Goldsmith's score for the previous film (mostly just the crescendos) with the odd synth drumbeat linking them the sole audible contribution from credited composer Michael Linn.
There's not much gold on display in the lost city either, but then Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of White doesn't really have the same ring to it. Not that it's a city: it's obviously a Zimbabwean tourist hunting lodge that bought a job lot of white dressing gowns. You know it's a pretty screwed up place because one of its twin queens is played by Elvira and the evil high priest is Henry Silva in one of Diana Ross's old Afro wigs that's seen much better days (as indeed has he). At times it plays like a Who Can Be the Most Annoying competition, with Razzie-nominated Sharon Stone forfeiting her early lead to James Earl Jones' too-bored-to-bother warrior only for Mork and Mindy regular Robert Donner channelling Spike Milligan and Carry On Up the Khyber's Cardew Robinson at the top of his voice as an 'Indian' holy man to steal the prize. It's a surprise to see that it was shot in post-independence Zimbabwe since it has many of the hallmarks of the kind of film that used to shoot in apartheid South Africa - blacks are expendable children, Indians comic buffoons with silly voices, whites are the master race and everyone would stay happily in their place if it weren't for foreigners stirring up trouble.
Where the first film had the director of The Guns of Navarone and the original Cape Fear, J. Lee Thompson, to keep things professional enough, this has to settle for the director of The Black Hole, Gary Nelson (with 'additional scenes directed by Newt Arnold'), who is singularly unable to motivate his cast and crew. Chamberlain is barely making an effort here and clearly gives up near the end, though it's no surprise in a film that looks like only the rehearsals were shot, and only one take at that. The closest it comes to charm is when the real cold that Stone is obviously suffering in one scene is clearly caught by Chamberlain in the next. The biggest curiosity about the film is that most of the action in the trailer doesn't appear in the film at all despite looking rather less inept that what made the final cut, leaving the feeling of something that's been patched together in post over the weekend on an Ed Wood budget. If you ever wondered why Haggard's other Allan Quatermain novels have never been filmed, this utterly dire and nigh-unwatchable venture provides ample explanation.