Allan Quatermain And The Temple Of Skulls

Director: Mark Atkins   
Sean Cameron Michael, Christopher Adamson, Natalie Stone

I don't think that I have mentioned it before, but now is probably the best time for it: I am a huge fan of the movie Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and have been since I first saw it. I remember very well the first time I saw it, way back when I was ten or so years old. My parents took me and my siblings to the movie theater to see it, and I had practically no knowledge about what I was about to see. All that I had known about the movie beforehand was from sneaking a look at the last page of the (badly drawn, I must say) Marvel comic book adaptation of the movie, though what I saw gave me no idea about what the movie was about or what was going to happen. Getting back to the movie and my first time watching it, I remember being blow away. I had never seen action like that before. Not only was the movie filled with more action scenes than I had seen in other movies before, but each action sequence was amazing and could stand alone against the others. I also remember being freaked out like never before by the climax of the movie, specifically at the point when Ronald Lacey's face melted in extreme close up. I had never seen gore like that before in a movie. When I went to see the movie again in a re-release a few months later, I knew when to shut my eyes. Fortunately, subsequent years of seeing tons of various violent acts onscreen has hardened me, so I can laugh long and hard at that scene, no doubt as Steven Spielberg intended.

I remember how my love of Raiders Of The Lost Ark has lasted all of these years, and how it has influenced me. When the Academy Awards ceremony came out several months after the movie had been released - and the movie was one of the five nominees for the Best Picture award - I was watching right there and rooting for the movie. I remember being severely p*ssed off when Raiders lost to Chariots Of Fire - how could a silly movie about running beat a movie with all those great action sequences? I still think that way (though I will admit the producers of Chariots had great taste with casting Dennis Christopher in a supporting role.) In the subsequent years that passed from that point, my love for Raiders has stayed strong. I remember being so starved for Raiders-like entertainment (and unable to be patient for the completion of the next installment, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom) that when I saw the Raiders knock-off Treasure Of The Four Crowns on cable TV, I thought at the time it was fantastic entertainment that could stand up to its inspiration. I smartened up in subsequent years, and now recognize it as the Golan and Globus cheese that it really is. There have been other movies I have turned to in the years between installments of the Raiders series: The Further Adventures Of Tennessee Buck... The Perils Of Gwendoline In The Land Of The Yik Yak... The Ark Of The Sun God... none of them have come close to its inspiration, or even to any of the of Raiders prequels or sequels.

Besides watching many of the movie knockoffs of Raiders to quench my thirst for more of the real thing, there have been other ways I have tried to recapture that feeling of watching the movie. When I was younger, one of those ways was by reading the H. Rider Haggard classic novel King Solomon's Mines - I had heard that it was one of the inspirations for Raiders. I remember that I loved the novel. It wasn't an action-packed novel, but Haggard had a way of writing events so that even the most mundane things came across as compelling. I remember being pulled by the explorers' long journey though the desert and mountains to their destination, while there I was enthralled by the big battle sequence (and getting a kick out of a bloody decapitation at its end.) So when I was at the video store the other day, and saw that the hero of King Solomon's Mines had been put in a new movie - Allan Quatermain And The Temple Of Skulls - you would probably have thought I'd be enthusiastic. Well, I would have been, if the movie hadn't been made by the good folks at The Asylum. A quick explanation for those not in the know: For the past few years, The Asylum has made a (bad) name for itself by making extremely cheap, cheesy, and critically trashed movies made to cash in on major Hollywood movies. Their past efforts include Transmorphers, 100 Million BC, Snakes On A Train, and The Da Vinci Treasure. This particular Asylum effort is obviously made to cash in on Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. But I ultimately decided to take a chance and watch this latest effort. Even if it turned out to be bad, it would give me a chance to inform readers to be wary of movies from The Asylum with this example.

It's understandable that viewers who have no advance knowledge of The Asylum and their movies might think that they'll be getting spell-binding action and adventure in the vein of Raiders Of The Lost Ark with this movie. The cover of the DVD box practically screams that is what viewers will get. The box art includes three old-fashioned airplanes flying in the air, a gigantic group of Zulu warriors charging forth, piles of gold coins, a lion, and a structure that I guess we are supposed to assume to be the temple that is mentioned in the title (though to me the pictured structure looks more like the kind of steeple that's to be found on an old Mexican church.) Most prominent on the box is a picture of the movie's protagonist, who is wearing a leather jacket and brandishing a bullwhip in one hand, no doubt to make us think of Indiana Jones. Even if viewers didn't see the box art, they might think they're getting Raiders action by the plot description. The setting is South Africa some decades ago. Adventurer Allan Quatermain (Michael), in need of tuition money for his son back in England, is prepared to sell a portion of a treasure map to the evil treasure hunter Anisley Hartford (Adamson, Pirates Of The Carribean). But ultimately he decides to sell the map to newly-arrived Sir Henry Curtis (Daniel Bonjour) and Lady Anna (Stone) , the latter of which is looking for her brother who disappeared looking for the treasure. It promises to be a long and tough journey through the wilderness, and there is the threat of Hartford, who is determined to get the treasure for himself.

As I said, some viewers may be thinking they are getting something good with a rental of this movie, but viewers familiar with direct-to-video movies - especially those from The Asylum - probably won't. They'll be saying, "There's no way they will be able to pull this off, especially with such a low budget!" And they'd be right. Allan Quatermain And The Temple Of Skulls is pretty terrible. But I would be lying if I said it was 100% bad; there are actually a few good things I can mention about it, starting with the locations. You are probably thinking, like I did before watching it, that they would probably try to pass southern California or some other place for South Africa. But they didn't; they actually went all the way to South Africa to film this. And the locations they picked to shoot in South Africa aren't the typical dry and desert locations other movies (like Survivor) have picked when they have shot in the country. Here we get lush green fields of grass, rivers, and mountains. A few shots of these locations are breathtaking. And at the cave sequences at the end of the movie, they didn't shoot in the small and cramped caves of southern California, but in a gigantic South African cave that looks pretty spectacular. Besides the good-looking locations, some of the computer-generated special effects are good to look at as well. There is an attack by a swarm of insects (just what insects they are is never revealed) that looks better than you'd expect. And towards the end of the movie, we get a shot of gigantic sculptures carved out of the side of a mountain that looks pretty realistic.

If pressed to admit anything else of merit in the movie, I might mention the fact that they got an actual old steam train for a few minutes, though I must mention that the effect is somewhat spoiled by the fact the train is pulling only two train cars. And if I recall correctly, the protagonists are the only passengers shown to be on this train. Those facts are not the only ways that the movie is lacking. Remember all that stuff I described was on the DVD box? Well, there's little of that in the movie. There are not three airplanes, not even two or one. There are only a few Zulu warriors. There are no gold coins. No lions. There's no bullwhip, and the movie's "temple" (if you can call it that) looks nothing like what was pictured on the DVD box. All this missing stuff may have been forgiven if the movie gave us some other (and spectacular) stuff to view, but the movie fails to do so. This is a really cheap movie. How cheap is it? Well, when the protagonists start on their multi-day journey (on foot), they travel those several days without bringing with them any supplies! And they walk... and walk... and walk... without hardly anything that could be considered "action" ever happening. This movie is not only really cheap, it's also really slow-moving and boring. It takes forever for the quest to get started, and once it does it's needlessly padded out. Not surprisingly, the actors seem defeated by the conditions they are working in. As the hero, Michael is soft-spoken and seems sad - hardly heroic qualities. Just how cheap, slow, boring, and poorly acted is this movie? It makes Treasure Of The Four Crowns look like Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It's only fit for inmates of The Asylum, who are deranged enough to think anything is good.

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See also: Bridge Of Dragons, Drive, Survival Quest