I know what you’re thinking. “Ugh, another wan Indiana Jones imitation with lame stunts, rickety temples, and treasure that appears to be fashioned from tin foil and one of my grandma’s vases.”
And the super studly video box art doesn’t help. “A fortune in diamonds in the hands of the world’s most evil empire!” it screams as a determined Indy clone brandishes his gun while his sexy girlfriend cowers suggestively behind him.
A diamond the size of a microwave oven sits in front of them and the whole picture is jacked up beyond shiny belief, drenched in glittering foil! Crap! Harrison Ford himself would tell you it’s got a better cover than any of his movies ever had!
You’re are in all sorts of luck though because The Mines Of Kilimanjaro will not make you think of Indiana Jones once while watching it! You may find yourself thinking about King Solomon’s Mines starring Richard Chamberlain as Allan Quatermain though, which is kind of like thinking of Indiana Jones’ skeevy half-cousin, but only because both movies took place in Africa and involved mines.
The plot involves Ed Barclay traveling to Kenya in search of the truth behind the murder of his professor. He parlays the little tid bit of information the professor left him into an adventure of stumbling around the wilderness and periodically running into murderous tribes and bad guys of various nationalities who want to know where the secret diamond mines are.
Somehow despite the professor being the only survivor of a 1917 expedition that located the mines, everybody and their evil sidekick knows the mines are out there and have become convinced that Barclay knows their location.
Even worse is that the Nazis are already mining the diamonds in them to fund their rearmament effort in preparation for World War II! It sure seemed like an awful lot of people knew an awful lot of information about something only one guy knew anything about.
Nonsensical plotting though is easily overlooked when you’ve got Italians delivering the double barreled cinema shotgun blast they’re famous for: cheese and sleaze! The presence of either one of these elements (but preferably both) is more than enough to get you through 90 minutes relatively unscathed.
The Mines Of Kilimanjaro then is destined to be remembered for lurching toward the precipice of both cheese and sleaze, looking over into the abyss of scuzzy rip-off movie greatness, then shrugging its shoulders and laying down for a nap.
All the ingredients to churn up a nice blend of movie mozzarella are present. There’s a fat white guy made up to look like a Chinese crime lord. There’s an evil Nazi who wears yellow-tinted eyeglasses. There’s the clumsy use of stock animal footage for a few shots of the local wildlife. There’s a Grace Jones wannabe blasting natives with a bazooka.
You even get Barclay lugging around his longshoremen’s hook instead of the expected bullwhip! You hardly ever see a longshoreman’s hook outside of movies about crazy fishermen stalking snotty teens!
Not to be outdone, the sleaze potential is dialed in as well. A guy gets tortured by having a big funnel stuck in his mouth and getting live mice dumped into it so they can eat his stomach from the inside! Barclay’s girlfriend loses her skirt halfway through the movie and has to run around wearing only a shirt! And sleaziest of all, Barclay runs into a tribe ruled by a woman who needs a fertile guy to impregnate everyone!
Impossibly though, the film fails to follow-up or deliver on any of these things! That director and writer Mino Guerrini wasn’t able to knock any of these exploitation softballs out of the infield demonstrates that even making low budget trash is a skill requiring some effort.
He couldn’t even produce a decent pay off once we got into the mines! I don’t even think we saw any diamonds there, just guys carrying dirt around!
I’m not even sure that Mino knew what he was doing some of the time. There was one sequence where the good guys were being held hostage, someone showed up and shot a bad guy, the scene faded out and the next thing you see is that all the bad guys are tied up and the good guys are freed! It appeared that an entire action sequence was either omitted or never shot!
And when you watch the grainy close-up shots of rocks falling at the end of the movie representing the mine exploding, you know that the money wasn’t spent on that!
Italian film vets Chris Connelly (Manhattan Baby, Jungle Raiders) and Gordon Mitchell (The Giant of Metropolis, Rush) appear for about ten minutes to momentarily trick the viewer into thinking that this will be the usually pleasing celluloid junk food, but like everyone and everything else in the movie, they aren’t used anywhere close to their potential.
Stunning for how ripe all of this was for something beyond the boring misfire it turned into. Also stunning is just how not stunning it is that of the 26 movies Mino directed, The Mines Of Kilimanjaro is still his most famous.
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