BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Romancing the Stone (1984) and The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

My corona movie marathon continues, 3.5 readers.  Still focusing on the 1980s and this time, it is a two for one special.

Watching The War of the Roses the other day reminded me of the other two collaborations between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, those being the world traveling treasure hunter movies Romancing the Stone and the Jewel of the Nile.

I don’t know the whole story behind how these flicks were made, but I always thought maybe they were Hollywood trying to capitalize on the popularity of Indiana Jones.  While they don’t have Indy’s chutzpah, they’re still pretty good.

Turner plays Joan Wilder, a shy, awkward novelist who lives out the adventures in her mind by putting them down on paper. In Romancing the Stone, her brother in law, on the trail of a valuable jewel in Columbia, mails Joan a map to prevent it from falling into the hands of the vast assortment of evildoers who are hot on his trail.

The bro-in-law is murdered by the baddies while Joan’s sister is kidnapped and Joan is left with no choice but to leave her comfortable apartment in NYC to go traipsing about the Columbian countryside, eventually hoping to meet up with the villains so she can trade the map for her sister.

Along the way, she meets American adventurer Jack Colton, a ne’er-do-well who is always out to make a buck.  He agrees to escort Joan and keep her safe for a fee, but eventually has to choose between love for her and greed, i.e. maybe he could just go after the treasure himself and run.

In the sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, Jack and Joan have been a couple for six months since the end of the last flick.  Their romance grows stale as Joan grows tired of sailing the world on Jack’s yacht, purchased with the “stone” funds.

Fate intervenes when the one-named Omar barges into Joan’s book signing in Paris and gives her the chance of a life time.  Joan, feeling like her romance novels are trivial and she needs to start writing serious non-fiction pieces, jumps at the chance to visit the Nile and write a biography about this leader who claims he has united the various Nile tribes under a banner of peace and prosperity, thanks to his acquisition of the titular jewel, believed by local custom to give its owner great power.

Jack and Joan split but when a band of rebels hires Jack to track down the jewel and swipe it from Omar (they claim the leader isn’t what he seems and that he is not the reformer he claims to be but is actually a ruthless dictator) he jumps at the chance to get a new treasure and perhaps reunite with Joan.

Both films have a lot of action and some memorable scenes.  In the first film, there’s a memorable part where one villain is fed to another villain’s pet alligators.  In the second film, Jack and Joan go on a land base chase in a jet.  Jack can’t fly it, but he can drive it so that’s fun.

Danny DeVito appears in both films as comic relief Ralph, a slimeball who is always in pursuit of the couple, trying to swipe whatever treasure they’re after.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Both are available on Hulu. There are some occasional racial stereotypes that flew in the 1980s that won’t fly today that will make you wince.

Both films are solid and I wonder why they never made a third, though the second wraps up the character arcs nicely.  Indy was the only one who made treasure hunting movies a blast and ultimately, I think the luster fell from treasure hunting flicks by the end of the 1990s, as people started to look at the idea of treasure hunting not as a chance to venture forth into the unknown and come out richer for it and more like white people robbing third worlders of their wealth.  It would be like a foreign adventurer coming to America, pointing to Fort Knox and saying, “I found all this gold so it’s mine!”

So, if you can ignore all that, these movies are a good time.

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