The fifth (and probably last) Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny hits theaters this week. While most (all?) of us have seen the previous four Indiana Jones movies, I thought it would be a good time to look at movies inspired by the original Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Released in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark was an instant success. It opened in the number one spot for the weekend and remained in the top ten for forty straight weeks. During its initial box-office run Raiders of the Lost Ark earned over $212 million. Success like that calls for similar movies to try and capture the audience’s imagination and more importantly, their money.
Let’s take a look at some of the Indiana Jones clones…
Treasure of the Four Crowns (1983)
In Treasures of the Four Crowns soldier-for-hire J.T. Striker is hired to steal mystical gems from the four crowns. Striker assembles a team of thieves and sets out on his mission. Along the way they encounter a lot of the same things Indiana Jones encountered. Caves filled with spiderwebs and booby traps, running from a giant boulder and an evil cult.
Jones wouldn’t encounter an evil cult until The Temple of Doom, so maybe Temple of Doom ripped off this movie. There’s even a face-melting scene in Treasures of the Four Crowns; the special effects aren’t as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Watch the trailer below and you’ll notice a lot of stuff flying at the screen. Treasures of the Four Crowns was originally filmed in 3D, which was a big gimmick back in the 80s. I never saw it in 3D and all the 3D effects are a little annoying watching it in 2D.
Treasures of the Four Crowns is a bad movie, so bad it’s good.
High Road to China (1983)
High Road to China stars the original Indiana Jones himself, Tom Selleck. George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg wanted Selleck to play Indiana Jones but Selleck was under contract with CBS for a new TV series, Magnum P.I.. Lucas and Spielberg asked CBS to let Selleck out of his contract 10 days early to film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not only did CBS decline the request they ordered Magnum P.I. to a full series in order to lock in Selleck.
When High Road to China came around Selleck accepted the role, it was his all along, payback for not getting the Indiana Jones role. High Road to China is a good movie and was a success at the box office. It was always viewed as an Indiana Jones imitator and never received its due credit.
King Solomon’s Mines (1985)
Despite what critics say, King Solomon’s Mines is a good movie. It’s also an obvious rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark, right down to the theme songs.
King Solomon’s Mines stars Richard Chamberlain as Allan Quatermain a swashbuckling adventurer hired by Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone) to find her father.
King Solomon’s Mines was a Cannon Film production meant to be the beginning of a trilogy. King Solomon’s Mine and the sequel Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold were filmed back-to-back and released one year apart.
The box office failure of Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold killed any hope of finishing the trilogy.
Romancing the Stone (1984)
Romancing the Stone is perhaps the best of the Indiana Jones imitators, or at least the most successful.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, Romancing the Stone was a box office smash.
Turner plays Joan Wilder, a romance novelist who travels to Columbia to find her kidnapped sister. She hires Jack Colton (Douglas) to help her get out of the Jungle. Together they embark on an adventure to find her sister and a lost treasure.
Romancing the Stone made over $115 million at the box office. With those numbers a sequel, Jewel of the Nile was made and released 17 months later. Jewel of the Nile did well at the box office too. A third movie was drafted but never moved forward.
If anyone can make an Indiana Jones clone successful it’s Chuck Norris! Or can he?
Firewalker stars Norris and Lou Gossett, Jr. as two bumbling treasure hunters, Max (Norris) and Leo (Gossett). They are hired by Patricia (Melody Anderson) who owns a treasure map leading to a hoard of gold belonging to the legendary ‘Firewalker.’
Firewalker is an action, comedy and Norris’ first comedy role. He had to talk Cannon Films into making the movie since he was known as an action star.
Fun Fact: John Rhys-Davies starred as Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also starred in King Solomon’s Mines and Firewalker
Norris describes the movie as “…open, friendly, warm film with a lot of humor. It has the adventure of a Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the humor of the movie Crocodile Dundee, where the situations cause the humor and the companionship between the two guys like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
Firewalker is a fun, lighthearted movie and Norris and Gossett work well together. They seem like old friends on screen. It’s also a good action movie and fits into the Indiana Jones mold.
Here are a few honorable mentions to consider as well
- The Further Adventures Of Tennessee Buck (1988)
- Sky Pirates (1986)
- Project A (1983)
- River of Death (1989)
- Jungle Raiders (1985)
There were many Indiana Jones clones in the 1980s all trying to attain the same success. None reached the same level but there are some great contenders. Cannon Films produced the most, followed by Golden Harvest Company.
Golden Harvest is predominantly a Chinese film company but dabbled in the American Market. Golden Harvest was the production company for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), New Line Cinema was the distributor.
If you are looking to brush up on your Indiana Jones clones I’d recommend starting with Romancing the Stone. It stars familiar faces and is arguably the best of the bunch.
Don’t skip the Allan Quartermain series though. King Solomon’s Mine is good and the sequel is worth watching. Chuck Norris fans should watch Firewalker and if you want a funky ride through ’80s campy-ness check out Treasures of the Four Crowns.
Whether you head to the theater and watch Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny or stay in and watch one of the clones. Have a great weekend!