After the international success of THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY (1980) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and subsequently Cannon’s KING SOLOMON’S MINES (1985), if you were a South African film mogul and were sitting around for three years waiting for the fluorescent bulb above your head to flicker to life, what would you come up with? Well it’s obvious, get the cast from THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY and put them in a ramshackle knock-off of KING SOLOMON’S MINES and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK! This forehead slapper was so ingenious that it could only be foiled by one thing: bad production and bad script. Ok, two things: bad production, bad script and lack of budget. Ok, three things! Bad production, bad script, lack of budget and horrible acting. Four things! Oh, never mind…
Set during an unspecified point during WWII, JEWEL OF THE GODS starts out with a bang, literally! A white guy in a safari getup clandestinely takes pictures of a native sacrifice (bizarrely set to cheery steel drum music) in which a witchdoctor perched atop a boulder wields a jerry-rigged bat-head crucifix with a purple gem set in the middle. The witchdoctor holds it up and a purple laserbeam shoots out of the gem and causes the sacrificial victim to explode! Dude, this totally has to rule, right?
Snowy has written a book on the subject and apparently this has led to several disappearances, this time of one Dr. Jim Hartwell. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking where’s the comic sidekick, man? Not to worry, we have one in the form of Archie (Taylor Negron’s long lost twin Joseph Ribeiro), a Calcutta-born, Texas-bred mechanical engineer who squeals like a girl while in danger and has moments of implied homosexuality. And wears an '80s foam baseball cap with a silk-screened picture of Texas... in the '40s. One character, three groups offended and time period anachronisms be dammed! That’s got to be a record. Anyway, Archie finds Snowy attempting to mine gold in a desert and when Snowy asks if he’s looking to get his copy of Snowy’s book autographed, Archie says “I don’t give a cow’s fuck for your autograph!” and explains that he wants Snowy’s help to find the lost Dr. Jim and shows him a purple diamond to prove that they exist. Of course Snowy is on this info like ugly on an ape.
One Mr. Crow (Richard Cox) of special branch is also set out to find Snowy with the advice “chin up, don’t drink too much and don’t rape anyone important”. Yikes! Just like the warnings “do not drink” on windex bottles, if you have to say it, that means someone has done it. Moments like these pop-up every now and then and seem rather jarring against what is obviously trying to be an amiable, family-friendly adventure romp with bumbling Nazi stereotypes pulled straight out of “Hogan’s Heroes”. Matter of fact the movie is loaded with condescending stereotypes such as brothel owner Abdul (who looks like Roger E. Mosley in a fez) who is mad when the Nazis open fire on his boat because “this is costing me money!” Not to mention the fact that all the black characters are either loin-cloth clad spear-chuckers or are pigeon-English talking, wide-eyed, common clay of South Africa… you know… morons. In one scene where Snowy is at the Red Cross camp, he asks a patient where Dr. Hartwell’s room is. The patient looks confused so Snowy translates into coherent gibberish, “great white med’cine man, where he do dreaming?”, and is promptly pointed in the right direction.