1985 in Film – Jewel in The Nile

Release Date: December 11th
Box Office: $68,275,764

Michael Douglas is from proper Hollywood royalty. His father, Kirk Douglas, is one of the last living actors from the Hollywood Golden Age. He worked with Kubrick and Wilder and Bacall and Lancaster. The man helped to end the Black List for crying out loud.

Thats a hell of a shadow to be under.

The fact that Douglas not only stepped out of that shadow but became a huge star of his own is impressive. It took his a while, first of all with a several year stint on the TV show The Streets of San Fransico before he produced One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest bagging himself an Oscar in the process.

He first became a proper movie star with Romancing The Stone the previous year. This teamed him up with Kathleen Turner and was a fun adventure romp through South America. The success of the film meant that the studio wanted a sequel.

Not that Turner and Douglas necessarily wanted to do one themselves but contracts were contracts. That and a $25m lawsuit aimed at Turner who threatened to back out of the film.

All of this is probably why the film doesn’t quite work; picking up after the first film, Douglas and Turner are mercenary Jack Colton and author Joan Wilder. After their adventures in the first film, they are now a couple travelling around the Mediterranean as Wilder rights her next novel. At a book party she ends up meeting a charming Arab ruler who invites her to his kingdom. Before you know it someone has been kidnapped, a jewel needs to be found and a kingdom needs to be saved.

It all sounds like a hoot, but something never quite clicks. Maybe it’s because in this film Douglas and Turner are a couple. Their bickering in the first film was a large part of it’s success, invoking Bogart and Bacall in The African Queen. Here, whilst the film tries to drive a wedge between the characters, that spark is missing and with it goes the heart of the film.

It also helped that Romancing was directed by Robert Zemeckis. Whilst he and Turner may have had their differences, he sure knew how to make a film. Jewel is directed by Lewis Teague, a man who would go on to make Navy SEALS and Wedlock. Now, I’m not going to stand here and poor scorn on Wedlock as it’s a Rutger Hauer classic, however there is still a step down in quality. Whilst he was given a decent sized budget, which was double the size of the first film, it all ends up being just thrown at the screen with no real purpose.

As a franchise, it was dead after this film. It may have made more than the first film and was one of the top ten grossing films of the year but the critics saw right through it. Douglas and Turner wouldn’t be hurt too much by the film; Douglas would go on to define the 80s in Fatal Attraction and Wall Street and Turner star as the iconic Jessica Rabbit. Both would also team up again in The War of The Roses.

The Jewel of The Nile ends up being a blip, a brief low spot in their careers during a period of success. It’s biggest legacy will probably be giving the world the song When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Going so there’s always that.

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