Review: The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

Directed by: Lewis Teague | 106 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Spiros Focás, Avner Eisenberg, Paul David Magid, Howard Jay Patterson, Randall Edwin Nelson, Samuel Ross Williams, Timothy Daniel Furst, Hamid Fillali, Holland Taylor, Guy Cuevas, Peter DePalma, Mark Daly Richards, Sadeke Colobanane

After the surprising success of the romantic adventure film ‘Romancing the Stone’ (1984), film studio 20th Century Fox, which was not doing too well at the time, wanted to make a sequel as soon as possible. They didn’t allow themselves much time, because before the end of 1985 ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ had to play in the halls. And so a script was quickly created. Diane Thomas, the writing waitress discovered by accident by producer and lead actor Michael Douglas, had written “Romancing the Stone,” but was working on a new project with Steven Spielberg at the time and didn’t have time to work on the sequel. And so Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner were flown in to quickly put together a script. Director Robert Zemeckis had also dropped out because he needed all his attention for ‘Back to the Future’ (1985). In his place came Lewis Teague (‘Cujo’, 1983). 20th Century Fox had the stars of ‘Romancing the Stone’ – in addition to Douglas also Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito – sign a contract just in time that obliged them to make an appearance in a possible sequel, but Turner in particular didn’t really have that. fancy. It wasn’t until Fox threatened to sue the actress for breach of contract that the headstrong Turner admitted. Because of the unpleasant atmosphere that this created, Douglas also reportedly no longer had the appetite to show up for ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ – after all, he was also busy with ‘A Chorus Line’ (1985) – and as a producer had he the power to pull the plug on the whole. Seen in that light, it’s a miracle that ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ was ever made…

The story begins about six months after ‘Romancing the Stone’ ended. Novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) and adventurer Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas) have traveled the world on a sailboat and enjoyed a carefree life. But then suddenly the rut rears its head. Joan wants to return to New York, while Jack prefers to float around adventurously on their boat, the ‘Angelina’ for years to come. There is also another problem: another book has to be written, but Joan is dealing with a serious case of ‘writer’s block’. When she receives the offer to go to the Middle East for a few weeks, to write the life story of the charming oil sheik Omar (Spiros Focas), she doesn’t have to think twice. Despite Jack’s protests, she goes with Omar. Then Jack suddenly bumps into Ralph (Danny DeVito), the criminal who once tried to kick him in Colombia. He demands that Jack return the gem they found in South America. They discover that Joan is in danger and decide to travel to the Middle East together to rescue her – although working together does not go well.

Where ‘Romancing the Stone’ has acquired a modest classic status over the years, ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ is actually best known for that Billy Ocean hit – ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going’, a phrase which appears several times in the film – and the accompanying music video in which Douglas, Turner and DeVito appear as a backing choir. The story is even more of a no-brainer than that of its predecessor; messy and cluttered. The way the Arabs are portrayed is also quite outdated and offensive. And it’s that DeVito was contractually obligated to show up for this sequel, otherwise his presence here is inexplicable. During the shooting, which largely took place in Morocco, the cast and crew were very disappointed. It was extremely hot, customs had to be bribed to get the necessary equipment into the country and the extremely short time frame within which everything had to be filmed turned out to be almost unfeasible. Disaster struck three times within the crew: just weeks before shooting was due to start, production designer Richard Dawking and production manager Brian Coates were killed in a plane crash while scouting locations. A plane with Douglas and Turner in it had to make an emergency landing. And Diane Thomas, who created the characters, died in a car accident two months before the film’s premiere; the car she was in was actually a present from Douglas.

You would almost think that ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ should never have been made, this production had such adversity. This was clearly a rush job. Not for a moment does this sequel come close to the level of ‘Romancing the Stone’ (and there was a lot to criticize about that). The film is dated, especially in the way other cultures are portrayed, and lacks the humor that gave the first part a fresh touch. Like ‘Romancing the Stone’, the mutual chemistry between Douglas and Turner is the most important asset; it is thanks to them that you want to give the film a chance and watch it. Purely on the basis of their ‘star power’ they drag ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ through it, albeit by the hair. It’s a good thing there wasn’t a third part (which was once suggested), although Douglas, Turner and DeVito would still be seen together in a movie (in the black comedy ‘The War of the Roses’ from 1989 , which is actually the best movie of the three).

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