MGM scored a major hit when "King Solomon's Mines" was released to audiences in search of Technicolor exotica. Transposing Stewart Granger from the swashbuckling sub-genre to the great-white-hunter actioner, this was the studio's second attempt to film H. Rider Haggard's famous story, after their 1937 version with Cedric Hardwicke (!) and Roland Young.
Tanned Granger never looked better as the dashing, arrogant Allan Quartermain, and while Deborah Kerr provided the perfect romantic match, the real stars of the film are the African locations and folk cultures. Granted the film's colonial setting skewed the depiction of Africans as primitive folk in need of orderly, British guidance, but Andrew Marton's superb location and action work put the film far ahead of more generic exotica fodder, usually filmed in California or Mexico. (For more info on the making of "King Solomon's Mines" and Compton Bennett's diminishing stature during filming, fans should hunt down Marton's funny and engaging oral career narrative, published by Scarecrow Press.)
Warner Bros' DVD uses a decent source print, and while there's visible dirt in some passages, the DVD returns into circulation a favourite action film that enjoyed countless airings on TV. An odd inclusion on the disc, however, is Miramax's trailer for Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator," which plays before the main menu.
Like "Trader Horn" (1930), one of MGM's first big location productions, stock footage was reused in many subsequent MGM productions, including the film's 1959 sequel, "Watusi." The authentic folk music collected during filming also became part of the studio's archives, and was similarly used during the opening titles in "Mogambo," MGM's other great-white-hunter variation, giving Clark Gable two babes from which to choose. (And in another bit of filmic revisiting, "King Solomon's Mines" replicates the famous wind-blown title crawl from "Gone With The Wind.")
Rider's popular novel was subsequently filmed by the Canon boys in 1985, with Richard Chamberlain & Sharon Stone, and in 2004 for TV, starring Patrick Swayze and former big screen retiree Alison Doody.
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan
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