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King Solomon's Mines (1950)
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by Charles Tatum

"Mine Camp"
3 stars

It's faint praise when one of the nice things you can say about a film is that it is ten times better than one of its remakes.

Allan Quatermain (a sunburned Stewart Granger) is a safari guide in equatorial Africa, schlepping rich white guys around to shoot at giant animals who don't pose much threat. He is approached by the proper Elizabeth (an unusually annoying Deborah Kerr) and her brother John (Richard Carlson). For more money than Allan has ever made, Elizabeth wants him to lead them into dangerous unexplored territory to look for her missing husband. He wandered off years ago in search of some rumored diamond mines (the film's title), and hasn't been heard from since. Elizabeth insists on coming along, and Allan reluctantly agrees.

The vast majority of the film involve the trio's exposure to the wilds of Africa, its animal life, and native tribes. It quickly bogs down as the mystery of what happened to Elizabeth's husband is forgotten as Allan protects Elizabeth time and time again from every creature the film makers could lay their hands on. Her over-the-top, screeching-woman-in-peril helplessness is a surprise, since her character is not in H. Rider Haggard's source novel, and she is the product of the imagination of a female screenwriter.

The film was an odd nomination for the 1950 Best Picture Oscar, probably benefiting from the "All About Eve"/"Sunset Boulevard" split. It did win an Academy Award for Robert Surtees' cinematography (the opening credits sequence alone probably clinched the nomination), as well as film editing. There is no musical score here, with the exception of the music that the native tribes sometimes dance to. While this travelogue aspect of the film might have been fascinating when it was released, now it seems quaint and a little dull. There is some animal violence here, too. I'm not sure how much of it is real, but the ASPCA might have had something to say about many sequences.

The film is credited to two directors, since one apparently left the production midway through, but there is no noticeable change in the shooting style. Being on location, with hundreds of extras and wild animals, there really is no style onscreen at all. The camera set-ups are standard, as if they hurried to get a shot before anything could go wrong. The cast is good, but it's hard to steal scenes from an entire continent. I didn't care much about Allan and Elizabeth's blooming love (they don't get along in the beginning, so their mutual passion for each other was just a matter of time), and poor Richard Carlson is relegated to "the other white guy" role, mimicking the more manly Granger.

Haggard's novel has been filmed many times over the years, most infamously in the mid-1980's. That film starred Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone, ripped off the Indiana Jones films, and is absolutely horrid. This version of "King Solomon's Mines" is a messy improvement on that film, but not a "classic" by a long shot.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7137&reviewer=325
originally posted: 02/15/14 15:01:32
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User Comments

5/25/03 R.W. Welch Prettily filmed travelogue/adventure/romance, doesn't have a lot of dramatic bite. 3 stars
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  24-Nov-1950 (NR)
  DVD: 11-Jan-2005

  N/A (PG)

  16-Mar-1951 (PG)

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