Sunday, January 28, 2007

KING SOLOMON'S MINES (MGM 1950) Warner Home Video

Can a proper English lass and a reclusive game hunter find true romance amidst the backdrop of exotic Africa? Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger demonstrate in King Solomon's Mines (1950); part travelogue, part adventure, part melodrama, and quite an uneven blend, co-directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton. It stars Granger as reluctant game hunter, Allan Quartermain.

After losing his most trusted guide Khiva (Kimursi) in a needless safari accident, Quartermain resolves to take on no more expeditions. His mind, however, is changed by the staunch determination of Elizabeth Curtis (Kerr). She confronts Allan's inner demons and wins his fleeting respect.
Her reward: hiring Allan at a great expense to track down her husband.

Seems Mr. Curtis disappeared in the deepest recesses of the Dark Continent on route to a diamond mine; fortune and glory...same old story! Along the way to discovering the inevitable the safari party pick up Umbopa (Siriaque), a prince in exile who acts as their guide into the land of the Watusis.

What is particularly disappointing about King Solomon's Mines is its overall predictability. From its faux Gone With The Wind - ish main title sequence through its lumbering and uneven pacing, the film is not one cohesive narrative, but four mixed up into behaving as one.
Long before we reach the end of this story we've figured out that Elizabeth's husband is quite dead.

The romance that develops between Granger and Kerr is stoic and flawed – stemming from bitter antagonism and blind necessity. Richard Carleson, as Liz's brother, John Goode, is wasted with bits of business that lead us into discovering the real reason why Mr. Curtis would have ditched Mrs. Curtis for the wilds and unknown.

The final sequence, a laborious dance that belongs in an Arthur Freed musical but ends with a public execution is quite anti-climactic and, well...boring. There's little to no resolution for the main characters and little to suggest that this film could have won such overwhelming votes to be a DVD Decision Winner.

Of course, all of this fluff and nonsense would be slightly forgivable if Warner Home Video’s DVD transfer was something to cheer about. It is not. The Technicolor negative exhibits an inconsistently rendered image with excessive amounts of age related artifacts. Colors are on the whole, weak, softly focused and poorly contrasted and balanced.

Occasionally we are treated to stunning color photography, as with the aforementioned dance of the Watusis - but for the most part the palette is dull. The travelogue footage - obviously shot before the principle actors had arrived on location - is grossly out of focus and quite faded. There are nicks, chips and tears in the negative, making the footage appear much older than the rest of the film stock. The audio is mono but nicely balanced with limited spread but optimal audibility. A theatrical trailer is the only extra included.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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