H. Rider Haggards epic story of famous African guide Allan Quartermain, who in helping search for Elizabeth Curtis missing husband, happens upon the trail to the fabled lost diamond mines of King Solomon.
Feel that Technicolor, soak up those authentic African vistas, thrill to the traditions of grand adventure, and gawp in awe at the vast plains of Stewart Granger’s manly chest. Long in tooth, perhaps, but this seasoned jamboree of flat-packed heroics and stunning locations comes easy on the eyes and brain. Shot across the plains of Kenya, Uganda and what was then the Belgian Congo, in 1950 the lengthy scenes of native wildlife and strange tribes was truly exotic; audiences were plunging into the dark heart of a continent alongside the fairly expressionless leads.
There’s little deviation from Haggard’s roomy travelogue, the film fits a road movie format as the heroes trek across the Veldt on the trail of fabulous riches. There is next to no psychological depth in this rangy adventuring, Deborah Kerr is rather whiney as the forlorn wife slowly falling for the dashing Granger (chosen after Errol Flynn became unavailable). And as the hero Granger is perfect: self-assured, snobby, jabbing with a dry, exasperated wit of the seen-it-all brigade. He’s a distant prototype for Indiana Jones, although rather irony deficient. Both stars were contending with 140 degree heat, and probable dysentery.
Surprisingly, for its time, the film treats the locals with a degree of respect. Exiled King Umbopa, carved with the image of a snake across his torso, is given wonderful authority by the statuesque Siriaque. His fight to regain his throne one of this sturdy epic’s more vibrant subplots.
Big adventury yarn thing, which is almost as hilariously long and winding as the book.