The only good movie version of this book
L O'connor | richmond, surrey United Kingdom | 02/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a superb film version of Rider Haggard's thrilling adventure story. The actors all perform their roles with zest and conviction, with Paul Robeson outstanding as the rightful chief of the tribe returned to claim his birthright. Best of all, the film has a satisfactorily evil and terrifying Gagool, because what is King Solomon's Mines without Gagool the Witch?She is unbelievably left out of the bland and boring Stewart Granger version. This is the only version of the film worth watching, I cannot believe another reviewer thinks that the later versions are better. He obviously wouldn't recognise a good film if he fell over it."
Into the mines
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 03/04/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There have been plenty of adaptations of "King Solomon's Mines," the first of H. Rider Haggard's adventure novels. And the 1937 version is a solid if uninspired adaptation, with some good-to-excellent acting and a fairly faithful script, although I'm not sure where the Irish pair came from.
A strange wagon arrives at the camp of hunter Allan Quartermaine (Cedric Hardwicke), who's escorting a group of Europeans to the African coast. An unlucky Irish prospector goes off with the wagon, and a copy of a treasure map that supposedly leads to King Solomon's diamond mines. When Quartermaine refuses to go back after him, the prospector's daughter Kathy (Anna Lee) secretly makes off with his wagons.
Led by a mysterious native named Umbopa (Paul Robeson), the little group faces a trek across a blistering desert that no one has (supposedly) crossed alive. But when they do make it to the other side, they find that there is something even more dangerous -- a tribe of natives ruled by a ruthless chief, who has a very personal connection to Umbopa...
This is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of the original novel, with plenty of good-ish acting and startlingly good special effects. If there's a problem, it's that there's no real character development except for Umbopa, and for an adventure tale, it's actually rather low on appreciable action (although there's one good battle scene).
But it's a magnificent spectacle, and I can only imagine what it would have looked like in color. Sweeping deserts, big African villages, and even a climax that takes place INSIDE a volcano, complete with bubbling lava and collapsing tunnels. And the slowly unfolding storyline is very well-drawn, whether it's the slow journey across the desert or the sumptuous tropics of the oasis near where the tribe leaves.
Though Hardwicke is the lead character -- and does a pretty good job -- it's Paul Robeson who really rules this movie, with his majestic demeanor and rich, rolling voice. Roland Young provides a bit of stodgy comic relief, but John Loder is forgettable and Lee is simply an embarrassing caricature of an Irish colleen. I'd love to know how she always stays spotless and perfectly coiffed too.
But viewers should be warned that time has had its way with this movie -- either it hasn't been restored, or it was in VERY bad condition to begin with. It's a bit fuzzy and crackly in places, and the sound is distinctly tinny. And when it's dark, it's very difficult to see what's going on.
"King Solomon's Mines" is a stately, well-made story that is a bit too slow to be an adventure story, but has good scenes, a taut climax, and a great performance by Robeson."