A group of explorers search of the legendary "flame of life," a mysterious force that bestows immortality. In Vibrant Color!A group of explorers search of the legendary "flame of life," a mysterious force that bestows immortality. In Vibrant Color!A group of explorers search of the legendary "flame of life," a mysterious force that bestows immortality. In Vibrant Color!
Although the film alters the Haggard novel in a great many ways, it retains the basic elements. Lured by a family legend, Leo Vincey (Randolph Scott) braves the frozen European north with family friend Horace Holly (Nigel Bruce, best known for his appearances in the Sherlock Holmes series) and innocent Tanya Dugmore (Helen Mack, popular 1930s ingenue.) When an avalanche exposes a cavern, the three find that the Vincey family legend is not quite so fanciful after all.
Most particularly, they find themselves at the mercy of She Who Must Be Obeyed, a woman who recalls talk of Jesus Christ in the Jerusalem market place, a woman two thousand years old who preserves her life by bathing in a radioactive flame that vents from the volcanic floor of her hidden kingdom. She (known here as Queen Hash-A-Mo-Tep) has been waiting for the reincarnation of her long-dead love, and Leo is his spitting image.
The acting styles are stiff even by 1935 standards and although Miss Gahagan is attractive in a 1930s way she lacks the stunning beauty attributed to She by the Haggard novel--but the great draw of the film was never intended to be great acting: like KING KONG, it is an action-adventure film with knockout sets (a few of them actually lifted from KING KONG), memorable special effects, and remarkable cinematographic set pieces. Even as it borrowed from earlier films such as the 1932 Boris Karloff THE MUMMY, it would also influence later films in turn; it is hard, for example, to imagine the 1937 Ronald Coleman LOST HORIZON without it, and even the look of the evil queen in Disney's 1938 SNOW WHITE is said to have been inspired by Gahagan's look and performance.
The film has been released in several editions to the home market, and fans may be tempted by less expensive editions. A word to the wise: Don't. The film shows its age and there is no significant bonus material, but the Kino Video release (be it on VHS or DVD) offers what is probably the best print short of a digital restoration. Recommended for fans of 1930s fantasy cinema.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
- Mar 23, 2005