30 June 2005 | silverscreen888
Classic Adventure; Unpretentious, Epic in Feel, Plus a Mature Romance
When this production was mounted for Stewart Granger, with Deborah Kerr and Richard Carlson as his co-stars, no one could have imagined how imitated, influential and important the film would become. It has an epic quality about it that is earned by African on-site locales, fine cinematography and direction of the film, and the discovery-aspect of the narrative as the participants learn along about a fascinating continent and its people with the viewers. H. Rider Haggard's venerable novel find to b a curious mixture of Victorian angst, adventure, romance, mystery evoked by an expedition storyline. The fine acting by Stewart Granger as Alan Quartermain the white hunter, Deborah Kerr as a woman seeking her missing husband, Richard Carlson as her brother, and Hugo Haas as a back-sliding villain works exceptionally to increase the believability of the film. The simplest incident on this dangerous expedition--sitting down in the wrong place, turning over a leaf, wearing the wrong weight or textile of garment, cutting one's hair, hearing a sound, anything--can trigger a learning or a dangerous experience... This was a lavish MGM production, with participation by legendary artists and technicians such as Cedric Gibbons as art director, Edwin B. Willis as set decorator, Robert Surtees as cinematographer, Douglas Shearer in charge of sound and many others. But the real star of the film apart from the actors is Andrew Marton and Compton Bennett's realization of Helen Deutsch's interesting modernization of the original novel. Wjite hunter Alan Quartermain does not really care to live any longer; he has just seen one of his best "boys" die in a hunting accident, having been hired to please a bloodthirsty imperial's whim to kill wildlife; and Deborah Kerr comes along just then in need of a guide, trying to convince herself that she still cares about the cold husband who disappeared in search of a fabled treasure, the gold mines of King Solomon of Israel.. Obviously the two are ready to fall in love during the dangerous search for her lost mate, one that takes them into unknown country, among dangerous tribes, and into adventures that include helping a deposed seven-foot-tall monarch regain his throne by a rite of combat, incidentally saving their lives in the process. The most exciting sequence in the film is a grass fire that causes animals to stampede toward the expedition, who must taken shelter crouched low behind a makeshift low barrier; it has been imitated, never duplicated, and was later used in several other films. The film is occasionally leisurely, never dull; its makers play with time very intelligently. For once, the viewer gets the sense in a film of an arduous trek, of time passing, time for changes to happen and motivations for the same. The actors are grand, especially the mature intelligent leads; all-in-all, this simple storyline in the right hands was turned into what is all-but-universally acknowledge to be a classic adventure-romance.