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TR.N Research Indy's Influences Classics Adventures King Solomon's Mines
 
King Solomon's Mines
 

Released by MGM - 1950

Directed by: Compton Bennett & Andrew Marton
Story by: H. Rider Haggard (novel)
Screenplay by: Helen Deutsch
Produced by: Sam Zimbalist

Starring:
Deborah Kerr .... Elizabeth Curtis
Stewart Granger .... Allan Quatermain
Richard Carlson .... John Goode
Hugo Haas .... Smith
Lowell Gilmore .... Eric Masters

 

There have been three attempts to take the story written by H. Rider Haggard, entitled King Solomon's Mines, and put it on the silver screen. Arguably the best and most influential version of the story is the one starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr from 1950. Yes, yes, there was one in 1985 starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone, but that one was literally a rip off of Indiana Jones and is best left forgotten.


Expedition camp.

The 1950 version of King Solomon's Mines tells the story of a prim English woman (Kerr) who hires the expert hunter Allan Quatermain (Granger) to help find her husband, who has vanished into the darkest, most uncharted regions of Africa searching for the legendary mines of King Solomon. Quatermain, reluctant to go gallivanting of into the darkest jungles in Africa but desperate for money to send his son to college, agrees and a quest filled with danger across the African wilderness begins.

This film was the first one to use extensive footage of actual wildlife in Africa intercut with the actors to simulate their experiences in the jungle. While by today's standards it looks like "stock footage", it was amazing and awe-inspiring in its day, garnering an Oscar for cinematography.


Allan Quatermain.

While many other films are credited with influencing the Indiana Jones series, King Solomon's Mines has its place among the Indiana Jones legacy if not specifically the actual films that inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Allan Quatermain is arguably the first Indiana Jones-type adventurer with his khaki clothes and his broad brim hat. His relationship with Kerr's character is a much more serious version of Indiana Jones' relationship with Willie from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with Kerr playing the "city girl" suffering the treacherous jungles of Africa while Quatermain continually tries to keep her alive. The difference between Kerr and Willie is the simple fact that Kerr is more reserved and intelligent, and only screams a quarter as often as Indy's female companion.

There is a moment in the film especially similar to Temple of Doom in which a tarantula attacks Kerr while they are camping in the jungle. This scene evokes memories of Willie running into all sorts of wildlife while trying to dry her clothes in Temple of Doom. Again, the angle on comedy is less in King Solomon's Mines than the Indiana Jones counterpart.


Trapped in a cave.

Probably the most Indiana Jones-like aspects of the film are Quatermain's dealings with a hostile tribal king and his warriors towards the end of the film. Their discovery of King Solomon's Mines is an extremely "Indyesque" moment for the film. The caves they go through look almost exactly like the caverns Indy and Shorty traverse after escaping the spike room from Temple of Doom. When they find the body of Kerr's dead husband, it resonates much like Indy's discovery of Forrestal in Raiders of the Lost Ark. After the discovery, they become trapped when a huge round boulder falls and blocks the way out, much like the boulder trap from Raiders. And how do they escape? Well, let's just say that Allan Quatermain utilizes a little trick Indy uses in Temple of Doom when making a discovery.

King Solomon's Mines is a wonderful film that takes the most amazing wildlife footage and combines it with stellar performances for a sweeping African trek. For people interested in African cultures, this film might as well be a documentary at times as the filmmakers capture real tribes performing real ceremonies, making the movie seem like an anthropological study.


Quatermain hunting.

For animal lovers, this film may be uncomfortable to watch at times. Seeing as how this film was before Humane Society regulations for filmmakers and before big game hunting was made illegal in Africa, the filmmakers captured some disturbing footage of elephants being shot and killed. This footage, in light of our regulations and environmental views today, can be abhorrent and unnerving. You have been warned.

Indiana Jones fans may find this film enlightening if a bit slower than modern adventure movies. (MF)

 

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