King Solomon's Mines (1950)
"Any woman who wants to go traipsing through the jungle must have something the matter with her," says hero Allan Quartermain (Stewart Granger) at the start of King Solomon's Mines (1950). But Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr) wants to know what happened to her adventurer husband, who disappeared while seeking the fabled, titular diamond mines so she and her brother (Richard Carlson) offer Quartermain a large amount of money to lead a dangerous expedition into uncharted regions of the Kalahari Desert. The second film adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel (the first, in 1937, starred Cedric Hardwicke there would be still another in 1985 starring Richard Chamberlain and a 2004 TV miniseries with Patrick Swayze), audiences thrilled to scenes with Granger and Kerr coming face-to-face with lions (Quartermain: "They're only dangerous if they're hungry." Elizabeth: "How do you know if they're hungry?" Quartermain: "They eat you if they're hungry."), charging rhinos, giant tarantulas, anteaters, and rampaging elephants. Filmed on location in Africa using local tribesmen as extras, KSM offered audience of the day an exotic glimpse of the landscape and people of the Congo region long before cable television made the Discovery Channel a household staple. The very definition of a "timeless classic," it may not have the non-stop, cliffhanger thrills of an Indiana Jones adventure but the grudging sexual tension between Kerr and the frequently shirtless Granger is palpable, and scenes involving stampeding zebras and a pursuit through a dark jungle by bloodthirsty warriors still excite. Warner's DVD release is presented full-screen (1.33:1), preserving the original aspect ratio, with nicely boosted color, but it appears that nothing else was done to clean up the source materials. While the print may have been the cleanest one available, it's still riddled with specks, splotches, scratches, and dust from start to finish. The monaural Dolby Digital audio (in English or French with subtitles in English, French or Spanish) is flat and merely serviceable. Considering that the packaging trumpets this Oscar-winner (for Color Cinematography and Editing) as one of Turner Classic Movies' "Classic Films You Wanted on DVD," it's especially egregious that this beloved film was trotted out with the bare minimum of clean-up. The theatrical trailer is included. Keep-case.