Friday, September 03, 2004

I watched the 1950 version of King Solomon's Mines last night and, holy fucking gods, Batman, what a great movie! Not a single scene is wasted. From what looks like an actual elephant hunt to the scene where Allan Quatermain discusses reasons for seeking the mines with Mrs. Curtiz.

Now, I've not read the book and right now I'm suspecting that's a damn shame. The instincts with which the story was put together, placing you early on into violent chaos, and then taking you aside and having Allan explain about the jungle's meaningless cycle of death . . . Great stuff for rumination, but it becomes a hard punch when combined with how fucking realistic the movie seems--I mean, the fact that it was made in 1950 is sort of astounding. Real Africa, yes, that'd happened before, but exclusively real natives, bloody real stampede, and real knowledge . . . Well, I haven't seen everything yet but it all seemed pretty groundbreaking.

Deberah Kerr and Stewart Granger were both great. And great sports, too, for all the shit they obviously really had to go through, including Kerr falling face down in a swamp. She looked genuinely miserable. I mean, there's no logical way she could have not been going through hell. And Granger's Quatermain was just bad-ass.

When they visit one village and Quatermain makes to trade salt and meat, Mrs. Curtiz says she thought it was always beads that were traded. Quatermain explains that salt is incredibly valuable and adds, "They're not stupid, you know."

Wow. In 1950, after the Tarzan movies and the like where the natives are portrayed as stiff particle board brains, these real natives are correctly observed--and in many ways throughout the movie--as being very much not stupid indeed. Hot damn, I'm glad I watched this movie.

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