King Solomon's Mines (1950)...anothe classic gem!...

Discussion in 'DVD' started by frank manrique, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. frank manrique

    frank manrique Supporting Actor

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    King Solomon’s Mines…

    “Before there was Indiana Jones, there was Allan Quartermain.” Indeed!
    The 1950 version of King Solomon’s Mines, based on the 1885 classic novel by H. Rider Haggard, availed the acting talents of the dashing and very popular British actor Stewart Granger to portray the role of Allan Quatermain. The stunningly beautiful red-haired actress, Deborah Kerr, played the role of the “prim” Englishwoman who hired him to hunt for her long time missing husband who disappeared during his quest of seeking for the hidden treasures of the mythical King Solomon’s Mines, while Richard Carlson acted in the role of the loving, caring brother who accompanies her in that very quest.

    Supposedly filmed entirely in Africa, the movie seems to attest to that for the most part, although I still think there were some scenes that were actually shot in studio sets. It matters little in reality as the net effect is that the viewer is made to believe the acting cast trekked trough real regions of an untamed wild Africa.

    Film Technology…

    King Solomon’s Mines was photographed in three-strip, imbibition dye transfer, Technicolor Lab’s superb film process (the three-strip photographing process was still being used in the early 50s, a practice that sadly ceased to exist with the advent of widescreen film formats such as Cinerama, CinemaScope, Vista-Vision, Todd-AO spherical 70mm, MGM Camera 65 anamorphic 70mm, et al).
    This process yielded deeply saturated colors that simply defy description, also producing sharply defined images (for more information about the IB Technicolor process, go to www.American Widescreen Museum.com, the extant best source for all that entail film technologies).
    As with all films before widescreen formats changed everything (and for the better, methinks), King Solomon’s Mines was shot in the “Academy Aspect Ratio” (1:37:1).

    The Video Transfer…

    I don’t really know what film elements Warner Brothers used, if any, to produce the master from which the DVD transfer was derived, but doesn’t appear to be any better or worse than the version the TCM channel has been airing of late; they almost look like they were transferred from an identical source.

    I was truly hoping for a video transfer sourced from restored film elements, but does not seems to be the case as imaging isn’t as sharply focused as I remember from past viewings of 35mm IB Tech prints. Yet imaging is excellent for the most part, only becoming worse with remote shots.
    colorimetry is somewhat uneven from one scene to the next, but not enough to produce pesky distractions. The dye transfer imbibition process still comes through with the glorious coloration for which was famous spite of all of the video transfer's obvious flaws.
    The video transfer exhibits the existence of several colored inclusion segments that come and go here and there, but the element print (?) seems quite clean throughout otherwise.
    Film grain is almost none existent, as are digital artifacts.
    As expected from the DVD format, edge enhancement made its presence known to some degree, although not enough to drive the viewer to maddening distraction.
    The DVD image is presented in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio.

    The Soundtrack…

    There is no musical soundtrack per se, and the only existing music background is of African indigenous origins.
    The musical soundtrack is quite sparse and is only used to counterpoint certain key scenes; it does so quite effectively, I may add.
    Overall the monaural track is clean and clear, with just a hint of distortion and some hiss. Dynamic range is limited, and low bass is practically none existing. Of course, there is no surround sound. Don’t look for “reference” sound with this movie!

    “Reviewing” Equipment…

    I watched this movie via a Skyworth 1050 stand alone DVD player (progressive video output) from its analog Component Video output feeding a calibrated Sony XBR-800 CRT set.
    I forgo using the upconvert (1080i) DVI digital path via a Mobitsu 880 DVD player because the full frame image only cover a portion of the screen and I wanted to see the 1:33:1 image at its largest proportions. The upconverted image did look better, yet I opted to watch a larger image.
    Had I viewed King Solomon’s Mines on the 12 foot wide screen via the D-ILA projector, I definitely would have watched it upconverted, something am planning to do once the “large” HT system is up and running again.

    The sound system comprise a two year old top-of-the-line Pioneer Elite audio receiver, Onix Rocket RS 750 mains and RS 200 center channel speakers plus a pair of Rogers LS3-5A monitors (15 ohm version) as surround sound transducers, and twin SVS B12-Plus/4 subbass systems driven by a Samson Servo 2000 amplifier.

    Epilogue…

    Of the four existing versions, I prefer the 1950 version above all. It is a classic tale of action, adventure, and romance amid the beautiful background of exotic, yet untamed wild regions of Africa, deftly portrayed by a high caliber acting cast.

    King Solomon’s Mines is a movie suitable for the whole family too, which makes it even more of a must have. It truly belongs in any serious movie collection!

    The end…

    -THTS
     
  2. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    This would be a great film to ask Warner's about as it's one of the few products of there's in recent years that I've felt disappointed in in terms of image quality.

    This would have been a great candidate for ultra-resolution (as not everyone is a musical fan!) given it's 3 strip-origin's but as Frank has said it looks soft, and I feel it has bland colour in places and just generally looks unloved, especially for a top 5 Winner of the 2004 poll....maybe on a hi-def release it will get a full clean-up and refurbishment....

    M
     
  3. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    In another thread, it was mentioned that a lot of the film was shot in Technicolor's monopack color stock (basically, an early "Eastmancolor"). That would cause any of those scenes to be softer, darker, and grainier.
     
  4. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Patrick is right. A lot of the location footage was not shot three-strip. On the other hand, it is some pretty amazing footage, even if it is not up to the highest standards of circa-1950 Technicolor filmmaking.

    Regards,
     
  5. frank manrique

    frank manrique Supporting Actor

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    I did not know that Technicolor's mono-pack color processing was partially used to shoot this movie in the 50s, but I won't question your gents' veracity; point well taken!
    I should have asked Marty Hart's advice before finishing my 'lil essay regarding this gem of a film classic, though!

    Anyway, thanks for the extremely positive contribution to the general film technology pool of knowledge... [​IMG]

    -THTS
     
  6. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Based on the comments made here, I will gladly make a blind purchase
     
  7. frank manrique

    frank manrique Supporting Actor

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    quote:

    Based on the comments made here, I will gladly make a blind purchase
    __________________________________________________ ___

    Oscar,

    I don't think that you'll be too disappointed with the PQ of the KSMs DVD...but it ain't The Adventures of Robinhood or The Wizard of Oz...or even Ivanhoe. I just thought I warn 'ya!... [​IMG]

    -THTS
     
  8. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    Patrick is right on the money.

    You will also notice such problems in other Technicolor films that had monopack sequences such as LASSIE COME HOME.
     
  9. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    I read that too about the monopack stock used for the jungle scenes, but it still doesn't explain why even the interior shots look dull in colour and lack sharpness, comparitively with other films of this age, there was even more noticeable debris on the film than is the norm with Warner's work - that I've seen.

    Maybe it is as good as it gets without a Lowry-type renovation.

    Regardless it was a very enjoyable film, which I hadn't seen in over 20 years!

    M
     

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