Good, fun movie, but...
H. Rider Haggard's novels come to life on the screen by the team behind King Kong, and looking very much like it.
Dying explorer/scientist Samuel S. Hinds calls nephew Randolph Scott home to give him a map and send him on his way North to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. Randy takes family friend Nigel Bruce, a guide, and the guide's lovely daughter, Helen Mack, along with him and they discover the lost Kingdom of Kor, ruled over by Helen Gahagan, an easily-annoyed empress named She Who Must Be Obeyed. She believes that Randy is the reincarnation of a lost lover she had killed for his infidelity, and that the way to his heart is to sacrifice Miss Mack. Scott's actually not adverse to eternal life, but feels rather badly that Helen is going to be his ticket to it.
I enjoyed this film a whole bunch. Miss Gahagan is no great shakes, but the spectacle of it all is tremendously impressive, with great special effects, effective matte paintings, spectacular art deco sets (what IS it with Merian Cooper and amazing, giant, colossal doors?), and scary cannibals. Near the beginning, we see a giant saber-toothed tiger frozen in the ice, and I couldn't help but be disappointed that they didn't bring in Willis O'Brien to bring it to life. The film ended up losing a lot of money, but not as much as The Last Days of Pompeii, released later that year by the same folks. When the two films were edited down and re-released together in the 1940s, though, hey recouped their costs. Way to go, RKO.
Helen Mack's been around (so to speak); she's probably best remembered for playing She Who is Not Fay Wray in Son of Kong. She's okay, not a bad actress, great eyes and obviously pretty, but she lacks some spark that would've made her a star, I think.
She: 'How do you think I rule these people? Not by force, but by terror. My empire is of the imagination.'
There's a lot of extremely impressive makeup, costume design, and peppy dancin' goin' on in Kor, too. I really, really liked this movie; never read the books, but I understand they travel to Africa, not the North Pole, to find Kor. The film was remade with Ursula Andress in 1965. Miss Gahagan went into politics, and lost an ugly race for the Senate to Richard Nixon.
But here's something that bothered the heck out of me...
The Blu-ray release of this film is simply loathsome. First, look at the packaging: Legend Films heavily promotes it as a Ray Harryhausen film, which it is not.
Legend gives us our choice of colorized or B&W; the colorized is ugly and the B&W is not deep and rich enough in HD, it obviously is the colorized version with the color turned off, lacking the deep blacks one associates with a film in HD.
There's a bonus featurette with Mr. Harryhausen and reps from Legend Films talking about how awesome colorization is and how young people won't watch B&W movies unless they're hideously colorized. They sound exactly like Dan Ackroyd selling broken glass as a child's toy in that old Saturday Night Live skit.
I liked this movie enough to purchase it, but I do not give my money to people who colorize films. I hope somebody else releases this properly.
Good, fun movie though.