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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » King Solomon's Mines
King Solomon's Mines
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // September 21, 2004
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted October 24, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE MOVIE

You remember Patrick Swayze, don't you? The promising young actor who thrilled young girls in Dirty Dancing, thrilled young guys in Roadhouse and made the entire world fall in love with him in Ghost? Well, after some horrible movie choices and all but disappearing from the Hollywood radar, he's back in action in the 2004 made-for-TV movie King Solomon's Mines. And it's a choice that may very well help revive his career. Swayze is spectacular in the lead role of Allan Quartermain, and director Steve Boyum has done a brilliant job here – giving viewers a literate and highly-watchable version of H. Rider Haggard's novel, instead of trying to turn it into some kind of Indiana Jones adventure, which is why the 1985 theatrical version with Richard Chamberlain failed so miserably.

The thing I liked almost immediately from the beginning of this movie is that they quickly established Allan Quartermain as a living, breathing human being – instead of some type of action-adventure superhero. Swayze is perfect for the role, because he knows how to bring the humanity in Quartermain out, but you also believe he's tough enough to get out of the scrapes that the character finds himself in.

The movie is almost three hours in length, a great majority of which is spent on character development. We learn of Quartermain's desire to be with his son back in England, and the how the death of his wife still haunts him – things a typical action movie would never have time to deal with. Also unlike most action flicks, almost all of the supporting characters are well-acted and well-developed, helping the viewer to have an investment in each one of them and their ultimate fate. Also on hand is Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade's Alison Doody as Elizabeth Matiland, who hires Quartermain as her guide to help take the map to the legendary King Solomon's mines to an evil tribesman who is holding her father captive. Alison, like Swayze, is another actor who has long been underrated, and she plays a very strong woman here…unlike those yelling and screaming types that usually follow the hero around in these kinds of advenutures.

King Solomon's Mines is a Hallmark Entertainment presentation, and lives up to the name. It's beautifully shot, smart and well-written, and totally the opposite of what I thought I was going to get when I picked the movie up. It's more Out of Africa than it is Indiana Jones, and it took a lot of guts to make a TV-movie this cerebral, when I'm sure they could have gotten a lot of mileage (i.e. higher TV ratings and bigger DVD sales) off of a dumber, more action-packed version of the story.

THE DVD

Video:
Presented in the full-frame format, the video here is quite sharp and colorful, with properly balanced flesh tones. On my large screen television, I did not some very slight pixilation on the print and the occasional defect from the original film print, but it's doubtful that this would even be noticeable on a screen less than 40" or so. A very nice transfer, overall.

Audio:
Viewers will have the option of either a 5.1 or a 2.0 Dolby Digital track, and while the 2.0 track is more than serviceable, the 5.1 track really shines and is quite active – even in spots that you wouldn't expect it to be…as when our adventurers are simply hiking through a jungle or a desert. It's not an overbearing track (your subwoofer will barely get a workout at all), but it is a very pleasant one.

Extras:
Other than a chapter selection, this is a totally bare bones DVD, with no extras. Kind of a shame, because I would have really enjoyed a commentary track and/or some interview material to see what drew Swayze to the part and if he enjoyed working on the movie as much as I enjoyed watching him in it.

THE BOTTOM LINE

With no extras on this DVD, there are probably going to be a lot out there who will rent this first instead of buying…and that's not a bad idea, since the lack of action and focus on characterization may turn a lot of viewers off. However, I personally thought King Solomon's Mines was a great film, and a TV movie that I found to be a lot better than most theatrical releases I find myself sitting through these days. If you're a fan of Patrick Swayze, or just love when a novel is made into a movie in an intelligent and respectful way, you should pick up King Solomon's Mines.
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