King Solomon's Mines 1937
77 mins United Kingdom Director. Geoffrey Barkas, Robert Stevenson
The first adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s famous adventure novel is a fine example of British pulp from Gaumont Studios. But it’s chiefly remembered now as a star vehicle for its African-American star Paul Robeson, playing the usurped king Umbopa who joins Allan Quartermain (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) on a quest to ransack a diamond mine and reclaim his lost kingdom.
After his chastening experience on the compromised colonial drama Sanders of the River, Robeson gained top billing here and he endows the role of Umbopa with class and charisma, even if the film's other Africans are portrayed more stereotypically.
Director Robert Stevenson’s extensive use of African locations distinguishes it from contemporaneous productions, and the film remains a ripping yarn that holds its own against all subsequent adaptations.