I started reading H. Rider Haggard's She not too long ago and put it down. It's not that it was awful, but for a jungle adventure, what it really did was get me in the mood to read some more Tarzan, which is what I did. I'll probably come back to She, but it took a while to get going good and I got impatient.
Besides, I figured I could watch the movie and get a taste for the story. Might help keep me motivated next time I try the book. After all, it was produced by Merian C. Cooper (King Kong). Had to be good, right?
It's got some lavish sets, but that's about all that's going for it. It substitutes a cave-dwelling society in the Arctic for the novel's jungle setting and poor Randolp Scott has never been the most exciting of actors. In the book, Leo is an attractive, charismatic guy. I guess Scott is handsome enough, but charming he ain't. It's hard to believe why the women in the movie are fighting over him.
If you're not familiar with the plot, Scott plays a young man named Leo who's called to his uncle's deathbed to receive a strange request. He's to complete a multi-generational quest for a mysterious fire that grants eternal life to anyone who passes through it. One of Leo's ancestors found the fire, but left it without capturing its power. Ever since then, Leo's family has been trying to find it again.
So, Leo and his pal Holly put together an expedition and head North. They hook up with an unscrupulous Arctic trader and his pretty daughter who volunteer to act as guides. Some of the party makes it to an ice cave in which an ancient civilization still lives and is ruled over by She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, the only person who knows the secret to the eternal flame.
What follows is supposed to be a game of seduction as She and the trader's daughter compete for Leo's affections. She is beautiful and powerful, but cruel. The daughter is pretty and kind, but simple. It's not a bad story, but I kept thinking that it would make a better episode of Classic Star Trek than an adventure movie. There's not a lot of action until the end; mostly just people talking about what they want other people to do.
And speaking of the end, without spoiling it I'll just say that it doesn't make sense. The plot drives towards a crucial scene, but when the scene occurs, it plays out in an inexplicable way that looks more designed to wrap things up quickly than to provide a satisfying conclusion to the story. I'm hoping the book does a much better job than that.