Sunday, March 06, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Watusi (1959) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

WATUSI (1959), a sort of poor man's KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950), was just released from the Warner Archive.

The movie stars George Montgomery as Allan Quartermain's son Harry, who visits Africa in 1919 with a plan to search for the fabled mines. He makes the safari along with his father's friend Rick (David Farrar) and Erica (Taina Elg), a missionary's daughter the men rescue along the way.

WATUSI, an MGM film like the original KING SOLOMON'S MINES, uses copious amounts of location footage from the earlier film; in fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen a film which borrowed from another so extensively!

This film was even cast with two male leads and one actress in order to take advantage of long shots of Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and Richard Carlson -- or, more likely, long shots of their doubles! It's amusing to think the doubles unknowingly stood in for the casts of not one but two different movies.

The stars of WATUSI can't hold a candle to the original film -- I think it was Granger's best role -- but Montgomery is in fine physical form and Farrar and Elg (of LES GIRLS) are adequate in support.

WATUSI is actually a reasonably entertaining 85 minutes, it's just no KING SOLOMON'S MINES. (Except for, well, when it is.) The movie even manages to have some nicely evocative moments, such as the drumbeats heard over the opening titles. Fans of jungle adventures or Montgomery will probably find it worth a look, as I did.

WATUSI was directed by Kurt Neumann and filmed by Harold E. Wellman. The screenplay was by James Clavell (SHOGUN).

The WATUSI DVD from the Warner Archive is an attractive widescreen print, though it's definitely noticeable when the film cuts back and forth from the cleaner "new" footage to the jungle footage shot nearly a decade earlier. (In fact, it's interesting the footage was originally used in an "Academy ratio" film, and this was a widescreen movie.) There are no extras on the DVD.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger barrylane said...

Stewart Granger wrote a history detailing King Solomon's Mines in Sparks Fly Upward his biography. Well worth reading.

8:43 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Nice review Laura,and a very fair one I must say.
Kurt Neumann did an earlier film MOHAWK which lifted a ton of footage from DRUMS
Sam Katzman's GUN THAT WON THE WEST used loads of footage from BUFFALO BILL (1944)
Producer Charles Schneer and director Nathan Juran made three Sixties programmers
making extensive use of stock footage.
SIEGE OF THE SAXONS (The Black Knight)
EAST OF SUDAN (The Four Feathers)
LAND RAIDERS (The Guns Of Fort Petticoat)
Despite all this all three are decent entertainment.
There are countless others but those films I have mentioned really come to mind.

I was very pleased to get the Warner Archive edition of WATUSI because I have never
seen it. The reason I passed on it at the time was because the main feature was THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA a film that had little attraction to a 12 year old.
Oddly enough another film I've always wanted to see is REVOLT OF THE SLAVES recently
released by MGM's MOD series. I wrongly thought that series no longer existed.
The MGM MOD is just about the best transfer on a MOD that I have ever seen,a stunning
widescreen version,better in fact than many Blu Ray's that I have seen,
While I feel that you will love the transfer,Laura I feel you will have a hard time
with the graphic violence in the film-lots of torture and a huge body count.

5:11 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Producer Al Zimbalist used KING SOLOMON'S MINES footage in another 1959 film
TARZAN THE APE MAN.It also included tinted footage lifted from the original version.
TARZAN THE APE MAN was directed by Joseph Newman another good director slumming it.
Oddly enough TARZAN THE APE MAN is one of the most requested films on Warner Archive's
Facebook page. Warners apparently have promised us a "Tarzan bonanza" later
this year.

The recent Warner Archive release of Kurt Neumann's BAD BOY has been given a very fine
review by Glen Erickson over at DVD Savant.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Barrylane! That's a memoir I don't have yet.

Many thanks for all the great feedback, John! Love your list of movies which "borrowed" extensively from other films. Fascinating stuff.

I recorded MOHAWK from TCM not long ago and should make it a point to watch that one -- DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK being a favorite since childhood.

Read Glenn's review of BAD BOY -- he had a lot of interesting comments on it although I honestly felt he was too dismissive of Audie Murphy's talent (he developed into quite a good actor) and how many very enjoyable films he made at Universal.

Best wishes,

4:11 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Thanks Laura,

MOHAWK was very accurately described by Mr Maltin as "lots of heavy breathing
Fifties style"
Film has considerable camp value. A most interesting cast I might add.
Neumann's other Native American "epic" HIAWATHA is much better and the Warner Archive
MOD is a beautiful Cinecolor transfer. The film scores because it is free of footage
plundered from other films. The film,which I believe was the last from Monogram was
feared lost for many years.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's a funny description of MOHAWK, John! Scott Brady was the impetus for me to record it. Interesting info about HIAWATHA.

Incidentally (this ties in with discussion of Blu-rays over at 50 Westerns), DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK is one of a very select number of films which I upgraded to Blu-ray, because it's a key movie for me, as I became a classic film fan at a young age, and because it's so beautiful. I got the limited edition Twilight Time disc.

Best wishes,

5:20 PM  

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