Randolph Scott is his usual stiff but smiling self as Leo Vincey, the long-lost American heir to a British family legacy, sent by his estranged father to reclaim the legendary "Flame of Life," discovered five centuries ago by his explorer ancestor. Producer Merian C. Cooper, best known for directingKing Kong
, changes the locale of H. Rider Haggard's classic adventure from Africa to the Arctic (which, apart from a spectacular avalanche, looks positively stagebound), but he pulls out all stops for the magnificent underground kingdom hidden in the icy mountains, complete with a cavernous throne room with vaulted ceilings and a massive staircase that would look right at home in the Ziegfeld Follies. The cruel She Who Must Be Obeyed (Helen Gahagan) is a beautiful but icy queen driven ruthless by her centuries of loneliness.
The film takes some time to get started but once She makes her impressive entrance through a mist-enshrouded arch, we're plunged into a dangerous, exotic world of strange ceremonies, human sacrifices, nefarious plots, and the gorgeous whirlwind of light that is the Flame of Life. Though the dialogue is often flat and uninspired and the performances by Scott and Gahagan rather arch (costars Nigel Bruce and Helen Mack fare much better), this grand adventure concludes with a rousing climax full of impressive set pieces and breathtaking effects.--Sean Axmaker