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The commissioner of a remote outpost in Africa has a mistress who is so sexy and seductive that she has made several of the local white men kill themselves. She learns that the commissioner's brother is coming to the outpost to be his assistant, and she comes up with a plan to set her sights on him.Written by
One of the earliest of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by MCA ever since. See more »
A Major Talent Seen in the Wrong Language and Medium
Olga Baclanova was a fairly major star of the legendary Moscow Art Theater (MAT), and the people she worked with there should have ensured a lifetime of acting success. However, when the MAT visited New York City in 1925, Olga jumped ship, so to speak, and remained here. While this may have been a great move for the quality of her personal life, it was something of a disaster for her career, and even for her reputation, as an actress. Since her early talking films, of which this is the worst I've seen, evidence a decided lack of familiarity with the English language, she did not 'catch on' in the era of other European imports like Garbo, Velez and Bergman, and would be totally forgotten today if not for her extraordinary performance in FREAKS (1932), in which her English is better but hardly in the Garbo class. Anyway, she was apparently supposed to be the reason to see this film, but there was really no good reason to see this film except for its very early talkie status, and that is the only reason it might hold a viewer's attention today. Everybody overacts here, except maybe Clyde Cook as a guy who has "gone native". The other four white characters are pretty miserable in their surroundings, so that Baclanova becomes their sole interest. But, and I'm sorry to say this, Olga was 36 when she made this, but could easily pass for 45 or 50 (which was a lot older then than it is now). Also, she seems to be a good 20 to 25 pounds overweight. Nothing wrong with that, but in 1929 Hollywood it was definitely not the thing to be. She looks more like a healthy middle-aged opera singer (of Leonie Rysanek proportions) than a jungle femme fatale. (In FREAKS she seems to have slimmed down some, but still, the thought of her as a trapeze artist is laughable, unless the catcher was Victor McLaglen or Arnold Schwarzenegger). Clive Brook gives his standard stiff-upper-lip performance, but is not as embarrassing as that good actor Neil Hamilton or that even better one Leslie Fenton. Fenton played some pretty strong characters later on (like Nails Nathan in PUBLIC ENEMY or the Chinese two-timer in THE HATCHET MAN), but here he is a weakling who has one (pretty awful) scene at the beginning of the film before he runs off to shoot himself, possibly in a successful effort to extricate himself from the film. I would never have thought this of Fenton, but he looks like he might have worked out beautifully as Renfield had Dwight Frye not been available for DRACULA. Oy! The only redeeming part of the film is when Baclanova sings - if, indeed, she is doing her own singing, but I think she is - for she gives out with a very strong mezzo-contralto with the kind of chest tones made famous by her great predecessors in Russian song, Varya Panina and Vialtseva. It's worth the price of the film to hear her, if not to see her. There's a bit of a twist ending that satisfies, but one must suffer for over an hour to get to it. Brook gave about 220,000 similar performances before they dragged him back to England, Hamilton stayed around until the Batman TV series, and Fenton turned into a pretty decent director. Cook stuck around for years as the ideal good-natured Cockney, and pretty much reprised this particular role in the Laughton-Lombard WHITE WOMAN, but that was a much better picture than this one. Still, it's worth a look just to see people complaining about the sun and the stifling heat and then dressing for dinner (served near a grand piano, just what every African hut of the era needed!).
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