Saturday, July 22, 2006


A solid pre-Code melodrama, and a 30's version of an "indie" film made by the small-scale Reliance Pictures. I'm not sure what Claudette Colbert is doing here, given that she was in the middle of becoming a big star at mainstream Paramount, but she's very good, mostly making up for the shortcomings of her leading man, Ben Lyon, who plays the "I" of the title, a reporter who is trying to prove that grizzled old fisherman Ernest Torrence is the brains behind a ring of men who are smuggling desperate Chinese immigrants into the U.S. We know that Torrence is indeed the chief bad guy, and we see him callously dump a tied-up Chinese man overboard when a Coast Guard ship heads over to investigate. When Lyon sees the lovely Colbert skinny-dipping, he thinks she's just another quickie novelty headline, but when he finds out she's Torrence's daughter, he decides to cultivate a friendship with her in order to dig up some incriminating dirt, but then he finds himself falling for her. There's a bizarre seduction scene set in a prison ship museum in which Lyon straps Colbert into an arcane torture device and kisses her. There's also a shark hunting scene that wouldn't seem out of place in JAWS, and another scene with smuggled immigrants tumbling out of a dead shark's belly that is startling. The climactic action plays out well, though the very end feels rushed. Lots of little racy pre-Code touches add pizzazz; in addition to Colbert's dip in the ocean, there's a nudie girl painting in the boat, and Colbert and Lyon talk openly about moving in together. Torrence is very good as the villain, who is nevertheless a caring father. Lyon is the only weak link, and he's not really bad, just out of his league opposite Colbert. [DVD]

No comments: