Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Buster Crabbe and Paul Bryar are American engineers working with the Free French during World War II on a mission is to do some land surveying near the African village of Carraby in anticipation of the Allies putting in a landing strip there. Their secondary mission is to try and subvert the influence of a native chief who is working with a German couple (Arno Frey and Evelyn Wahl) who are Nazi spies, bribing the natives with worthless trinkets to get them on their side when the armed conflict reaches Carraby. Living with the tribe as a native is an Anglo woman (Ann Corio), raised as an orphan by a doctor. She is initially suspicious of all the outsiders, but soon she and Crabbe are canoodling, even as the female Nazi also begins cozying up to him as well. The chief goes to extremes to get the natives on the Nazi side, poisoning several villagers so that they appear to be dead, blaming it on Crabbe and the doctor, and then bringing the "dead" back with apparently supernatural powers. Can Crabbe and Corio get the natives to see the truth about their leader before the Nazis arrive?

This is a pretty shoddy sub-B film; its main attraction was probably the presence of Buster Crabbe, best known in the 30s first as an Olympic swimming champ and later for playing heroes like Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. By this time, he was working for Poverty Row studio PRC, mostly doing cheapie westerns and adventure movies. He must have been considered a success because between 1940 and 1945 alone, he made nearly 40 such films. He's one of the few bright spots here; he treats his role seriously and his beefcake appeal is still obvious. The comic sidekick in movies like this is sometimes dreadful, but Bryar does a decent job; one of the better jokes is a special effects shot of Bryar asleep in bed having nightmares as footage of dangerous animals appears above his head. Corio (pictured with Crabbe) was best known as a stripper; unfortunately, she's a drab, flat actress, and even her buxom charms are, oddly enough, downplayed here. There is very little action until the end. I did enjoy some of the dialogue: the Nazi, aware that his wife is falling for Crabbe and maybe becoming sympathetic to him, says, "The Third Reich is more important that your swinish love affair!" And while Crabbe's sidekick does his morning exercises, he says, "Another ten days of this and I’ll have a physique like Buster Crabbe!" [Amazon Instant]

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

The idea sounds so promising. I can usually enjoy even a bad jungle movie, but this one sounds a bit too bad.