8 November 2017 | richardchatten
Rip-Roaring Ripping Yarn
This characteristically elaborate production from the people who later gave us 'King Kong' plainly took so long to make it was overtaken by the introduction of sound and wound up as Paramount's last silent feature, thus necessitating a Movietone soundtrack. No matter, it still gives Alexander Korda's definitive 1939 Technicolor super-production a run for its money as rip-roaring macho entertainment.
There are a number of plot differences between this version and its successors which I'll put down to it probably being closer to A.E.W.Mason's 1902 novel, but it still gets most of the best-remembered moments into a trim 81 minutes. Cameraman Robert Kurrle keeps it looking good throughout, while the spectacular location work (including extraordinary footage of monkeys and hippopotami plunging into a river) is all one would expect of the team who gave us 'Grass' and 'Chang', with rousing battle scenes against a spectacular desert backdrop that easily bear comparison with Korda's version.
George Fawcett is a forbidding Col. Feversham (sic), Fay Wray makes an appealing heroine, but like Clive Brook and Noah Beery Sr. (playing a slave trader) doesn't get much screen time, while William Powell as in most of his silent roles looks rather incongruous without a martini glass in his hand. Most of the weight of the film falls up on the broad shoulders of brilliantined Richard Arlen, who isn't terribly convincing as the scion of a long line of old military duffers, but is certainly adept at the derring do.