1 May 2018 | MartinHafer
Three cheers for the Empire and all that rot!
In the 1930s and into the 40s, Hollywood had a very unusual love for films about the British Empire. Much of this could be to appeal to British film goers....as the pictures were show there as well as in the States. All I know is that it seems odd by today's standards for American films to be promoting a system this country fought against during the Revolutionary War! And, by today's standards, it's hard to get excited by the exploits of colonialism.
Clive Randolph (Basil Rathbone) is a credit to his family, his king and his country. He is a selfless member of the Foreign Service and after many years serving at the Gold Coast in Africa (around modern day Ghana), he's ready for a nicer assignment...one that would be easier on him and his wife. Unfortunately, he's returned to the Gold Coast after a furlough to England. This is because a weirdo named Zurof (Lionel Atwill) is stirring up trouble using his hidden radio antennae...and the British government doesn't know that he's up to it but it is coming from the area around Zurof's mine.
To complicate things is Clive's brother, John (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). John only joins the service after a lot of family pressure and he just doesn't seem cut out for the work. On top of that, he soon loses a top secret message...and Clive ends up being held responsible for this! Can John regain his and Clive's good name? And, more importantly, can they help maintain the Empire and it's 'benevolent' ways.
As I already mentioned, the film is a bit difficult today, as modern sensibilities tell us that colonialism is wrong as is the paternalistic aspects of it you see in the movie. But is the movie any good technically and is it entertaining? Yes. the acting is quite nice and the production looks very good...and entertains. Some of it is a bit silly...such as the world's reaction to the hidden radio station as well as the totally unbelievable ending. But still, it never is dull!
By the way, as you watch, you may notice that although the film came out in 1939, the baddie and his co-conspirators are NOT Germans! Only months later, war would break out and instead of baddies trying to create problems for the sake of greed or love of chaos, they would be replaced by wicked Nazis in films coming from Hollywood.