15 July 2014 | bkoganbing
A critique of isolationism
In the slightly less than 80 minutes running time of this version of Joseph Conrad's Victory a whole lot is left out and what we get is a preparedness allegory a year before the US entry into World War II. That was certainly not Joseph Conrad's intention in writing this book that was published in 1915.
The protagonist of this story is Fredric March who after business reversals went to live in the Dutch East Indies on a small island with only his Chinese servant Chester Gan for human company. March is your isolationist who only wants to be as left alone as Greta Garbo.
But people and events do have a way of intruding on you. When Sig Ruman who plays a club owner in Surabaya tells three bottom feeding cutthroats Cedric Hardwicke, Jerome Cowan, and Lionel Royce that March on his island is sitting on a fortune it piques their interest. March doesn't have anything of the sort, but it serves to take their interest away from Ruman.
What March does have is the lovely Betty Field who fled from Ruman's employ after he put moves on her. Her being on the island is of interest to Jerome Cowan also.
For those who read the Conrad novel let me say the ending is completely different. But it would have to be as this film is a warning against isolationism of all kinds.
Of the players Jerome Cowan who most would know as Sam Spade's luckless partner Archer in The Maltese Falcon will be a revelation. Miles Archer is a far more typical part for Cowan. That Cockney accent that Cowan adopts will throw you as well, took me a while to realize who it was. Cowan's a real bottom feeder and great in an offbeat part.
This is not Joseph Conrad. It's a mildly entertaining adventure saga however that none of the players can be ashamed of participating in.