2 March 2007 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Gobbledygook up the yin-yang.
'The Reincarnation of Karma' is a weird film, right enough, but some of its weirdness is down to incoherence rather than the film's exotic subject matter. The synopsis already posted on this movie's IMDb page is accurate, but it's also much clearer than the movie itself. That's because some of the action is repeated. The first time we see it, there's an implication that it's merely a dream rather than actual events: the second time, we see it in flashback, which implies that the events actually happened.
As you might guess from its title, this movie is a chop-suey of a couple of different Oriental belief systems. Early on, we meet Courtenay Foote (what a name!) as Karma (what a name!), the long-haired priest of a temple filled with robed female acolytes. When one particular priestess with an unspellable name (Rosemary Theby) gets the hots for him, Karma shouts 'Great Buddah! Save me from this woman who tempts me!' Huh? Eh? Despite his name, Karma doesn't seem to be a Buddhist, and Buddhism (unlike several other religions) has no teachings against sexuality, so there's no reason why Buddha should intervene in the monkeyshines.
Later, we see Foote again as a modern westerner who of course is the reincarnation of Karma. I was vaguely impressed by how the torch-lit set was photographed, and also impressed by how the set for the ancient temple in the prologue was re-dressed as the same temple (thousands of years later) in the present, now in ruins.
Rosemary Theby was a prolific silent-film actress who is now remembered (if at all) only as WC Fields's wife in 'The Fatal Glass of Beer'. Flat-chested, beak-nosed, she isn't conventionally sexy or glamorous. Yet here and in a couple of other films (notably as the enchantress Morgan Le Fay, in the 1921 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court') Theby displays some genuine allure. It's a shame that she wasn't born 20 years later; she might have had an interesting career in early talkies. But 'The Reincarnation of Karma' is mostly gobbledygook with a yin-yang flavour, and I'll rate it barely 3 out of 10.