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Pearls and Savages (1921)

| Documentary

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Pre-Flaherty Documentary
7 October 2009 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Although Robert Flaherty did not invent the story documentary with NANOOK OF THE NORTH (consider Edward Curtis' IN THE LAND OF THE HEAD-HUNTERS from 1914), there was a strong tendency for documentaries to simply show you the pretty pictures with just enough words to get you from one to another -- certainly James A. Fitzpatrick did hundreds of 'Traveltalks' for MGM from the 1930s to the 1950s that were just that.

So that was the 'standard' for documentaries when this was released and it should be judged, like all old movies, on how well it did by that standard and how interesting it is for today's viewer.

And on both scores it is very good. For 1921 it is pretty close to magnificent, having been tinted and toned carefully for release, with up to four different colors in some sequences. Plus the images of life among the primitives of New Guinea are fascinating. Well worth your time.


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