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This wacky operetta, bursting with flagrant racism, takes colonialist kitsch to levels perhaps never surpassed. It is, as they say, a hoot and a howl and a real eye-popper. The story, little more than melodramatic scaffolding for a generous heap of songs, some pertinent and others stuffed in to jazz up the otherwise standard operetta-style score, involves the attempt to rescue a white girl (Vivienne Segal) from the East African tribal community that raised her before she can be "married" to Mulungu, the local god, who favors her above her black- skinned tribe members because, of course, she is white. All of this occurs against the backdrop of a German occupational force in British East Africa during World War One. Heavy-handed melodramatic plot developments are interspersed with "comic" interludes involving slapstick, novelty songs and joke routines right off the vaudeville stage.
Inconsistencies and absurdities abound, the most flagrant being the portrayal of a native go- between by Noah Beery in blackface and a ridiculously inappropriate Stepin Fetchit accent; among the most straight-out entertaining sequences are songs added for the film version: "We Two" sung winningly by ace music hall veteran Dick Henderson with Marion Byron. Byron also delights with "A Tiger" another jazzy number which she milks to the last drop of her pint-sized self. The other, slower songs which came from the stage original ("My Bwana," "Dawn," and "Mooda's Song") fare less well and are harder to understand, despite the fine voices of Segal, leading man Walter Woolf and Alice Gentle as Segal's "mother." Lupino Lane does some astounding acrobatics for "In a Jungle Bungalow." This is not the only bad musical film he enlivened.
The campiest moments occur during the climax when the white girl is about to be married to Mulungu by a bug-eyed, blacked-up witch doctor (Nigel de Brulier) who delivers his lines like a 19th century Shakespearean ham. The rock-bottom melodramatics are so over the top by the time you get to the atrociously dubbed finale, nothing matters any more. You can either goof on it or shrug, be grateful that those days are over, and move on to something more edifying. All in all, a fun fest for parties of musical theatre/musical film aficionados. This movie is to musicals what "Plan Nine from Outer Space" is to science fiction.
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