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An airplane carrying three Brits--Major Crespin, his wife Lucille, and Dr. Trahern--crash lands in the kingdom of Rukh. The Rajah holds them prisoner because the British are about to execute his three half-brothers in neighboring India. His subjects believe that their Green Goddess has given them the lives of the three Brits as payment for the lives of the Rajah's brothers. They will execute them when the brothers are executed. Trahern and the Crespins must figure a way to use the Rajah's radio to call India for help. Written by
Filmed in 1929 and completed before Disraeli (1929), but was held out of release until later at the request of George Arliss because he felt the other film was a better vehicle for his talkie debut. See more »
The Raja of Rukh:
You may have noted in history dear lady that family affection is seldom the strong point of princes.
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Watch it mainly for the performance of Mr. George Arliss
This was one of Warner Brothers' early talking picture experiments, made in late 1929 and released in 1930. The main thrust behind Warner Brothers' being first in talking pictures with "The Jazz Singer" died with its premiere - Sam Warner died just before the Jazz Singer opened. Since the other brothers had been dragged kicking and screaming into the talking picture era, Warner Brothers fumbled around from that point until late 1930 when they truly began to find their stride. This film is from their "fumbling era" of 1928-1930.
That doesn't mean that this picture or any of their other experiments are necessarily bad, it just means that they are truly experimenting at this point with somewhat kooky plots they would never try just a couple of years later. Warner Brothers was very fortunate during this time to continue a long running relationship they had with one star of the stage - John Barrymore - and begin a relationship with another - Mr. George Arliss. His acting is the main reason to watch this film.
Here Arliss plays the wise and wizened Raja of the mythical kingdom of Rukh. The day before his three brothers are to be executed for an assassination of a British official in India, three British citizens crash land in his kingdom, having gotten lost in the fog over the Himilayas. The primitive people of his kingdom, who worship a green goddess, see this as a gift from the goddess - a British life each for the lives of the Raja's three brothers taken by the British. The three British prisoners had quite a bit of drama in their lives even before landing in this mess. Major Crespin (H.B. Warner) has been an unfaithful husband to his wife Lucilla (Alice Joyce), who has forgiven him but not forgotten. The pilot, Dr. Basil Traherne (Ralph Forbes) and Lucilla have been in love for years, but have done nothing about it because Lucilla is still technically married and wants to remain so because of her two children.
The Raja is technically and politically astute. He actually wants to kill his British prisoners as a kind of thumb in the collective eye to the British for keeping the Indians in subjection. However, he is also smart enough to know his "goose would be cooked" if the British ever knew what he did. He also doesn't really want his brothers released, because their deaths eliminate any possible wranglings over his throne should he die before his own children reach adulthood. Learning his lesson from British and Russian history, surviving uncles are not always so kind to the surviving underage progeny of deceased kings. We learn all of this from Arliss' own lips as he gives a superb performance every bit as good as the one he gave in Disraeli, just in a more inane plot.
The Raja does offer one concession, he will spare the life of Lucilla if she agrees to be his consort and bear him a son. He even agrees to smuggle her children out of India and bring them to her so she can raise them. As for the other two, they are pretty much condemned to die, but there is one hope for them all. There is a wireless device in the Raja's castle with which - if they can get access - they might be able to get a message to India. Also, the Raja has as his assistant a man of British birth named Watkins, a condemned criminal if he returns to his homeland, but inside Rukh he is the Raja's link to the culture and habits of the west and, more importantly, the Raja's wireless operator.
The kookiest part of this film - Nigel De Brulier as a wild looking bearded man who is always looking through keyholes and - for some reason - is given to carrying around a trident. I highly recommend this film to the fans of early talkies. This one will hold your interest.
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