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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 »
This film was hampered by the newness of the sound process--so please keep this in mind if you watch it. Early talkies tended to appear very claustrophobic--with all the action confined to small space on screen due to primitive recording equipment that could only pick up sound directly under the microphones. In addition, several innovations were still in the future--such as providing incidental music during the film. Believe it or not, to get music, an orchestra had to perform live just off camera! And, finally, some of these sound films did not feature integrated sound (by encoding it on the side of the film strip) but on a separate record--which caused MANY problems with perfect synchronization and the records wearing out after only a few performances. This Warner Brothers/Vitaphone release is one of these sound films employing a record. However, in an odd twist, years after the film was made the accompanying disk was transferred to film stock. To do so, the left edge of the film strip needed to have the sound encoding added--explaining why a bit of the left side of the print is clipped. So, when you see the film, bear all this in mind.
The film is set in a mythical kingdom along the border with India. A group of three travelers have trouble with their airplane and are forced to land. At first their reception by the local king (George Arliss) is very cordial. However, he and the travelers know the same secret--the Indian government has three of Arliss' countrymen and are planning on executing them. Now, with these three travelers in his control, Arliss can hold them hostage and possibly kill them in retribution. Naturally, the three want to escape or contact the British authorities in India about their plight.
"The Green Goddess" is divided into roughly two sections--the first one that consists of Arliss and the three acting cordial and then verbally sparring and the second involving their escape plans. The initial segment is very talky and static--the second very violent and more exciting (with a horrifying scene near the end). However, at no point in all this does any of this seem realistic in the least. Part of this is because the British Arliss is a bit silly as an Asian. The rest of this is that the script is very old fashioned and never the least bit believable. However, for fans of old-time cinema it's still worth seeing mostly because it's one of Arliss' surviving films and there just aren't that many opportunities to see this famous silent star--most of his films have simply become lost to the ravages of time. Not a great film but worth while if you are a true cinema freak.
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