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Classic Film Of High Adventure
Ron Oliver27 May 2002
TRADER HORN, the Great White Hunter, treks into Darkest Africa in search of the long-missing daughter of a lady Missionary.

MGM produced one of the seminal adventure classics with this film, a benchmark against which all others would be measured for years to come. Although beset with production difficulties & traumas, including the near death of the leading actress, the film was an eventual triumph. Rarely seen today, it still packs a punch, if for no other reason than its splendid performances and the undeniable impact of its on-location filming.

Harry Carey, giving one of the first great performances of the sound era, is perfect in the title role. So well does he inhabit the character like a second skin that it is nearly impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. Having already starred in innumerable silent Westerns, he brings enormous physicality to a movie which made great demands on its actors. Carey looks & sounds like someone who's spent years in the veldt. The slouch of his hat, the grim set of his eyes, the rough growl of his voice are all just right.

Handsome Duncan Renaldo, as Horn's earnest young Spanish companion, and exquisite Edwina Booth, as a white tribal queen, are both admirably suited to their roles. The sparks of their budding, hesitant romance lightens the end of the film.

Olive Golden Carey, the star's wife, is radiant in her very small role as a tough, determined but saintly missionary; the image of her seated in a sedan chair, being carried through the jungle on her endless quest, remains in the mind. Special mention should also be made of Mutia Omoolu, as Horn's gun bearer & friend, adding dignity and strength to his role; he was rewarded with rare recognition alongside the other performers during the opening credits.

Movie mavens will recognize wonderful old Sir C. Aubrey Smith, appearing uncredited for a few moments at the end of the film, in the role of an Irish trader.

Director Woody Van Dyke liked working on location, if possible, and so MGM went to the greatly added expense of sending the entire company to Africa. (Filming would take place in the Territory of Tanganyika, the Protectorate of Uganda, the Colony of Kenya, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan & the Belgian Congo.) This proved a great boon to the picture, giving it an authenticity not replicable in any studio back lot. The scenes of the actors beside a tremendous waterfall, floating down a swollen river infested with hippos, or interacting with native Africans are still sensational today.

However, the cast and crew were forced to live and work under appalling conditions for many weeks. Miss Booth, one of the most beautiful actresses of the day, caught a ‘jungle fever' which left her deathly ill for years and effectively ended her film career.

The attempts of the Studio to shut down the film after the company returned from Africa, and lawsuits & demands for more money on the part of ill-used performers, only added to the acrimony at the time. However, from a vantage point of more than seventy years distance, TRADER HORN has emerged as one of the great adventure movies and a prime example of the sort of film ‘they just don't make anymore.'
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An Amazing Adventure in Africa
D5159 June 2005
I woke up in the middle of the night in my apartment in New York City, turned on Turner Classic Movies, and here is this amazing adventure in Africa captured on film that deserves a "10" for tremendous.

What an effort making this movie must have been for everyone involved. The sheer magnitude of the undertaking is something that would never get produced today. Only though the magic looking glass of film can we witness fiction and nonfiction brought together on such scale.

For kids who love "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings" or the new crop of video-game movies, imagining what it was like for the cast and crew of "Trader Horn" to accomplish what they did is something entirely different. There's nothing digital here; it's all real. You can SMELL the animals on the plains of the old (and gone) Africa, a brutal and far more primordial place than it is today, all filmed without CGI or green-screen gimmickry.

The cast includes Harry Carey in the title role (who performed in more than 250 films) along with the arrestingly beautiful young actress, Edwina Booth, playing a bizarre White Goddess, and who, like many of the cast and crew, was so wiped out and sick from what must have been grindingly grueling conditions on location in Africa, in 1930, that it basically ended her acting career. Two of the crew died during filming; one consumed by crocodiles, and one native boy charged by a rhino in a scene captured and kept in the film. Duncan Renaldo (who played the Cisco Kid years later on television) adds another dimension to the ensemble of the four leading players, completed by Mutia Omoolu, a native African playing Trader Horn's gun bearer in the only role of his life, plus hundreds of extras and other African actors whose names are lost to history.

Fortunately, the remarkable effort of the people who created "Trader Horn" is not lost. Today, and for generations to come, we can experience this truly amazing adventure in Africa and "miracle of pictures."
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The perils of the African bush and savanna
NewEnglandPat19 July 2005
This early 1930s talkie is a fine jungle adventure in spite of its dated, pedestrian look. A great white hunter takes his protégé in tow and leads a safari through the African wilds, braving wild animals and savage tribesmen in search of ivory. A major angle is a missionary's search for her long-lost daughter who is now a white goddess living among a savage native tribe. Conflicts arise between Horn and his protégé over the girl who has a wild, feral animal attraction. The film has a great deal of exciting, realistic footage of wild animals in search of prey and the attacks are recorded in detail. The hippos and crocodiles in the rivers make for some tense moments during the safari's canoe crossings as the party races for safety from pursuing natives. Harry Carey Sr., Duncan Renaldo and Edwina Booth star in this fine but unpolished feature which is introduced by a music score that is not heard again for the entire movie. The only other instruments of note being the foreboding, percussive native drums during a "ju-ju" when the tribes work themselves into a wild, killing frenzy.
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A big hit in its time, TRADER HORN still warrants a close look
dave chandler10 May 2006
W(oodbridge) S(trong) Van Dyke (1889-1943) directed the MGM motion picture TRADER HORN in 1930 and later wrote a book about the production titled HORNING INTO Africa (1931). This was the first major Hollywood picture to shoot on location in Africa, which in this case meant Kenya and the Belgian Congo. Van Dyke hired professional big game hunters Sydney Waller and Dicker Dickenson to provide both the action footage and the meat required for the film crew's daily rations.

HORN starred Harry Carey, Edwina Booth, Aubrey Smith, and Duncan Renaldo. Miss Booth, who bravely agreed to wear the horrendous makeup required for her character (ultra-realistic when you compare it to later "lost white princesses" like Sheena and the woman in JUNGLE GODDESS) nearly died from a severe case of malarial fever caught while in the Congo. Van Dyke produced so much stock footage of African crocodiles, wildlife, and scenery that it was recycled for years in Hollywood films about the Dark Continent, including the great MGM TARZAN movies starring Johnny Weissmuller and the incomparable Maureen O'Sullivan.

TRADER HORN has been re-mastered and is an amazing document of Old Africa, providing footage of local cultural life and a long-lost wildlife paradise. Much of the natural history information given in the film (the lead character gives his protégé sort of a guided tour of the Serengeti) is more accurate than that contained in most hunting books of the time. There are also some authentic hunting sequences, as well as numerous "staged" battles like that between a pair of leopards and some hyenas.

Incidentally, the crew of TRADER HORN was widely blamed for disrupting the local economy, at least by the colonials and at least as far as visiting photographers and film-makers were concerned. The story goes that the production unit wanted footage of a particularly impressive East African tribal chief, and offered him the sum of £40 pounds for the privilege. That amount was many, many times the going rate, and the local people immediately realized that they had been getting ripped off for years. MGM set the new price; even twenty years later Masai and Samburu warriors were often demanding as much as £1 for a still photo, and the colonials were still complaining about it.

A remake of TRADER HORN was made in 1973. Starring Rod Taylor and Anne Heywood, it was so bad that the studio almost canceled its release. It is particularly remarkable for Taylor's performance as an Englishman; judging from his accent he was born in a quaint English cottage on the South Side of Chicago.
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Try to put yourself in the place of a 1931 viewer...
calvinnme2 January 2010
...and you can see why this film caught the attention of the Academy at the time. For the same reasons that viewing live musical performances from 1970's TV don't excite in the age of the Ipod, anyone who views this from the perspective of someone who has 24/7 access to Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel won't get what the big deal is of seeing Africa's wildlife on film. From today's standards, the wildlife isn't even that clearly photographed. In 1931, though, most people had never seen such sights.

When I first saw the year this film was made and that it was a startling 123 minutes long for a film made in the early 30's, I somewhat suspected I was going to be subject to some preposterous maudlin melodrama in the MGM tradition that went on forever, but it is packed with action and has a very good story. The story involves seasoned African adventurer Aloysius "Trader" Horn (Harry Carey) taking Peru (Duncan Renaldo), 23 year-old son of an old friend, on his first big adventure into Africa. Along the way they run into a missionary, also a friend of Horn. She has been preaching among the natives and seeking the daughter that was stolen from her by the natives for twenty years. Soon thereafter, Horn and Peru are captured by a group of natives led by a young white woman - presumed to be the daughter of the missionary woman. Horn, Peru, and their native gun bearer are slated for a horrible execution by the natives unless the young white girl intercedes on their behalf. If she does will the other natives even listen? And if they do listen, how will our protagonists get back to the closest trading post without their guns, which have been confiscated by their captors? Some of the language tossed around, such as Trader Horn calling the African villagers "monkeys" will likely cause you to cringe, but - again - you must remember this dialog is a product of its time. The film did show a surprising and touching camaraderie between Horn and his native gun bearer, Rencharo.

Also note the precode element in this film. Native women are plainly shot unclothed from the waist up, which is probably very much based in reality. If this film had been made five years later that would not have happened. Of course, even in the precode era, this might be OK for the native "savages" but not for the grown white girl raised by them. She has a kind of make-shift fur top on that still shows a great deal, but not everything.

The film elements on this one are somewhat shaggy, the contrast is poor, and it cries out for restoration. In spite of all of this, I still recommend it to fans of this era of film-making as a unique cinematic experience.
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A wonderful, exciting, evocative antique
Mike-7541 June 1999
The first full-length movie ever filmed on location, this African adventure features exceptional wildlife footage, and a nice acting job by Harry Carey. True, it's an antique -- but it's a wonderful, exciting, beautifully-photographed antique, with a wonderful use of the language.
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Perhaps the best of the jungle films
lamorak132 January 2013
I took a chance on this with a purchase from one of the internet companies manufacturing DVDs from long out of print movie sources. This is a leisurely black and white film of two hours that peaked my interest on several occasions and kept me watching, avidly, for the entire course. The cast is great, with Carey playing a tough hunter-trader who nevertheless displays his tender moments as well. Renaldo, apparently a Romanian at birth, later became the Cisco Kid star of the television serial, plays a likable young man. The lovely Booth, who first appears as little more than a blonde animal, slowly begins to get in touch with her feminine side as the movie progresses. I liked these people along with the stoic and dependable gun-bearer. Filmed over seven months in just the right locations in Africa, the crew was plagued by the hostile elements: Booth became extremely ill as a consequence, and two extras actually died, one to a crocodile and the other to a charging rhinoceros. The movie therefore touched me personally and brought back old memories. In 1978 at the age of 23, the same age that Renaldo plays in the movie, I spent six months in Africa, first crossing the Sahara north to south, then from north Nigeria into Chad and into the Cameroon, Central African Empire, Zaire, and out through Uganda into Kenya. Judging from my experience, I believe that much of the film took place in the Cameroon, Central African Empire and northeastern Zaire (Congo). My troubles were not with marauding tribesmen, but with killer bees, various revolutions, sundry criminals, millions of army ants, bad water, and scorpions, etc. I personally attest that these are real Africans, real African villages, real animals, and this authenticity, including the native drums, brought me back to my youth and life living on the ground in a small tent through similar villages and terrain. Three exciting phases in the film hit me hard: all while in the native villages. When you are vastly outnumbered on somebody else's terrain and they are armed with spears and growing excited from the relentless throb of the drums, you might count your life in seconds. Ah, but it beats dying slowly behind a desk! You will flinch at several of the racist words in this film, but will also recognize the love and respect between Carey and his gun-bearer. Such emotions come easy between men who have each other's backs. Grab this film and sit back and enjoy without distraction!
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Resonant 19th Century Boys' Adventure.
tjonasgreen24 February 2005
The comments of Ron Oliver and marcslope are interesting and informative and yet what occurs to me is that this antique with all its racist assumptions about the violence and mystery of 'the dark continent' is a relic of late 19th-century Boys' Adventure fiction. These stories by H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs (as well as dozens of others now forgotten) seem to have had a surprising and lasting life in early talking pictures: TARZAN, THE GREEN GODDESS, SHE and countless serials all featured these mythic adventurers, forgotten white gods and goddesses and black 'savages,' both noble and blood-thirsty. Seeing TRADER HORN reveals that it was among the first and most influential of these movies, so it's unfortunate that it is so little known today.

That's no doubt due to its casual racism as well as the pre-code nudity on the part of the African women filmed on location. But TRADER HORN's naiveté and breath-taking political incorrectness make it a rather fascinating primitive. There are other marks against it: an overlong running time, too-leisurely pacing, wild-life photography that is often dull or (in the case of the slaughter of a rhino and a lion) sickening.

But on the plus side: Harry Carey's direct, natural and gruff performance has been noted by others. I was far more interested in Duncan Renaldo and Edwina Booth. Renaldo was so personable and extraordinarily handsome -- he looked like a prettier Don Ameche and from certain angles seems a dead ringer for a black-haired Brad Pitt -- that I was astonished to have never heard of him. He was certainly no great actor, and yet he had a definite physical presence and was highly photogenic. His Hispanic accent must have been the primary impediment to a career in 'A' pictures. The (in some ways) legendary Edwina Booth turns out to have had a strong facial resemblance to Marlene Dietrich, and like Dietrich she's not a very expressive actress. And yet she throws herself wholeheartedly into her portrait of a wild, willful and childish White Goddess, spitting out all of her dialog in unintelligible movie African. It's camp for sure, but also a gutsy performance.

And the scene in which Carey and Renaldo first meet Booth is memorable: after appearing in their hut wearing only a monkey fur bikini (and showing the kind of long, lean, cut body that contemporary taste demands) she proceeds to have a shrieking tantrum while flogging every African in sight. When confronted by the gorgeous Renaldo, she proceeds to whip him as well (in a scene that obviously inspired a similar one in Clara Bow's CALL HER SAVAGE a year later) while he simply smolders and hardens and she becomes aroused. It is a provocative scene of real sexual tension and something of a revelation.

A bigger one is the fact that in plot and iconography TRADER HORN was an obvious influence on the far more famous and evocative KING KONG. Having grown up with Kong and Fay Wray I was shocked to be watching TRADER HORN for the first time only to note that Carey begot Robert Armstrong as Booth begot Fay Wray and Renaldo begot Bruce Cabot. Such are the random ways that imitation can sometimes unintentionally inspire great folk art.
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Some weird ideas about this great flick and its era
sanlyn18 February 2008
I note a number of misconceptions about this great old flick, or maybe some viewers are missing a few things. Sure, Harry Carey refers to some of the tribes-people herein as savages. But, look, on a daily basis they will kill you, cook you, shrink your head, and eat what's left. If that isn't savage, I'd like to know what is. The tribes-people pictured here aren't the Dead End Kids waiting for a weekly visit from their case worker. Yes, Carey refers to his man Friday as a black so-and-so, but the so-and-so comes off looking highly noble in the script, and Carey pays him due tribute. As for Carey playing the part of a hardened Congo guide, he does a mighty fine job of rendering a realistic character, just as would John Wayne, Charleton Heston, or Clint Eastwood. In the War on Poverty days I could see some misguided soul casting Anthony Perkins in the role, but it seems to me Mr. Carey does a superb job. Another reviewer remarked Carey falls in love with the rescued captive; I disagree. Carey had pledged to protect her and return her to civilization. One person from whom he tries to protect her is the naive, erotically smitten Duncan Renaldo ("Peru"), whose character is the opposite of Trader Horn's. Trader Horn knows what's out there and what to watch for; Peru is a total newbie whose missteps could get everyone killed and cooked, including himself. I think this film's characters, story, and production handily outdo any jungle flick made since then. Kinda scary, too. So scary, in fact, and so real, I wouldn't recommend it for the kiddies. Revisionist historians stay clear; in 1931, this is really what Darkest Africa was like.
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Sets the African Adventure Standard
grandpagbm3 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Trader Horn seems to have set a precedent for later African adventure movies. It introduces the African adventurer (not a hunter or explorer in this movie, but a trader). There are very typical scenes: alligators and hippos in the rivers and lakes; herds of wildlife stampeding; beautiful distant vistas; teeming jungle and swamps; loud waterfalls; variety of African tribes; tribal drums, dances, daily life, and weapons; natives torturing and killing other natives; a paddle-wheel riverboat; native "chief gun bearer" and porters; predator/prey kills; and the shooting of animals to protect the adventurers. It includes a reverse-Tarzan storyline, with a female white person abducted as a child by natives, who later becomes a sort of tribal queen, but is "rescued" by the adventurers and returned to civilization. Graphic scenes include shooting and killing two rhinos and watching lions and leopards killing prey. A considerable amount of the film is devoted to scenes of wildlife, with descriptions of the common names of the animals and something of interest about each type, which is much like a documentary. Most other African adventure movies seem to have borrowed ideas and scenes from this movie.

Something that interests me about this film is that the primary supporting role is played by Duncan Renaldo, when he was a very young actor. About 25 years later, he became a very popular western hero on television, starring in the half-hour weekly show The Cisco Kid.
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Excellent Location and Story
dukeb0y24 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
TRADER HORN, 1931 is quite an adventure story. I just watched it on TMC, and it sure deserves a digital clean up. The quality of the print had faded over the years, but the excitement has not.

Being a 'pre-code' movie, we have some strong scenes. For example, the two whites and one native are about to be crucified, upside down, till the White Goddess steps in to save them. That would get an 'R' rating today! Vintage footage of Natives and wildlife in Africa, is very real, because it was filmed there. And the 'National Geographic' style topless natives are there too.

Toward the end, the white adventurer, saves his wounded native helper, and carries him away from danger. I mention this because I don't think we would see this in an American film in the 1930s. Also we see the native looking back, like a spirit, up in the clouds, near the end. Interesting movie.

I would like to see this film restored.
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In the heart of Africa gin and quinine gets them through
bkoganbing2 July 2012
I don't think any film that managed to finish its shooting schedule and be released ever had as much problems as Trader Horn. So much so that for 20 years no American film company ever went back to Africa for location shooting until The African Queen and King Solomon's Mines. But so much footage survived that MGM was able to stock a series of Tarzan films and not put its players at risk the way Harry Carey, Duncan Renaldo and Edwina Booth were.

The plot is a skimpy one. Carey is your basic white hunter who is taking along a young friend Renaldo into some unexplored country in search of missionary Olive Carey's daughter. When they find her she's now the princess of a savage tribe. But one look at these two, especially Renaldo, makes her realize there are others who look like her. After that it's the three of them plus Carey's gunbearer on the run from the tribe and without weapons in the jungle.

While American companies avoided Africa, colonial powers like Great Britain shot films in Africa and did it because they knew what the hazards were and took precautions. The goring of a young native by a rhinoceros is real and captured on film and frightening. Director Woody Van Dyke kept his cast and crew loaded with gin and quinine. It still did not save Edwina Booth from a rare tropical disease which many thought killed her. I've always believed that was a deliberate publicity stunt by MGM because Ms. Booth was through with show business after this shoot. Who could blame her?

The first half of the film is a travelogue on safari. At the time this was great stuff for the American movie-going public. Still no studio wanted to face the expenses MGM had during Trader Horn's shooting.
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An Antique Worth Collecting
dougdoepke21 February 2011
As sheer entertainment, the movie more than succeeds. Sure, the storyline seems familiar— intrepid white men leading safari to rescue white girl amid wilds of untamed Africa. But check out all the great vistas and teeming wildlife, even if the beasts-in-combat was filmed later in Mexico-- evidently the Africa end of the production was as much an ordeal as the storyline itself (IMDB).

Carey is convincing as the chief trader. He's got a way of tossing off dialog as though he's just thought of it, and his Trader Horn remains a commanding figure throughout. Booth is almost scary as the tribal white girl, twisting her angular features into grotesque shapes that few Hollywood glamour girls would dare risk. However, the make-up man feminizes Renaldo with enough eyeliner to embarrass Estee Lauder. I realize he needs to be attractive enough to turn the white goddess around, but in the process he's been made pretty rather than safari handsome.

One thing to note is the centrality of sound to the drama. The roar of that spectacular waterfall impresses, as do the native drums and tribal hubbub. Perhaps the sound track is heightened because of the newness of the technology (1927), but it does add a lot.

As a Third World document, however, the movie's very much a creature of its time—the casual slurs, the butt-kicking, the girl's sudden preference for the white world. Such racial assumptions shouldn't be surprising given the time period; at the same time, the rich spectacle remains, including that inspired final shot. All in all and despite the drawbacks, this influential antique remains worth catching up with.
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A parade of exotic animals
Michael Bo8 May 2005
'Trader Horn' is screen history. It influenced the evolution of the adventure epic immensely and was a direct inspiration for director W.S. Van Dyke's own effort from the year after, the first Tarzan movie with Johnny Weissmuller. 'Tarzan the Ape Man' is not among the best of the Weissmuller Tarzans, nor can I say of 'Trader Horn' that in itself it is a great movie by any standards.

Trader Horn is an experienced trader on the African savannas, and takes his young sidekick Peru on an extended journey to show him the wildlife and the fauna of his home in the wild. After being caught by a hostile tribe they escape with a white young girl who was abducted when she was a baby, and both Trader Horn and Peru fall in love with her.

Yes, it is very simplistic, no more than a pitch for a cartoon really. Trader's education of his young protegé is much too didactic to bring any kind of life into any work of fiction, but we do get to see a lot of exotic animals, which in 1931 would have been more than enough point. The film overall is brought down by Harry Carey's strangely unsympathetic portrayal of Trader. It is not so much his racism, that was a given in Western movies at the time, no escaping it, but Carey's Trader is sullen and mean-spirited and condescending to each and everybody, you tire of him quickly. And I got very severely fed up with his way of always addressing Peru as 'lad' or 'boy' in this fake Irish accent. Peru, played by dazzling young Spanish actor Duncan Renaldo, is nothing if not sweet, transcending matiné-idol cuteness, and you forgive him his delighted outburst, "They are not savages, they are just happy, ignorant children!" So watch it and appreciate its historical impact. Just don't expect a serious contender to any of the later and infinitely better adventure yarns.

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A Ride To The Dark Side...A Walk On The Wild Side
LeonLouisRicci29 July 2012
In the opening credits it states "dedicated to the White hunters" and they all have Esq. after their names. Fair enough. But, no mention of the natives at all. Not one name or Tribe or even an acknowledgment of their existence in the film. Seeing that the tribesmen are on screen 90% of the time, it seems a bit odd. Or maybe not.

It is striking to see the natives in full display. There are cornrows, face piercing, tattoos, and fully exposed female breasts. There is even a "soul" handshake. All for your perusal for the price of a ticket. But no screen credit, as if they were somehow animated props.

Racism and the dehumanization of the native people as a standard practice in Hollywood (and society) in 1931 was the status quo. So we will leave it at that.

The film itself is quite a remarkable achievement. It is the granddaddy of jungle pictures and enjoyable today. There are incredible shots of wildlife and white life in contrast. A Caucasian woman raised by the natives and "rescued" by our heroes, cannibals, pygmies, love and death laid out against a tapestry of a beautiful virgin landscape.

We moderns have lost our wonder and awe for this type of thing, but one could imagine audiences in 1931 completely enjoying this walk on the wild side guilty pleasure and relishing a ride to dark side.
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An amazing 1930 photographic encapsulation of remote areas of Africa
Bill Rindone26 March 2014
With a background spanning over twenty years in the African bush during the 60's, 70's and 80's I am amazed at the locations used for filming. In 1930 (film released in '31) the areas used were very remote and still are over eighty years later.

Part of the film was shot on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika along with another in the interior of Uganda. The Pygmy (Efe) segment is from the Ituri Forest in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and besides being very remote and hazardous was, and still is, an unhealthy area. As recent as 2003, marauding rebels were seizing Pygmy hunters and eating them according to the U.N.

Uganda, Tanganyika (Tanzania) and the southern Sudan were rampant with Malaria and a number of production crew fell ill with it. The Tse Fly was the bearer of Sleeping Sickness and prevalent in these areas as well as the Kenya Colony where some filming took place.

Although the plot is lacking by today's standards, the commitment to film in these areas was a major attempt to show the real Africa of its time along with footage of it's indigenous Flora and Fauna. Due to this diligence, today we have a timed photographic encapsulation of these areas available to the general public which is not readily accessible elsewhere.
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Amazing Vintage Viewing
nekengren-23 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Watch this movie for the on location footage. Yes, the plot is simple but it is enough to keep the movie progressing forward with much interest. I was fascinated with the footage of various real African tribes. Lots of facial closeups and extensive footage of ceremonies with dancing and drums. This very much seems the real thing and represents Africa at a more primitive early century. I felt the dread of our adventurers when they are up next as sacrifices to the tribal ceremony. I suppose if you want to see stereotyping you can, but I saw both the good and the bad exhibited by these tribes. To know that they traveled in 1930 to do all this on location is quite amazing. The wildlife footage is the main focus of our films beginning. It feels very nature show but feels a different reality than the nature shows of today. The brutality of nature and of mans very real slaughter of creatures in this film may bother the squeamish. Truly ground breaking film for 1931.
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Africa Squeaks
marcslope2 April 2002
Not a good movie, exactly, but a more than watchable one, and certainly one for the 1931 time capsule. Obviously it was made under difficult conditions, for the filmmakers not only were on location in Africa but also had to haul around all that bulky new sound equipment. Under the circumstances, technically it's pretty impressive.

It's so casually racist and sexist, it might have come from another planet, not just another time and place. Showing bare-breasted native women, a la National Geographic, is no problem, since evidently they were considered subhuman; and if there's no way to convincingly fake shooting a rhino, by God, they shoot a rhino. The first half is part leisurely Wild Kingdom-style travelogue (some nice footage, though) and part exciting action pieces; the second half gets bogged down in, of all things, a conventional love triangle. At least it's a motley triangle: Harry Carey is ruggedly and unpretentiously likeable (even when spouting pronouncements like "Aye, that's Africa for ye, lad -- one man dead, two beasts dead, and none the better fer it!"); Duncan Renaldo manages to keep his lipstick and eyeshadow intact even while being pursued across the veldt by "savages"; and Edwina Booth, as the obligatory "white goddess," does some nostril-flaring and lip-snarling that would do Elsa Lanchester's Bride of Frankenstein proud.

The story of its making -- technical mishaps, drunken director, reshoots in Mexico, eventual Oscar nomination -- is hilarious, and well told on TV Guide's Movie Database.
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Through Africa With Gun and Camera.
Robert J. Maxwell23 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
W. S. ("One-Take Woody") Van Dyke assembled one of those movies about two intrepid white men (Carey and Renaldo) trekking through the bush in search of a lost missionary's daughter. Whether or not they find her, and under what circumstances, I leave to the viewer's guess. Carey is the savvy white explorer and Renaldo is the handsome young novice, whom Carey calls "Laddie." It's not as racist as one might expect from a 1931 movie, and much of the spectacular footage was shot in Kenya and the Congo. The movie takes a reasonably sensible attitude towards "the beasts" they encounter too, though they chuckled as they shoot and kill crocodiles on the banks of the river. "You just wounded him," chides Carey, good-naturedly.

As far as I could tell, they got the names of the beasts right -- gnus vs wildebeests; the black panther being a melanistic leopard -- and the tribal names too -- Masai and Kikuyu. (Remember the Mau Mau? They were mostly Kikuyu.) It had been nine years since "Nanook of the North" made a splash, and this splash is bigger and has stars with names, and they don't look like Nanook and his pals. But it's all old hat by now.

The film must have gone over big with audiences in 1931. They got not only rhinoceroses but Duncan Renaldo is a pith helmet the size of a rain barrel and the configuration of a flying saucer.
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Murky B&W wildlife footage and overlong safari story...
Neil Doyle24 March 2008
TRADER HORN is somewhat of an endurance test to watch. The first hour is a compilation of animal wildlife footage filmed entirely on "The Dark Continent", which looks even darker in the murky B&W cinematography on display here.

The plot doesn't pick up until the first hour is over, thanks to the entry of EDWINA BOOTH, a white woman who seems like a threat to both Trader Horn (HARRY CAREY) and his young hunter friend (DUNCAN RENALDO), a naive young fellow who is constantly being tutored and lectured by the grizzly older man who knows all about the jungle. But once the threat is over, she becomes a safari mate and the two men fight over protecting her as they make their way through some dangerous turf.

Most of the wildlife footage is seen at a distance and is the sort of footage that would later adorn the Johnny Weissmuller films at MGM whenever a Tarzan film needed some extra background shots. It's definitely not up to the standards that "Wild Kingdom" achieved in color film much later on.

Booth, a very beautiful woman, makes an interesting impression once she settles down to give a performance, and the men do the best they can with the material on hand. Carey seems not an ideal choice for the leading role and his character never has much warmth, but Duncan Renaldo does nicely as his sidekick, boyishly enthusiastic about every sort of adventure awaiting them.

It's an uneven film, hurt by its excessive length and the fact that there is very little plot development until the film is past the midway point--and even then, it ambles slowly toward a sluggish conclusion.

The crew deserves praise for putting up with six months of the shooting schedule in darkest Africa, but it's doubtful that today's viewers will be satisfied with the slow moving tale burdened by dark, murky looking photography.

As is often the case with movies from this era, there is no background music at all on the soundtrack except for the opening title credits.
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Wow, how times have changed!
MartinHafer27 October 2013
young Renaldo some of the integration of clips is poor--wrong size/perspective bare breasts, animal violence--pre-code staged actual animal fights in Mexico! animal cruelty you black ape... monkeys Naked Prey

"Trader Horn" is a very good film, but it's also a monstrous film--a very strange combination. I noticed that I my wife and I watched it, she was terrified and even angered several times--mostly because the filmmakers were so darned irresponsible in the way they treated the animals (and even cast members!).

The film begins with Horn (Harry Carey) and Peru (Duncan Renaldo) trekking through Africa with their porters and Horn's assistant, Rencharo (Mutia Omoolu). They are looking to trade salt and trinkets to the locals for ivory and furs. But, instead of taking advantage of the naiveté of these tribesmen, the tables end up getting turned on them. Despite Horn's experience on the Continent, he's finally out of his league--among incredibly hostile natives who seem bent on killing them all. In an odd twist, they meet up with a savage white woman living among these locals and they take 'Nina' with them on a cross-country run from these hostile warriors. This portion of the film is highly reminiscent of the later film "The Naked Prey" (with Cornel Wilde).

While the film is exciting and has a lot of great action location sequences, the film also is very tough to watch. Because the film was made in the Pre-Code era (where rules about film content were rarely enforced), the film is amazingly violent. In fact, MGM didn't like the final product, so they took a bunch of animals (probably from circuses or zoos) to Mexico and had them kill each other or killed them outright and stuck this into the movie!! There was no PETA or American Humane Association to oversee the project and it is tough watching animals actually die. In particular, there is a scene where a lion is impaled on a spear and it appears that they really did this for the entertainment of the audiences! Uggh. Additionally, being a Pre-Code piece, Nina spends much of the movie wearing very little--and all the native women are topless--which was not a problem in 1931. However, with the toughened Production Code of 1934, this film would have been heavily edited to be shown in the States or not at all. Because of all this, it's a film you definitely cannot ignore!! Exciting location shots, lots of action and a bit of trash--all make for a very exciting but unsavory film.
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SanteeFats24 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This movie took six months on site(s) in Africa. That was about three times the usual for the time. Upon return to the States some of the film was deemed unusable. So a crew went to Mexico and re-shot some scenes. Edwina Booth plays Nina, lost daughter of white missionaries. She is queen of an African tribe when she is found. To me she looked scared the whole time she played the queen but I think she was suppose to be looking savage and mean. While she runs around almost nude the entire time she is on screen there is nothing that shows. This was a ground breaking role for her and it also was basically the end of her career. She contracted malaria and it took her six years to recover. By then she had been all but forgotten. Harry Carey is the experienced, older white hunter who is chaperoning the son of an old friend around. Captured by Nina's tribe, all the bearers are tortured, killed and I guess eaten. When it becomes their turn Nina saves the two whites and their gun bearer. They escape with the girl and lead all on a merry chase. Then Carey separates from the pair to lead the trackers away. The end of the movie has Carey starting out on an expedition to find the two but just as he is leaving they show up. Filmed in 1931 when animals were shot or otherwise miss treated for movie scenes there are several times when this appears to happen here. The rhinos that shot and killed, the lions and leopards that attack the other animals were reportedly starved so they would attack. I don't think a lion who was not starving would go after a warthog, they are very formidable opponents. While did not care for the needless killings and such this is not a bad movie for 1931.
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Cultural Oddity
Russell Claus3 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this film from the perspective of 2010, this viewer at least could not but help marvel at the unintended comedy of this "adventure" film. For the sake of argument, I'll grant that the film was one of the first to depict African wildlife to a wide audience, giving some leeway to its bland documentary style "walking through the veld" scenes (of which there are several).

Discounting that, we are still left with quite a few minutes of running time. What fills those minutes? This movie hits the trifecta: racism, sexism, and homo eroticism.

1. Trader Horn spews racist epithets like 'boy' and 'monkey' at every turn, while Peru refers to the Africans as children. Not quite as offensive as virulent stateside racism, but equally as clueless.

2. The movie is laughably sexist as well portraying the White Goddess, although having lived in Africa nearly her entire life and is apparently a figure of authority, as completely useless. Worse than useless actually because Trader Horn and Peru alternate between carrying her and saving her, while she makes kissy faces to Peru. They should have left her in Africa and saved themselves the headache.

It should be noted that the White Goddess apparently never goes outside either because although she runs around in a bikini, she has no tan or sunburn, but rather white as a maiden.

3. Finally, we have the single most hilarious aspect of the film, the homo erotic subtext between Trader Horn and his Spanish boytoy Peru played by Duncan Renaldo. Horn and Peru spend the first half of the film holding hands and sweet-talking each other (I'm not exaggerating here) until the useless white chick shows up. The story would have been more interesting if Horn got upset with the white chick for upsetting Horn and Peru's relationship, but Horn apparently decides to give a token effort at appearing heterosexual.

Besides, Horn has his other boytoy, Ranchero, his native gun-carrier to fawn over. It truly is sad when Ranchero bites it at the end. Peru and the useless white chick leave, leaving Horn all alone in darkest Africa. What's a repressed homosexual to do in a continent where the men run around half-naked all day and jump at your every beck and call. I'm sure Horn will survive somehow.

The final shots of the White Goddess sailing away are apparently supposed to be uplifting: the brave European men rescuing one of their wayward daughters from the clutches of Africa, but frankly it was depressing. You just know she's going to be forced into ill-fitted dresses and made to sip tea and clutch her pearls at the blandest of offenses. They're shipping her off to slavery and she doesn't even know it. Imagine all those depressing scenes of Pocahontas after she has been taken to England from The New World - that's this woman's fate.

Great message for the girls. Be a strong-willed and independent until you meet a man. Then do what he tells you.

Although I absolutely loathed this movie and everything it stands for, a zebra does head butt a lion. For that I give this a gracious 4/10.
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When the drums play JUJU, or the most realistic film of adventures ever filmed (probably)
pacolopezpersonal-220572 October 2017
This magnificent adventure filmed in 1931 continues amazing to us in 2017. A masterpiece that any lover of the genre should not miss. In spite of the problems and tragic events that occurred during the filming, the movie could finally successfully be finished constituting itself a great economic success of box office, we can say that whoever would watch it once, is sure to repeat and therefore will include this movie into the list of favorite films, the action and the emotion does not decay throughout the film and when it does is to make room for wonderful scenes of animals and jungle constituting itself a nice documentary in parallel to the main plot; besides must be highlighted those scenes corresponding to the savage tribes of extraordinary realism. The feminine touch reminds excessively to the mute cinema but is a sample of the charm of the previous stage
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Needed A Different Cast
David_Brown5 July 2012
This is a very strange film. It gets 10 of 10 for the photography and the shot of the cat being killed (That scene did not look staged), but about 1 star for the characters. None of these them really did anything for me (Liked or disliked), and I think it goes back to the actors involved. If MGM would have chosen actors like John Barrymore or Walace Beery instead of Harry Carey as Horn, Gable (Instead of Duncan Renaldo ("The Cisco Kid)) as Peru. Finally, last but certainly not least, Myrna Loy (Who has played unusual characters like Fu Manchu's daughter (Fah Lo See) in the "Mask of Fu Manchu" or Ursula Georgi in "13 Women"), instead of Edwina Booth, although hot to look at (You can actually see her very nice breasts in one scene) she is not Myrna in the acting department. With actors like these (Except Barrymore, all of whom were at MGM at the time), you could have had a classic like "King Kong", instead, you have a disappointment.
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