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The Unholy Garden (1931)

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At a hotel in the middle of the Sahara Desert, an old man and his beautiful daughter try to keep the location of a hidden treasure from a collection of thieves and criminals staying at the ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Barrington Hunt
Camille de Jonghe
Eliza Mowbray
Warren Hymer ...
Smiley Corbin
Tully Marshall ...
Baron de Jonghe
Lawrence Grant ...
Dr. Shayne
Ullrich Haupt ...
Col. von Axt
Kit Guard ...
Kid Twist
Henry Armetta ...
Nick the Goose
Lucie Villars
Prince Nicolai Poliakoff
Henry Kolker ...
Col. Lautrac
Charles Hill Mailes ...
Alfred de Jonghe
Wilhelm von Brincken ...
Undetermined Supporting Role (scenes deleted)


At a hotel in the middle of the Sahara Desert, an old man and his beautiful daughter try to keep the location of a hidden treasure from a collection of thieves and criminals staying at the hotel who are determined to get it. A suave gentleman thief arrives at the hotel one day with his own plan to get the loot, but complications ensue when he begins to fall for the daughter. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A GREAT STAR'S GREATER ACHIEVEMENT! Here is the Colman you knew in "CONDEMNED"... The Colman who startled you in "BULLDOG DRUMMOND"... Now giving you the thrill of a lifetime in a sensational story of sinners, sirens and strange adventure.


Drama | Romance





Release Date:

28 October 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El paraíso del mal  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

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User Reviews

A pleasant surprise
24 April 2012 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

I taped THE UNHOLY GARDEN (1931) off TCM a while back and I don't remember why. I probably wanted to see Ronald Colman and Fay Wray together in what seemed like a rare pre-Code film. The tape sat on my shelf for a while before I finally decided to give it a look, and I was pleasantly surprised. This is a great little movie from the wild world of early talkies.

Colman, ever charming and sophisticated, plays an notorious international criminal who holes up in a desert inn. There he meets a cast of unsavory characters of dubious repute. When it's discovered that the cranky blind man upstairs has stashed away a fortune, Colman agrees to win over the old man and his daughter (Fay Wray) in order to locate the loot.

The motley group of thieves and murderers is played by Kit Guard, Henry Armetta, Ullrich Haupt, Mischa Auer, Lawrence Grant, and Warren Hymer. Grant in particular leaves an impression as a Vincent Price-y doctor character, the cool-headed intellectual of the group. (The brief conversation Grant has with Colman about his three dead wives is a delightful bit of black humor.) There's something about these characters in this secluded setting that reminds me of SAFE IN HELL (1931).

RAFFLES (1930) meets SAFE IN HELL (1931), perhaps?

This film has an interesting pedigree, written by the prolific Ben Hecht (UNDERWORLD, SCARFACE, THE FRONT PAGE, NOTHING SACRED, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, NOTORIOUS, KISS OF DEATH, etc.) and his frequent writing partner Charles MacArthur.

This is a quick little film (75 minutes long), and it's enjoyable all the way through. The cast (also including a sultry Estelle Taylor and Tully Marshall as the dotty old man) is full of interesting characters, all staying together at the inn.

A kind of romance blooms between Colman and Wray, who is young and lovely, but cut off from the world by her reclusive father. Colman is her window into Paris and the glamorous outside world. The film mixes romance and caper thrills while cultivating an atmosphere of danger. Certain scenes give the film a dark pre-Code edge. (In one scene Wray tells Colman what kind of life awaits her at the inn among the cutthroats. She wants to "start" with him, so she could have something nice to remember later on.)

When things start to heat up, will Colman go through with his plans to swipe the cash? Will he double-cross the gang of crooks? Will he rescue the damsel and ride off into the sunset? Will he be tracked down by the French police?

At 75 minutes, THE UNHOLY GARDEN is exciting, creepy, oddly charming, sexy, spooky, and even a little sweet. Ronald Colman is a dashing hero, even when he's playing an outlaw. Fay Wray is very lovely and sympathetic. This little-known pre-Code flick should interest any fans of early talkies. Check it out if it comes your way.

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