Strange Cargo (1940)

Passed  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  1 March 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,473 users  
Reviews: 38 user | 19 critic

Convicts escaping from Devil's Island come under the influence of a strange Christ-like figure.



(screen play), (based on the book "Not Too Narrow... Not Too Deep" by), 3 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
J. Edward Bromberg ...
Eduardo Ciannelli ...
Frederick Worlock ...
Grideau (as Frederic Worlock)
Bernard Nedell ...
Victor Varconi ...


Verne wants nothing more than to escape from a penal colony located off the northern coast of South America. He tries to involve Julie, a saloon girl, in his plans but she turns him in to the authorities. On Verne's next try, he piggybacks on the escape of six other convicts and runs into Julie again in the process. One of the convicts is a spiritual figure who seems to know what will happen before anyone else. The group attempts to travel through the jungle, board a boat, and make it to the mainland. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 March 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Not Too Deep  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,252,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Although Crawfod was top-billed on all release prints, Gable's name was first in all publicity material. This was his first film following Gone with the Wind (1939). See more »


The escapees finally reach the beach after hiking through the jungle. Their clothing, although made to look torn, shows no signs of soil despite various fist fights, plunging into quick sand, falling in water, pulling themselves from the river, and making their way through dense undergrowth - such as threadbare or torn fabric in the area of the knee or staining along the bottom leg of the trouser. See more »


Julie: Remember this Pig, you're the one man in the world I could never get low enough to touch. Now, get outta here and leave me alone!
See more »


Featured in Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

Religious Allegory Perhaps?
27 February 2005 | by (NC) – See all my reviews

I confess that I too do not entirely understand all of the message of Strange Cargo - and am not sure that whether or not that is an intentional device used to help each viewer decide meaning for himself/herself(OK, it's a stretch!). The story is simple: French prisoners in French Guyana are tired of the old prison life and routine and eventually make a break for the surrounding jungle amidst virtually no chances of success. We have a rather eclectic group: Clark Gable as arrogant as he comes as the head "Cheese" so to speak, Albert Dekker as Moll who is Gable's only real threat for supremacy, Paul Lukas as a spouse-killing German, Joan Crawford as a wise-cracking woman fallen on hard times(never quite sure whether or not it is established that she is/was a prostitute), and Ian Hunter in a strange role as some kind of super Christian and Samaritan. Aiding the cast is Peter Lorre as "Pig" who is after Crawford with a vengeful lust. The story is straightforward, but what is not is its intent. Each of these prisoners are troubled men with troubled consciences. Hunter's character is almost(or is indeed) a Christ-like figure out to ease each individual's pain and torment. Some men embrace his message prior to death, some live on with the promise of happiness, and one ignores it completely and resumes doing what he had that had gotten him into prison. I guess for me the thematically rich substrate is saying something about the importance of choice and the ease in which each of us can be forgiven if only we want to be forgiven. Director Frank Borzage does a decent job with this symbolic material. Some things might just be too ambiguous. But Borzage keeps the pacing going. Probably the most irritating thing for me was Gable's performance. His character is too pushy, too cocky, too crude to be charming, affable, or interesting at all. I didn't care what happened to him and routinely rooted against him. Joan Crawford fares much better giving a pretty nice performance with some dimension - though not much. Dekker and Lukas are very good; Lorre is good with a throwaway role. For me, Ian Hunetr gives the best, most interesting, and most likable performance as the mouthpiece of Heaven so to speak. His subtle acting really diminishes the possible heavy-handedness inherent in a role like this. Hunter plays his part in a first-rate fashion. Though certainly not one of the greatest films ever made, I found Strange Cargo a very interesting movie with a very interesting message.

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