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Alfred E. Green
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
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
At one point we see Verne (Clark Gable) escape by jumping out a window into the water. A short while later, on land, he pulls a bible out from inside his shirt to check a map printed inside. As he flips through the pages of the bible, there is no sign whatsoever that this book got wet. This bible - which he carried unprotected - should have shown obvious signs of water immersion (damp edges, soggy paper, etc.) but it appears to be perfectly dry. See more »
[first title card]
Deep in the Guianas... a penal colony for men set aside to be forgotten by the world they live in ~~ for men to whom the present, the future and the past are one ~~~~ for men without hope...
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The Strange Cargo referred to in the title is in the person of Ian Hunter who is a mysterious other world convict who comes upon a group of them planning to escape from Devil's Island. It's a strange film, Strange Cargo with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford in the very last of eight films they were paired in by MGM.
Crawford dusts off her Sadie Thompson role for her character here. Even with the Code firmly in place it's rather obvious that Crawford is a working girl. She's free, but stranded on that notorious convict island. Gable is essentially the same cynical tough guy he played in so many MGM features at that time.
Ian Hunter is the mysterious stranger among them. These aren't a group of choir boys he comes among. Yet one by one as they die he brings a peace that passeth all understanding as the Good Book says. The escapees all don't die, but all but one come under his influence.
I'm surprised that TCM did choose this one for its theme this June of gays in the cinema. Prison films even during the days of the Code were a bit more open in treatment of homosexuality. The relationship of Albert Dekker and young John Arledge is rather obvious. Dekker in fact chooses a gruesome suicide rather than live without Arledge after he dies.
In fact what's really startling to me was that the heavenly figure that Ian Hunter represents neither condemns suicide or homosexuality. I'm really wondering how the censors of the day let that one slip through.
Paul Lukas has a very interesting part. He's today what we would consider a serial killer, he's married and killed many women for their money. He's cool and cynical and rejects Hunter's entreaties. When Hunter says they will never meet again, the line is loaded with implications.
Strange Cargo is a strange film. It's not bad, but could have been a lot better without code restrictions.
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