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This is the umpteenth version of the gorgeous damsel in distress(Fleming) whose valuable banana plantation is coveted by a villain .But fortunately a raider (Reagan)comes to her rescue. This is conventional to a fault,a weak adventure story padded out with a lot of exotic dances ,all performed by a brunette who's "crazy about" the hero and thus is jealous of Fleming.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the hysterically campy conclusion of this Technicolor romp, you half
expect Carmen Miranda to pop out among the thousands of bananas being
marched down to the docks in a procession which seems to have
influenced Cecil B. DeMille's method of having the Hebrews leaving
Egypt in "The Ten Commandments". Ronald Reagan believes himself to be
wanted on the mainland for a crime he didn't commit and is hiding out
on this Caribbean Island where all of the natives are Hispanic, not one
black among them. He becomes the foreman for Rhonda Fleming's banana
plantation, making an enemy out of her drunken former foreman (Grant
Withers, aka the final Charlie Chan) and the ruthless buyer (John
Wengraf) out to take over all of the island's plantations. Then,
there's Estelita Rodriguez, the pint-sized Mexican spitfire in love
with Reagan who has an initially polite rivalry with Fleming over her
desire to monopolize Reagan's time and Noah Beery Jr. as the very
cheery side-kick in love with Rodriguez himself. Rodriguez gets to sing
a few sultry numbers and devours each of her lines as if it was the
biggest banana split she could get her claws on.
A delightful adventure in the Jon Hall/Maria Montez vein, you might confuse this as an unofficial remake of Warner Brothers' "Torrid Zone" which dealt with the same subject. However, other than bananas and villains, the two share nothing in common, but are both tremendously entertaining. Fleming, a beauty who could pass as Maureen O'Hara's twin, isn't as feisty as her look-alike, but don't underestimate this red-head. She's a worthy match for any man and a fantastic business woman here to boot, showing that women business owners can do more than run beauty companies. Reagan is light-hearted and charming, even if his character at first seems a bit amoral. If you're lucky enough to land a copy of this, you might want to consider keeping it, because you'll want to re-visit it over and over as a forgotten treasure of camp where the characters are as bananas as the fruit they pick.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
According to the Citadel Film series book The Films Of Ronald Reagan,
the Gipper signed with Pine-Thomas productions to do this film because
of the fact they gave him his first starring western. Reagan was a fine
horseman and would love to have made a few westerns when he was in his
salad days at Warner Brothers. But Jack Warner other than in Santa Fe
Trail wouldn't put him in them. Pine-Thomas who did the B pictures at
Paramount put Reagan in The Last Outpost and it became a favorite film
of his. And there wasn't too much out there available when the studios
started letting go of their contract players.
The book characterizes Tropic Zone as a western with a tropic setting. Reagan plays a two fisted adventurer who got on the wrong side of a revolution in one Central American country and had to flee to another without passport. A fact that villain John Weingraf holds over him. Rhonda Fleming who owns a banana plantation needs a strong foreman to replace the drunken Grant Withers and Reagan fills the bill and in other ways as well even though Estelita Rodriguez has her eye on him.
Watching the film I suddenly remembered where I had seen this plot before and it was in a John Wayne western War Of The Wildcats. There instead of bananas it was oil as Wayne led a caravan just like Reagan does here to meet a deadline and get a contract for Fleming and not incidentally to get Fleming.
Estelita Rodriguez sings both a Spanish and English version of the Jay Livingston-Ray Evans song I'll Always Love You that Dean Martin introduced in My Friend Irma Goes West. I kind of prefer what Dino did with the song.
As Reagan and Fleming had similar politics the two must have gotten along fabulously. In fact she was his leading lady in several films of the Fifties.
Tropic Zone began his career as an independent player. His films after this were competent enough, but mostly routine and this is no exception.
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