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Ellen Burton arrives in Africa to join Dr. Mary as her nurse, bringing modern medicine to the native peoples. Lonni Douglas, an animal wrangler and fortune hunter, agrees to take her upriver, despite his misgivings about her suitability for Africa. They battle escaped gorillas, hostile natives, infected lion wounds, and hostile witch doctors to reach their destination and on the way, they fall in love. Will their contrasting interests doom their romance? Written by
James Callan <email@example.com>
Susan Hayward plays a missionary nurse sent to Africa to help a female doctor with a jungle hospital. Robert Mitchum is a wild game trapper and partner of Walter Slezak in seeking gold in the pre-World War I Belgian Congo. They escort her to the hospital as a pretext to search for gold rumored to be with a not very friendly tribe.
Politics is touched upon ever so briefly in this film. If it were made today the film would be a lot more explicit about the holocaust that was the Belgian Congo. Slezak makes a remark to Mitchum during the beginning of the film saying that they have to move fast since the Belgian government was taking over the running of the Congo. Just before World War I that is what happened. Up to that point the Congo colony was PRIVATELY run for King Leopold with no responsibility to anyone, but the king. Slezak's concern was that law and order was coming to the Congo.
The King had died around that time and reports about atrocities committed in the Congo by Leopold's hired help were shocking the civilized world. As well it should have been shocked. Torture, murder, maimings were routine occurrences. The report was put together by Roger Casement who later was executed for treason for his support of Irish freedom. The Bakuba tribe where this gold was allegedly from had real good reason to fear white folks at that time.
The American cinema had grown up post World War II as far as it's treatment of Africa. We Americans were a pathetically ignorant group about Africa and in many respects we still are. Our ideas about Africa came from Tarzan movies. But MGM gave us King Solomon's Mines and UA gave us The African Queen and we finally saw the real Africa.
The female missionary role was old hat by now. But Hayward is a nurse, not a psalm singer like Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen. Africa and the Belgian Congo in particular needed more of her kind and less of Hepburn's.
Mitchum is good as the cynical hero who is won over by the love of a good woman. Walter Slezak plays another of his patent brand of shrewd villains. Slezak was always good, and when he was a villain he was never a stupid one.
It's not as good as African Queen or Kings Solomon's Mines. Rates right up there with Mogambo though. Susan Hayward would return to Africa in Untamed and Mitchum would explore the jungle again in Mister Moses.
I wish the film could be done today with the politics more fully examined, but for the Fifties this was a step in the right direction.
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