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White Witch Doctor (1953)

Approved | | Adventure | 1 July 1953 (USA)
In 1907, a nurse arrives in the Belgian Congo to work for a missionary doctor but meets a grumpy animal hunter who secretly plans to search for gold in the dangerous Bakuba tribal region.

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Ellen Burton
...
John 'Lonni' Douglas
...
Huysman
Mashood Ajala ...
Jacques
Joseph C. Narcisse ...
Utembo
Elzie Emanuel ...
Kapuka
...
Jarrett
Otis Greene ...
Bakuba boy
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Storyline

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 <james@oz.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The story of a woman who followed a dream to the end of the earth ... and found a love that will live to the end of time !

Genres:

Adventure

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 July 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

De witte tovenares  »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,020,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filmed in california See more »

Quotes

John 'Lonni' Douglas: We leave at dawn.
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User Reviews

 
Apocalypse Then
22 January 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Lonni Douglas (Robert Mitchum) is a trapper working in Africa around the turn of the 20th Century. He captures large, exotic animals that he then sells to zoos around the world. His partner, Huysman (Walter Slezak), who is more the type to stay in the "office" and supervise, has an ulterior motive--he believes there is gold in "them thar" hills. So Douglas has been searching for the gold for years. There is only one place left to look--a remote area far up the Congo, inhabited by a tribe hostile to white men. When nurse Ellen Burton (Susan Hayward) arrives as an assistant for a doctor in a village neighboring the remote one, however, Huysman sees it as the perfect opportunity, with a benevolent "false front" presented to the tribes-people, for Douglas to take her up the Congo and search for the source of the gold.

Based on a novel by Louise A. Stinetorf, director Henry Hathaway and screenwriters Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts created a genre-spanning feast for the eyes, ears and mind in White Witch Doctor. The film combines adventure, suspense, romance, drama, intentional and unintentional humor, and an almost documentary-like travelogue through Africa.

The Technicolor cinematography is fantastic, and a great choice as we are treated to various African cultures in traditional dress, occasionally performing traditional dances and other ceremonies, throughout the film. I don't know a lot of background information on the film, but I would bet that some shots were filmed as documentary material in Africa. Possibly, some was stock footage.

But the heart of the film is Douglas, his relationship to Burton, and an often subtle, mostly subtextual commentary on a clash of cultures, which was far ahead of its time. Both Mitchum an Hayward are fabulous, with Mitchum occasionally approaching an enjoyable camp in his macho swagger and Hayward, in the context of the film and its characters, showing an also ahead-of-its-time underlying strength, intelligence and independence beneath her more stereotypical initial appearance as a beautiful but dependent woman. The script has an effective combination of serious drama with the difficulties of dealing with different cultures as well as a light playfulness.

This is a little-known gem of a film that deserves a serious first or second look. A 10 out of 10 from me.


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