I saw 'Smuglerne' ('Smugglers') in October 2006 at the Cinema Muto festival in Sacile, Italy, where it was screened as a print with an alternate title: 'In the Hands of the Sharkers'. This movie was made by Denmark's Nordisk studio, which had previously made a lot of krona from movies purporting to expose the white-slaver trade. White slavers, as Grandpa can tell you, were criminals who supposedly drugged and kidnapped young white women, then smuggled them to some distant bourne where they were forced to work as prostitutes. Although some criminals certainly did work this lurk (and still do, sad to say), I doubt that white slavery was ever as widespread as it was depicted to be in the sensationalist films and paperbacks of the early 20th century which purported to expose this 'traffic in flesh'.
Anyroad, the most notable thing about 'Smuglerne' is that it's basically the white-slaver mixture as before, but with a sex switch. This time, it's a handsome young man who gets abducted, and his lady fair who rushes to the rescue.
Clara Pontoppidan, billed under her married name Clara Wieth, plays Lilly Clausen, daughter of a wealthy ship-owner (Cajus Bruun). She rejects the amorous advances of a randy businessman who rejoices in the name Bang (I wonder about his sexual technique), and she rejects his wealth as well ... but then she falls in love with handsome young ship's mate Willy (Carlo Wieth, her real-life husband). So, Lilly loves Willy, and bang go Bang's bucks. Bang (of course) has a whole gang of criminals at his beck and call ... and if you expect me to tell you what to call a gang of criminals who work for a man named Bang, you're on the wrong website.
Bang rather ridiculously decides to get rid of Willy, as if that will help him get Lilly into bed. Bang follows Willy to a waterfront bar, a bucket-o'-blood joint, where Bang bribes the bartender to drug Willy. (What's the Danish for 'Mickey Finn'?) Then Bang attempts some shilly-shally to make Willy dilly-dally. Will he dilly? Will he dally?
A word about that bartender. The intertitles identify this actor as Christian Schrøder, a name that sounds authentically Danish. However, the actor is a Negro. How many black men were living in Denmark in 1913, much less working as movie actors? There was at least one white actor cried Christian Schrøder in Danish films at this time: perhaps the black actor here has been misidentified. Whoever he is, he gives a powerful and virile performance in a fight scene near the film's climax. There is also a white actress here (Agnete Blom) whose character, named Mary in the intertitles, is identified as the bartender's daughter. Since nobody in this movie explains how a black man has a white daughter, I suspect that 'Smuglerne' -- like many silent films -- was still being scripted during the title-writing stage, after all the actors' footage was in the can.
SPOILERS AHEAD. The drugged Willy is tricked into signing the seaman's articles for a ship ominously named the Octopus. Lilly disguises herself and joins forces with Mary and the kindly Chaplain Brown (Peter Nielsen) to rescue Willy willy-nilly.
Despite the huge implausibilities of this movie's plot, it has the advantage of being shot in real locations ... so I was delighted at this chance to visit Denmark in 1913 and see a real waterfront, an authentic quay and other exteriors. It's also a comparative novelty to see a film in which the heroine rescues the hero, rather than just the other way ... even more so because there's just a whiff of sexuality in the abduction of Willy. 'Smuglerne' is not believable, but it's enjoyable and fast-moving, and I'll rate it 6 out of 10.
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