A veteran white trader in the darkest Africa of the 1870s mentors a younger companion on the mysteries of the Dark Continent. After meeting a missionary, they go in search of Nina, her kidnapped daughter, who was abducted by natives when she was young and now reigns over the savage tribe, regarded by them as a goddess. When the two men are captured and slated for horrible death by her people, she rescues them, and the trio flees the pursuing tribesmen through savage country.Written by
Director W.S. Van Dyke and many of the crew contracted malaria and were treated with quinine. Two fatal mishaps occurred during the African filming: a native crewman fell into the river and was eaten by a crocodile, and a native boy was killed by a charging rhino (which was captured on film and is in the movie). Other misfortunes also plagued the production, including flash floods, sunstroke, swarming locusts, and tse-tse fly and ant attacks. See more »
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is indebted to the governmental officials of The Territory of Tanganyika, The Protectorate of Uganda, The Colony of Kenya, The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, The Belgian Congo, whose co-operation made this picture possible - and to White Hunters Maj. W.V.D. Dickinson, A.S. Waller, Esq., J.H. Barnes, Esq., H.R. Stanton, Esq., for their courageous services through 14,000 miles of African veldt and jungle. See more »
Originally released with a three-minute prologue featuring Cecil B. DeMille discussing the authenticity of the film with the book's author, Alfred A. Horn. Eliminated for the 1936 re-issue. See more »
As sheer entertainment, the movie more than succeeds. Sure, the storyline seems familiar— intrepid white men leading safari to rescue white girl amid wilds of untamed Africa. But check out all the great vistas and teeming wildlife, even if the beasts-in-combat was filmed later in Mexico-- evidently the Africa end of the production was as much an ordeal as the storyline itself (IMDB).
Carey is convincing as the chief trader. He's got a way of tossing off dialog as though he's just thought of it, and his Trader Horn remains a commanding figure throughout. Booth is almost scary as the tribal white girl, twisting her angular features into grotesque shapes that few Hollywood glamour girls would dare risk. However, the make-up man feminizes Renaldo with enough eyeliner to embarrass Estee Lauder. I realize he needs to be attractive enough to turn the white goddess around, but in the process he's been made pretty rather than safari handsome.
One thing to note is the centrality of sound to the drama. The roar of that spectacular waterfall impresses, as do the native drums and tribal hubbub. Perhaps the sound track is heightened because of the newness of the technology (1927), but it does add a lot.
As a Third World document, however, the movie's very much a creature of its time—the casual slurs, the butt-kicking, the girl's sudden preference for the white world. Such racial assumptions shouldn't be surprising given the time period; at the same time, the rich spectacle remains, including that inspired final shot. All in all and despite the drawbacks, this influential antique remains worth catching up with.
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