A minister is malevolent and sinister behind his righteous facade. He consorts with, and later extorts from, the owner of a gambling house, and betrays an honest girl, eventually driving ... See full summary »
Union officer Kerry Bradford escapes from Confederate Prison and is set to Virginia City in Nevada. Once there he finds that the former commander of his prison Vance Irby is planning to send $5 million in gold to save the Confederacy.
At a Baptist prayer meeting, the preacher leads a prayer for Brutus Jones, who is leaving to become a railway porter. Jones joins the congregation in a spiritual. Once on the train, Jeff, a porter, shows Jones the ropes. Jones secretly takes up with Jeff's girl, Undine. He makes some money in a deal with a rich businessman on the train. Jones proves to be a cunning manipulator and a good liar. In a crap game, Jones stabs Jeff over a pair of loaded dice. Now doing hard labour, Jones kills a white prison guard and escapes. Shovelling coal on a ship in the Caribbean, Jones swims to an island. He is brought before the island's ruler, where Smithers, a crooked white trader, buys his freedom. Jones schemes his way into a partnership in Smithers' business, then finally control of the entire island through a touch of witchcraft, or so it seems. Brutus declares himself to be The Emperor Jones... Smithers reports on the unrest that Jones' rule is causing. One morning, the palace is empty of ...Written by
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #370. See more »
If you had to recruit an army for him, why did you have to get such big blokes?
Yes, them is fine n******. I betcha they knows a man when they sees one.
Well, if there's any trouble, you've only got yourself to blame... salutin' him and callin' him " General."
I tell you, Mr. Smithers. There's any trouble, you just leave the general to me. Us n****** understands each other.
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Originally prepared at 80 minutes, the film was subject to censorship problems immediately upon release, and cut to 72 minutes. This 72-minute version was the only version available, until the Library of Congress restored the film to a 76-minute running time (and restored as well the original blue tint in the film's finale). Several minutes of the original release are still lost, presumably forever. See more »
Playwright Eugene O'Neill's early work often combined memorable characters and stories with social commentary and innovative theatrical concepts--and among his first great successes was THE EMPEROR JONES, which starred perhaps the single finest black actor of the 1920s and 1930s, the legendary Paul Robeson. When United Artists purchased the screen rights, Robeson went with the package, and this 1933 film was the result.
The story concerns a black man of the depression era who lacks the moral stamina to resist the various temptations set before him, and who ultimately finds himself on a remote island where he uses his superior intellect and physically intimidating presence to set himself up as "Emperor." But his own past troubles have hardened him. Instead of ruling in justice, he uses his position to bleed the population--and they revolt against him.
But regretfully, this film isn't half as good as it could have been or a quarter as good as it should have been. On the stage, THE EMPEROR JONES had tremendous irony, for in so crushing his subjects Brutus Jones has essentially recreated the white American society that crushed him. Moreover, the staging was uniquely powerful, with the vast majority of the story played out as Jones runs through the jungle in an effort to escape his revolting subjects, all the while recalling the various events of his life that led him to the present moment. But the film version pretty much throws all of this out the window, preferring to downplay O'Neill's social commentary and reducing Jone's race through the jungle to a few scenes at the film's conclusion.
Robeson is a memorable actor, but he was still very new to the screen when this film was made, and although he is powerful his performance here is rather stagey in comparison with his later screen work. And while the film is occasionally interesting in a visual way, it simply doesn't have the courage to go all the way with O'Neil's original vision. Fans of Robeson, O'Neil, and early 1930s film will find it an interesting failure, but most others should give it a miss.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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