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In Africa early in World War II, a British rubber plantation executive reminisces about his arrival in the Congo in 1910. He tells the story of a love-hate triangle involving Harry Witzel, an in-country station superintendent who'd seen it all, Langford, a new manager sent from England for a four-year stint, and Tondelayo, a siren of great beauty who desires silk and baubles. Witzel is gruff and seasoned, certain that Langford won't be able to cut it. Langford responds with determination and anger, attracted to Tondelayo because of her beauty, her wiles, and to get at Witzel. Manipulation, jealousy, revenge, and responsibility play out as alliances within the triangle shift.Written by
Tondelayo does not make an appearance in this review.
She is easy to look at, isn't she. All tan skin, she's got that sarong (probably stolen from Dorothy Lamour), all that gorgeous black hair, but talent is lacking. Hedy Lamarr eschews acting completely in this delightful tale of sex in the jungle. It isn't about anything else--not man versus nature, not oppression of minorities--just plain sex.
Harry, as played by the statue-like Walter Pidgeon, has been in the jungle so long he's starting to act a bit kooky. He gets infuriated when people discuss the heat, certain words send him into a King Kong-like fit. I get the feeling we're supposed to think this is because there are several men there, but no women. Is this what happens? Gracious me--I better rearrange my priorities. Anyway, one of his helpers goes off his rocker and has to be replaced. The replacement, Langford, refuses to listen to Harry, who really does know what he's talking about, only to turn into a lazy lay-about.
At this point, a new character is introduced. She's a half-breed (not like Cher, but a half-breed nevertheless) named Tondelayo. The line "I am Tondelayo" did become something of a catch phrase--I can recall seeing Lucille Ball taunting some comedian, possibly Jerry Lewis, with it. Tondelayo is a gorgeous woman, but she likes a good time. Heck, she likes lots of good times in a row. Langford is smitten, and he can't understand why Harry insists that Tondelayo be avoided. Langford assumes Harry's jealous, which only makes him more thrilled. In order to keep Tondelayo near him, Langford marries her. She goes around telling everyone she's "Mrs. Langfut"--Hedy's accent prevents her from saying "Langford," apparently. Right around here is a scene that tops Tondelayo's entrance. She's going through all the trinkets that Langford has to give her to keep her interested, when she comes across a mirror. She looks at herself in it (naturally), and then remarks solemnly, "Him make big face this side, him make little face THIS side." Oh, I just died laughing. Tondelayo's odd speech patterns are the highlight of this movie--she sounds completely idiotic.
This being a 40s film, everyone has to get what's coming to them, in various showy ways. All in all, this is a delightful film with no statement to make, no mountains to move. It's just there to enjoy.
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