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SCRIPT: As with Micheaux's previous feature WITHIN OUR GATES, the narrative rambles and is crowded with too many characters to make a definite impression. The central themes deal with a black woman trying to find a place for herself in a hostile world, and a biracial man who harbors resentment against his own race for supposedly hampering his progress in society. (A flashback shows why – Driscoll's mother unwittingly interferes with his attempts to court a white girl, and he reacts by throwing his mother to the ground.) Interesting themes, but unfortunately the narrative sags fatally in the middle with rather uninteresting plotting by the villains, and by the time the climax comes along, it's too late to really perk things up. There's also really very little character definition – nobody seems like anything more than a character type here. SCORE: 5.5/10
ACTING: The acting is adequate here for the most part, but since there are so many characters to keep track of, I can't say that I felt any of the performances really stood out. There is some melodramatic behavior and mugging early on, and some of the scenes are unintentionally funny as a result. Iris Hall is charming as the heroine, but she doesn't really get enough screen time to do much with her role. Chenault is a bit broad but mostly effective as the villainous Driscoll. SCORE: 6/10
CINEMATOGRAPHY/PRODUCTION: The camera-work is fairly competent here, with some interesting and evocative shots of the night sky, as well as a few menacing shots of the KKK ride at night. The editing is a little clumsy at times. There could be a bit more variety in long, medium, and close- up shots, though. It would help to maintain interest. SCORE: 6/10
SUMMARY: THE SYMBOL OF THE UNCONQUERED does have an intriguing premise, and one has to commend Micheaux for being willing to bring such uncompromising material to the screen. The narrative is uneven and the acting is adequate, but there's not much chance for anyone to make an impression. Still, the movie does have historical importance as an early example of films that address the issues of black life in the early 20th century. SCORE: 6/10
She makes her way to the woods where her grand father's cabin and land is waiting for her. With the help of prospector and neighbour Hugh Van Allen, he is also able to help her chase off some intruders. Driscoll has sold his boarding house and is now a horse trader and Allen finds out how disreputable when the horses he bought in good faith prove to be broken down nags. He confronts Driscoll at the local saloon and after a realistic fight Driscoll is bested and vows revenge. He gets his chance when a dropped letter that falls into his hands shows that Van Allen's land is extremely valuable. He then enlists the head of the Ku Klux Klan to scare him off it!! The images of the Klan riding through the woods at midnight are scary - it looks so real. Quite a chunk of the rest of the movie is missing. I'm wondering whether it was deliberately censored by some Southern cinema owners as it showed the Klan's raid failing due to a "coloured man with a brick"!! That wouldn't have gone down too well in some of those towns.
The film resumes with Van Allen, a couple of years later, now an oil king, running his own company and visited by Eve now working for the Committee for the Defense of the Coloured Race. He was completely unaware of Eve's African American parentage and can now proclaim the love he had kept hidden.
Another powerful film from Oscar Micheaux but surely there must have been better music available than that 60 minute drum solo!!
After much scheming the bad guys finally make their move on the estate of hero Hugh Van Allen's oil-rich settlement with the help of the local Ku Klux Klan, who saddle up in an impressively shot night sequence, while heroine Eve Mason changes out of her frock into an equally impressive Annie Oakley buckskin cowgirl outfit to ride off herself for help.
Unfortunately, it's at this point that a substantial chunk of the film is tantalisingly missing. But the help duly arrives, since the Klan get their asses kicked and are sent packing by a fusillade of bricks thrown by a brother. When the dust settles, Hugh is now an oil millionaire with a big office, his arm round the comely Eve. The End.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Strange film from the black independent director Oscar Micheaux. A light skinned black woman travels North to get her inheritance that her grandfather left her. In this new town she meets another black man who hates his race and pretends to be wife, an evil Indian and eventually the KKK. The director apparently started making these "black films" in response to how blacks were being shown at the time so on a historical level this film is pretty interesting but as a film it really never takes off. The stereotypes are pretty out there and laughable and the film is way too over-dramatic in every single scene. The film was originally promoted to black people claiming that the KKK would be massacred in the film. That happens but sadly this scene is lost so we're not able to view it today. I guess you could call this one of the first "blaxploitation" films, although the director never makes all the whites bad and all the blacks good. It's rather interesting seeing his hatred towards certain members of his own race. Another down note is the horrible music score added to the film. Again, for film history sake this is a must see but on its own there's really nothing too special here. I also recorded the director's Within the Gates and Body and Soul, which are apparently better.
The bottom line is that in the portions that are remaining, the acting is rather amateurish and the plot is a bit hard to believe and surprisingly dull. However, it is an interesting historical curio, so some may find it a good film to see--especially if you want to see what Black-American films were like in the olden days--though several of Micheaux's other surviving films are better made and more entertaining.