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Trader Horn

USA 1931
produced by
Irving Thalberg for MGM
directed by W.S. Van Dyke
starring Harry Carey, Edwina Booth, Duncan Renaldo, Mutia Omoolu, Olive Golden (= Olive Carey), C.Aubrey Smith, Riano Tindama
screenplay by Richard Schayer, dialogue by Cyril Hume, based on the book by Alfred Aloysius Horn, Etheldra Lewis, adaptation by Dale Van Every, John T.Neville

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Being on the run from natives - which has become something of a routine for them -, the famous trader Horn (Wallace Beery) and his young sidekick Peru (Duncan Renaldo) stumble upon Edith Trent (Olive Golden), who's on the lookout for her daughter she has lost 20 years ago. Horn warns her to not proceed any further to not fall into native hands, but she ignores his warnings - and the next day, Horn and Peru find her dead body and decide to take over from her to search for her daughter.

It isn't long before Horn and Peru fall into the hands of natives and are prepared to be killed violently, but enter the natives' Goddess - who happens to be a white girl, possibly Edith Trent's daughter Nina (Edwina Booth). Nina has never seen white men before, but she feels immediately drawn to them, especially Peru. She frees them, and the three of them plus Horn's gunbearer Rencharo (Mutia Omoolu) make a daring getaway. During their extended getaway, Horn and Peru repeatedly fight it out over Nina, with none of the two ready to step down, but then the natives launch an all-out attack and Horn agrees to risk everything to divert the natives to allow the others to escape. He almost fails but Rencharo saves his life catching a spear (and dying in the process) meant for him.

Back at the trading post, Horn almost dies of worry, waiting for Peru and Nina to arrive, and when they do (they were picked up and escorted back to civilisation by pygmies), he sits them on the next boat to get them out of Africa to properly forget the woman he has loved and lost ...

 

If nothing else, Trader Horn was an amazingly ambitious project, it was the first US-American non-documentary film to be shot on location in Africa, and back in the day, this was nothing short of an amazing logistical challenge. Largely, the effort pays off, too, since seeing the characters on actual location and not some cheap jungle sets does make a difference, as does seeing the jungle animals in their actual habitat and not just some safari park, but the whole project also took its toll on cast and crew: Not only did quite a few crewmembers die in animal attacks, on-location filming also gave the film's main actress Edwina Booth a fever (possibly malaria) that would before long effectively end her career.

This though is saying nothing about the actual film in hand, and I have to admit I'm of two finds about it. On the plus side, the movie is perfectly cast, Harry Carey as the tough-as-nails trader and Duncan Renaldo as his sidekick develop just the right chemistry, and Edwina Booth, wearing rather little, looks pretty sexy without overdoing it. Also, the film benefits from its extensive location shooting, as mentioned above - but all that said, the extensive location shooting is also a bit of a curse, because at times, especially in the first half, the film seems a bit like a wildlife documentary, and the actual story kicks in only very gradually.

In all though, even if Trader Horn is not a perfect film, it's an interesting watch. Oh, and you might experience some kind of dejà vu while watching this one, because its wildlife footage popped up again in quite a few jungle films after this one, most notably Tarzan, the Ape Man.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
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