Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Strange Cargo

Strange Cargo. Joan Crawford.

Kahleet murtuvat / Flykt. US © 1940 Loew's, Inc. PC: MGM. P: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. D: Frank Borzage. SC: Lawrence Hazard – based on the novel Not Too Narrow... Not Too Deep (1936) by Richard Sale. DP: Robert Planck. PD: Cedric Gibbons, Daniel B. Cathcart, Edwin B. Willis. M: Franz Waxman.
    Starring Joan Crawford (Julie), Clark Gable (Verne), Ian Hunter (Cambreau), Peter Lorre (M'sieur Pig), Paul Lukas (Hessler), Albert Dekker (Moll). 113 min.
    A clean, fair dupe, slightly soft befits Borzage.
    Viewed at Orion, Helsinki, 22 March 2005.

Joan Crawford found this final collaboration of hers with Clark Gable the best of the eight. Gable is hard-boiled almost to the end. Hers is a journey of illumination, beautifully expressed by Borzage in haunting close-ups without make-up, high point: she bursts into tears as Gable reads The Song of Songs mockingly. The convicts' escape through the jungle in French Guyana filmed in the sets of Tarzan becomes a spiritual journey, compared by Hervé Dumont with the Odyssey and the Mahabharata: we are on the battleground of the spirit. The journey of each of the condemned leads to illumination and serenity. Memorable: the final look on the face of Hessler (Paul Lukas), the only crook to get away unchanged, or is he. Related films include La Mort en ce jardin, Papillon, and any prison-break and run-through-the jungle story, but this is unique. Crazy, yet maybe better than ***

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