Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

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  • White Shadows in the South Seas (1928) - Plot Summary - Silent melodrama set in the "coral atolls of the South Pacific - the last remnant of an earthly paradise". It is here that the "white man" has cast his greedy shadow over the islands. Doc Matthew Lloyd (Monte Blue) is a forty-ish world-worn doctor, now a "derelict" and a drunk, living at an island where a bad man named Sebastian has taken over and "civilized" the place with shops and an island saloon. He exploits and cheats the natives, forcing them to make dangerous dives for pearls which they trade to him for trinkets. Doc, ashamed of his own race, makes an enemy of Sebastian when he sides with the natives. A strange ship arrives full of men sick with measles - or so the doctor has been told; tricked by Sebastian he goes out to the ship which is actually full of men dead from bubonic plague. He is kidnapped, tied to the wheel, and sent alone out to sea where the ship ends up in a huge typhoon! The boat ends up shipwrecked on an isolated Pacific island, filled with sea creatures and fruit, where lives a tribe of natives untouched by the white man - in fact, the doctor is the first one they've seen! Beautiful, innocent native girls (who also like to swim naked) are soon massaging him with cocoanut oil - and since the tribe thinks he's a God, they immediately prepare a grand feast for him, with native dances in his honor and food galore. The young beauty named Fayaway (Raquel Torres) captures his eye as she dances, but the tribe are angry when he touches her - seems she's the "virgin bride" of the temple that no one can look at with love. Well - after he saves a little boy's life, the chief offers Fayaway as his reward. All is good in paradise - until - he finds out the natives are fashioning fish hooks from oyster shells and throwing away the pearls, and greed takes over! Could this be the end of paradise? - - especially when his actions inadvertently bring that baddie Sebastian and his cohorts back into the picture.

    Review - Nicely photographed silent era movie, filled with exotic and picturesque on-location scenery - some scenes of this actually have a sort of travelogue feel to them, like when they are busy preparing the feast. As stated at the beginning of the film, this was photographed "on the natural locations with the ancient native tribes" - indeed, I have read that this was filmed in Tahiti. There is some well done underwater photography, with pearl divers, sharks, even an octopus. The film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. As screened on TCM, this featured a nice-looking tinted print (I like the bright yellow-ish tint used for most of the scenes on the paradise island) and includes a synchronized music score with sound effects. I "like like" that Monte Blue - handsome fellow! He does a good job in this film too, realistic acting and expressive face. Actress Raquel Torres, born in Mexico, appears here in her first film role - she's very cute and does a nice job too. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

    Director: W.S. Van Dyke
    Film Genre: Adventure / Romantic Melodrama
    Film Runtime: 88 minutes

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10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

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