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Friday, August 1, 2008

HIS MAJESTY O’KEEFE (1953)

Burt Lancaster ended his series of swashbucklers @ Warners with this South Sea adventure that hides an unlikely anti-capitalism fable under the usual derring-do & horseplay. A brave bit of subversive subtext for mainstream Hollywood in the mid-‘50s. Lancaster, set adrift after a mutiny, lands on a tiny tropical isle where the natives refuse to gather more coconut oil than they need to just get by. But Burt dreams of bigger things and has to learn to respect the natural order of things thru hard knocks & a couple of insurrections. Naturally, he figures it all out just in time to save the dark skin natives from a slavery racket, find a white gal to wed and be acclaimed as King of his happy fief. If only the execution came within striking distance of what Lancaster & his regular producing/writing team of Harold Hecht & James Hill must have seen in the material. Alas, his co-stars are personality-free non-entities (except for Archie Savage’s dangerously ambivalent islander, Boogulroo) and not even the smooth & colorful lensing from Otto Heller can disguise incompetent megging from Byron Haskin.

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