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Thursday, July 30, 2009

STRANGE CARGO (1940)

Though in many respects this is a typical Escape From Devil’s Island sort of pic, the cons in the getaway boat are far more motley than usual. There’s a couple of gorgeously deglamorized stars (Clark Gable & Joan Crawford); a Nietzschean superman (Paul Lucas giving the film’s best perf and even getting a final God-defying Don Giovanni moment); a nascent gay couple (Albert Dekker & John Arledge, these two woo & serenade each other!); a couple of easy victims to feed the sharks; and, by-golly, Jesus Christ, hisself! Well, in the form of Ian Hunter who was more effectively incognito as Richard-the-Lionhearted in ROBIN HOOD/’38. Peter Lorre hangs around this odd fraternity (natch), not in the boat, alas, but waiting on shore. Of course, helmer Frank Borzage was a very religious fellow, which may explain this assignment, but a deeper mystery is how quickly his great talent petered out after his next pic, the sublime THE MORTAL STORM/'40.

SCREWY THOUGH OF THE DAY: How’d this ever get by the Production Code? Even the Legion of Decency condemned it. Not because Paul Lucas walks off sans punishment, not because of the gay couple, but probably because Crawford & Gable (in their eighth & final co-starring vehicle) kiss away without any pancake make-up coming between them. And they look like they mean it.

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