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Friday, November 6, 2009

JERICHO / aka: DARK SANDS (1937)

Paul Robeson always claimed JERICHO as the favorite of his films . . . and you’ll see why. It’s a third-rate adventure tale somewhat in the mode of an Errol Flynn pic: wronged soldier escapes a death sentence and reinvents himself as a beloved Arab Prince. But where CAPTAIN BLOOD/’35 was helmed by the great Michael Curtiz, this slapdash affair had has-been Thornton Freeland megging. Yet, the film is both fun & fascinating with a bold, black man reversing one stereotype after another. He’s heroic; he’s wronged by his superiors, but wins out in the end; he’s even got a white sidekick to play comic prop and to take a bullet meant for him!; he finds a lovely black princess (with white/Arabic brother & father) to wed; his white mentor takes the rap for his escape, becomes his nemesis, until they reunite to save each other. The end product may be hopelessly second-rate, but in attitude it’s miles ahead of the pack. Watch for a scene where Robeson has to restrain himself from reacting to some jazz records. He dashes out into the desert where he can secretly burst out in song. Here, briefly, conception trumps execution.

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