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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

THE SINS OF RACHEL CADE (1961)


It’s your typical African missionary drama: Beautiful American missionary nurse finds she is out of her depth & too dogmatic to ‘save’ the simple natives in her assigned village. They view both her and her Western medicine with fear & suspicion. But she wins their trust with a daring operation on a sick child, only to find her own beliefs shattered by personal weakness. But, thru her suffering . . . well, you know. Changing attitudes toward race & religion have made these stories vaguely embarrassing, even when the religious motivation is camouflaged as ‘good works,’ like medical help or education. This film hardly solves the issues, but scripter Edward Anhalt (who’d soon tackle BECKETT/’64) loved a good Shavian debut and this leads to some surprisingly interesting dialogues on ethics, politics & religion. Of course, we never lose sight of the big love triangle playing out between Peter Finch, Angie Dickenson & Roger Moore (hilariously young & pretty). How could we when Max Steiner is ladling out such a misguided, swoon-worthy love theme? Some things have changed. The locals now look like honest-to-goodness Africans, but Hollywood ringers Woody Strode (painted up as a Medicine Man), Juano Hernandez, Scatman Crowthers & Olympic Champ Rafer Johnson show up to put us at ease.

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