Sunday, June 02, 2019

Tonight's Movie: South of Suez (1940) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

George Brent and Brenda Marshall star in SOUTH OF SUEZ (1940), recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Brent plays John Gamble, a diamond miner in Africa who is framed for the murder of his partner (Miles Mander) by evil Eli Snedeker (George Tobias) and Snedeker's wife (Lee Patrick).

Gamble flees Africa for England, changing his name to John Bradley. Years later, having become quite wealthy, he meets his late partner's daughter Kit (Marshall) and they fall in love. John wants to confess all to Kit, including giving her a large diamond which belonged to her father, but since Kit believes Gamble killed her father, he can't bring himself to do it.

Instead one night he pulls a body out of the river and, seeing an opportunity to be rid of his true identity, he plants evidence on the body which lead the police to believe the dead man is Gamble. Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

This was my second time to see the film, which I first reviewed back in 2012, and while it's not a great movie, I like both Brent and Marshall and enjoy it.

I do find the opening section in Africa a bit on the slow side -- although I was amused this time around to recognize Snedeker's house as the set from the same year's THE LETTER (1940)! -- but once the action shifts to England it's much more interesting. The Brent-Marshall romance is sweet, and I enjoy seeing it deepen further as Kit stands by John when things take a dark turn. The legal machinations are also rather interesting.

There's a great role for Eric Blore as "Limey," a sailor John meets when he stows away when fleeing Africa. Limey becomes John's manservant, capable of speaking in the most dignified tones but equally prone to slip into his Cockney accent when he's speaking privately with John. The movie really picks up for me when he enters the picture.

Tobias was capable of playing very warm characters, but here he's amazingly creepy as an evil man. He was certainly one of the "secret weapons" in the Warner Bros. stock company, able to play a very wide range of roles. The cast also includes Cecil Kellaway, Mary Forbes, and James Stephenson, who happens to have also been in the previously mentioned THE LETTER.

SOUTH OF SUEZ runs 86 minutes. It was directed by Lewis Seiler and filmed in black and white by Arthur Todd. The mining scenes were filmed on location in Randsburg, California.

I noticed a couple of random blotches or streaks but otherwise the Warner Archive DVD is a very good print with a strong soundtrack. The disc has no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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