Monday, July 25, 2022

Tonight's Movie: White Savage (1943) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Last July I thoroughly enjoyed Maria Montez and Jon Hall in the Kino Lorber releases ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942) and ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (1944).

It was my first time to see both films, which were two of my favorite movie discoveries of 2021.

Now, thanks again to Kino Lorber, I've just watched Montez and Hall in WHITE SAVAGE (1943), a delightful South Seas fantasy.

WHITE SAVAGE is part of the new three-film Maria Montez and Jon Hall Collection, a Blu-ray set just released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The other films in the set are GYPSY WILDCAT (1944) and SUDAN (1945); all three movies were originally released by Universal Pictures.

WHITE SAVAGE grabbed me from the colorful opening credits sequence. It's got a great cast; beautiful sets, matte paintings and costumes; amusing comedy; a spectacular earthquake; and even a short dance by the great James Mitchell -- and it's all over and done in a brisk 76 minutes. I loved it.

When watching a movie like this I like to try and think of the context of the film's release. This movie must have been a blessed distraction for audiences when it came out in the spring of 1943, deep into the World War II years. Audiences fearful for loved ones, worried about the war's outcome, and dealing with the challenges of rationing and shortages could escape for just a little while into a Technicolor paradise.

The screenplay was written by a seemingly unlikely person, future director Richard Brooks, who I associate with more serious films such as CRISIS (1950) and BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955). WHITE SAVAGE was Brooks' first full-length screenplay, based on a story by Peter Milne, and in fact he would also go on to write Montez and Hall's COBRA WOMAN (1944).

In WHITE SAVAGE Hall plays Kaloe, a shark hunter who needs the permission of Princess Tahia (Montez) to sail in her waters. Tahia lives on a secluded island, but she and Kaloe fall in love thanks to the matchmaking of young Orano (Sabu). However, it's not all smooth sailing (pardon the pun), as they have serious problems related to her troubled brother Tamara (Turhan Bey) and dangerous businessman Sam Miller (future Oscar nominee Thomas Gomez).

Miller and his henchman Erik (Paul Guilfoyle) have evil plans to steal jewels decorating the bottom of Princess Tahia's sacred swimming pool, but Tahia is confident the god Tangaroa will protect the pool.

Miller, however, is a very determined, evil person, who kills multiple people and frames Kaloe for one of the murders.

Thanks to the cunning of local banker-detective-lawyer-doctor Wong (Sidney Toler, aka Charlie Chan), perhaps Kaloe will find a way to survive...

This was simply great fun, with one of Toler's lines late in the film making me laugh out loud. Montez is perfection, gowned by Vera West, with jewels by Eugene Joseff. For someone who had to learn some of her lines phonetically, she is more than credible, and she and Hall share a sensuous rapport which demonstrates why they were cast together in several films.

This is a delightful confection to sit down and watch without knowing too much more going in. Don't overthink it, just sit back and enjoy this Hollywood fantasy, something we still very much need today in 2022.

Arthur Lubin directed, with the cinematography credit shared by William E. Snyder and Lester White.

The lovely print is from a brand-new 2K master. Sound quality is excellent.

All three films in the set are on one Blu-ray disc. Extras for WHITE SAVAGE are a commentary track by Philippa Berry and a six-film Kino Lorber trailer gallery. The other films in the set also have commentary tracks, and the trailers for those two films are provided as well. I'll be reviewing both GYPSY WILDCAT and SUDAN at a future date.

This is also a good time to mention the brand-new biography of Maria Montez by Tom Zimmerman, THE QUEEN OF TECHNICOLOR: MARIA MONTEZ IN HOLLYWOOD. I'll also be reviewing that book in the future.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.


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