Gable and Crawford's eighth film together is a sensitively told Christ allegory, portrayed in an atmospheric manner that well conveys the story's spirituality. Crawford plays a club entertainer working in a cafe located near the infamous Devil's Island prison. She meets Gable, a prisoner,
who later escapes and hides out in Crawford's dressing room. Gable is taken back into custody, but Crawford loses her job when the cafe owner learns of the incident. Back on the island, Dekker, another prisoner, has arranged an escape for a group of convicts. They include Lukas, Ciannelli,
Arledge, Bromberg, the despicable Lorre (whom the others call "M'sieu Pig"), and Hunter, a strange individual with an intense spirituality. Gable joins the escape, and again links up with Crawford. She goes with the men, and it gradually develops that Hunter has an unusual gift. At first the group
of hard-core criminals hates the man because of his odd demeanor, but as men die off Hunter comforts them, exuding a strange power that helps each man accept his fate. Even the hardened Dekker and the repulsive Lorre are swayed by Hunter's influence and die peacefully. Gable, however, refuses to
believe in Hunter's Christ-like healing powers and in frustration pushes the man overboard. Gable sees Hunter clinging to some driftwood and realizes that he cannot let him die, so he leaps into the water to rescue the man. Gable comes to understand that he must change his own views, and with
Crawford promising to wait for him, he returns to prison to finish his sentence.
This was Gable's follow-up to GONE WITH THE WIND, and his performance is a good one. Hunter's role is more difficult, but he creates a man whose deep-rooted spirituality never becomes sappy. The role was originally to have been played by Melvyn Douglas, but Hunter got the part, essaying the role
perfectly. Crawford, sans glamorous makeup and with a wardrobe of only three dresses (which reportedly cost less than $40), brings a toughness to her character, accepting of her life yet determined to make it better. Borzage's direction is adroit, using murky images, along with intelligent use of
light and shadow, to create a special film. STRANGE CARGO unfortunately was ill-received by the American religious community. The Catholic Legion of Decency initially gave the picture a "C" (Condemned) rating, claiming STRANGE CARGO "...presents a naturalistic concept of religion contrary to the
teachings of Christ, irreverent use of Scripture, and lustful complications in dialog and situations." Following some cuts made by MGM, the Legion changed its rating to A-2, unobjectional for adults. Others, however, took harsher measures, and the film was banned in many cities across the country
including Detroit and Providence, Rhode Island.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Gable and Crawford's eighth film together is a sensitively told Christ allegory, portrayed in an atmospheric manner that well conveys the story's spirituality. Crawford plays a club entertainer working in a cafe located near the infamous Devil's Island pri… (more)