An early talkie, this film is also one of the first films to deal openly with the ill effects of imposing Western cultures on the natives of the Polynesian Islands. After alcohol, drugs, and the effects of prostitution begin taking their toll on the local tribes, doctor Blue attempts to
stop the colonialists from completely destroying the lifestyles and cultural traditions of the natives. Anderson, a merchant who intends to profit from the natives, locks the doctor up in a sinking ship. Blue manages to escape and flees to a previously unknown island populated by Polynesians.
There, he marries the daughter of the island chief. However, greed catches up with Blue as well: he tries to sell some of the island pearls to the colonials, who decide to take over the island. Blue tries to stop this but is ultimately killed in the effort.
This film was begun as a project for Robert Flaherty, whose documentary MOANA (1925) had been an open, almost lyrical view of the Samoan islands. Flaherty, who also did NANOOK OF THE NORTH and would go on to do LOUISIANA STORY, was a hard-liner on realism. When it was decided to use professional
actors in place of local natives, Flaherty left the picture rather than violate his artistic principles. He was replaced by Van Dyke, known in the industry as "One Take Woody" because of his quick, efficient style of direction. Though Van Dyke was really nothing more than a good, workmanlike
director, he was able to combine all the previously shot elements with his own work to produce a better-than-average picture that carried an important theme. The film earned an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: An early talkie, this film is also one of the first films to deal openly with the ill effects of imposing Western cultures on the natives of the Polynesian Islands. After alcohol, drugs, and the effects of prostitution begin taking their toll on the local… (more)