Review: ‘Strange Cargo’

Strange Cargo is a strange melodramatic concoction [from a book by Richard Sale] that endeavors to mix the adventures of an escaping group of convicts from a tropical island prison with religious preachment through inclusion of a mysterious stranger with Christ-like attributes. The attempt is not successful. Combined with this fault is a slow, ploddy technique on the directing side, overlong footage and many dragging passages.

Strange Cargo is a strange melodramatic concoction [from a book by Richard Sale] that endeavors to mix the adventures of an escaping group of convicts from a tropical island prison with religious preachment through inclusion of a mysterious stranger with Christ-like attributes. The attempt is not successful. Combined with this fault is a slow, ploddy technique on the directing side, overlong footage and many dragging passages.

In accentuating the individual spiritual redemptions of the various convict members of the escaping group, story builds up with some rather strong talk and ridicule of the Bible, its passages and teachings.

Story, in attempt to dovetail stark and dangerous adventure with a religious motif, does not jell to any degree of consistency. Shortly after establishing the prison setting, the convicts escape and struggle through jungle, swamp and sand to reach a hidden boat. Clark Gable saves Joan Crawford from the clutches of a designing miner en route, and takes her along. It’s a strange group aboard the small open sailboat, the stranger (Ian Hunter) dominating with his quiet though definite manner.

Crawford is provided with a particularly meaty role as the hardened dance hall gal who falls hard for the tough convict. Gable is vigorous in his portrayal of the self-appointed head of the escaping convicts, a far from sympathetic assignment, and he is overshadowed by the reserved but strong-willed Hunter as the redeemer of the tough souls assembled in the small boat.

Strange Cargo

Production

M-G-M. Director Frank Borzage; Producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz; Screenplay Lawrence Hazard; Camera Robert Planck; Editor Robert J. Kern; Music Franz Waxman

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1940. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Joan Crawford Clark Gable Ian Hunter Peter Lorre Paul Lukas Albert Dekker
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