This film version of Joseph Conrad’s novel impresses with several strongly individual performances rather than with the basic movement of the story itself.
Story unfolds at a most leisurely pace, script deviating from regulation picture formula and tempo, and filled with long stretches of dialog to highlight development of characters displayed. Fredric March is the recluse living on a small East Indian Island seeking happiness away from the world. Under his protection comes Betty Field, a stranded musician, and when March finds himself falling in love with the girl he prepares to ship her away on a trading schooner. Cedric Hardwicke and his outlaw companions arrive to rob and kill March for his buried fortune.
March capably carries the lead with restrained action to put over transformation of his original weakling, golden-rule character to one of strength, physically and mentally. Field registers with an unusual performance as the English girl musician who falls in love with the recluse. Jerome Cowan clicks with a meritorious performance as Hardwicke’s Cockney assistant in outlawry; while Hardwicke handles his assignment with usual ability.
Direction by John Cromwell, in retaining all of the character etchings displayed in Conrad’s book, employs a stagey technique with burdensome dialog and slow pace until the final episodes, which pick up dramatic interest.