Dangerous Journey (20th Century-Fox) is a travel picture made by Armand and Leila Roosevelt Denis, producers of the magnificent Dark Rapture (1938). Among its glimpses of the Belgian Congo, the Ganges, Ceylon and Burma there are only a few shots which, in the words of Baedeker, need detain the tourist. But these few make the picture worth seeing. Best:
¶ The gigantic, incredibly handsome Watusi tribesmen (featured at length in Dark Rapture); the pursuit and capture of a wild elephant (a sequence lifted bodily from the older film).
¶A Burmese girl from whom, coil by heavy coil, the brass wire of her immemorial feminine bondage is unwound, baring a deformed neck almost too weak to sustain her emancipated head.
¶ A petrifying few minutes in which a Burmese priestess of fertility entices a reeling, slavering, divine king cobra from his cave, reverently kisses him three times on the brow.
Thunder Rock (Charter Films), an odd one made in England two years ago, combines, in equal parts, theatrical rigor mortis with some unusually intense acting and sincere thinking. Its story:
An antifascist journalist (Michael Redgrave) who raged through the 1930s with a Cassandra's customary success, retires to sit out World War II on Thunder Rock, in a Great Lakes lighthouse. Embittered, soaked with liquor and self-pity, he is content to let the world go hang. While it hangs, he entertains himself by conjuring up in his imagination a number of immigrants from Europe who drowned near his lighthouse a century ago. Before long they all but take on flesh & blood, act out for him the tragedies and the defeats of their own lifetimes.
One (Barbara Mullen), a heartbroken feminist, fled from the contemptuous jails of England. One (Frederick Cooper), a consumptive workman, fled from the inhumanities of a Victorian factory. One (Frederick Valk), a Viennese physician who prediscovered anesthesia, fled from the bigotries of the clergy and of his own profession. All, as the moved journalist hears them out, rebuke themselves and him for despair against whatever odds. The despairing promethean, they assure him, takes nothing of value to his living grave; othersa Darwin, a Pasteur, a Marx, a Nightingalepersist and by slow stages liberate the reluctant world. By morning and story's end, the journalist has recovered his soul, his hope, his manhood.
As a play (by Robert Ardrey) Thunder Rock flopped in Manhattan, but ran long & loud in London. As cinema, its prospects are unpredictable. Like the play, it suffers from naive lubberliness, reminiscent of Eugene O'Neill at his worst. But it also has some of the most stinging and salutary talk about prewar blindness, postwar prospects and their causes which has ever reached the timid screen. Its edged, cultivated production and its heartfelt actingparticularly that of brilliant Barbara Mullenalso help to turn the struggle of the protagonists into drama a fraction as searching and noble as the author intended.