The Midnight Choker

The website of Dan Erdman

Anne of the Indies (1951)

 

Poster - Anne of the Indies_12.jpgIn The American Cinema, Sarris rhetorically paired this with Way of a Gaucho, another Jacques Tourneur feature from the early 1950s, calling them “two misguided Fox projects conceived in the last hectic days before Cinemascope, [which] come off much better than anyone had any right to expect despite their intransigent exoticism.” But I can only assume that ‘despite’ here is being used in some antiquated, regional slang-form that once meant ‘because of’ or ‘due to,’ since Anne of the Indies is clearly at its best when showing off its wonderfully gaudy sets, costumes, and locations, such as a crowded Caribbean slave market, or a rowdy public-house gathering of pirates, stuffed with extras representing nearly every physiognomic type, desperately emptying pots of rum as quickly as they can be filled. Forget Cinemascope – Technicolor serves the film just fine, admirably pushing the hues past the limits of good taste, all in the name of generating an ambient boisterousness to add a boost to the big emotions on display here.

Thomas Gomez as Captain Blackbeard is the only actor who seems quite up to the task of riding that particular wave, giving a fine, loud performance that should place him as a distant ancestor of the Brian Blessed / Gerard Butler lineage. Jean Peters is almost there in the title role, but never quite connects her character’s lapse into romantic reverie with Louis Jourdan’s Captain LaRochelle to the rest of her performance as a proud pirate; I liked her best when she scoffs about how silly women are with their frills and glamour and such (something a movie actress under a studio contract in 1951 might have Opinions about), and she has an excellent scene where she has to chomp on a chicken leg with great disdain.

In his introductory remarks, Chicago Film Society’s Kyle Westphal pointed out that Anne is mercifully not rehabilitated into the soppy norms of 1950s femininity by the end; but she does, however, ultimately sacrifice herself to Blackbeard’s cannons in order to save not only her beloved Captain LaRochelle, but also his wife! Giving up on independence for the sake of your own romantic fulfillment is admittedly a bit of a sell-out, and doing so for that of some other couple isn’t much of an advance if you ask me, but that’s probably the best one could hope for in 1951.

Beneath all of the bluster and color that gave me such a kick were the other pleasures of classical construction, like even pacing, narrative coherence, thematic consistency, nifty little dialogue motifs, and so forth. Maybe not among the greatest Tourneurs (and no shame in that designation, what with Out of the Past and Night of the Demon and the various Lewton productions to contend with), but rewards attention in the way that only competently-made, mid-level, commercial movies can.

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This entry was posted on July 6, 2017 by in Uncategorized.
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