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Patrick Schoenmaker

Indiana Jones' Influences
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Help Support Research Indy's Influences Classics Adventures East of Borneo
East of Borneo

Released by Universal Pictures - 1931

Directed by: George Melford
Story by: Dale Van Every
Screenplay by: Edwin H. Knopf
Produced by: Paul Kohner, Carl Laemmle Jr. & George Melford

Rose Hobart .... Linda Randolph
Charles Bickford .... Dr. Allan Clark
Georges Renavent .... Hashim
Lupita Tovar .... Neila
Noble Johnson .... Osman
Tetsu Komai .... Hrang the Raftsman


If your home library of films can be seen by guests you may want to tuck this one away in a closet somewhere like some strange piece of voodoo. Don’t speak of it. If someone should ask if you’ve seen or heard of it, eye the person suspiciously and simply say, "I don’t know what you’re talking about."

A woman (Rose Hobart) travels through a jungle nightmare in search of her scientist husband (Charles Bickford). He has been living with a sadistic Prince and scorns his wife for following him to the primeval forests of Maradoo. While she struggles to change her husband’s embittered feelings toward her,the evil Prince (Georges Renavent) begins to view her as a new conquest, the latest of many sinister designs.

The tone is set for low expectations in the first scene between a Borneo trade commissioner and the Hobart character. The acting is so bad in this scene you expect them to turn to the camera and apologize, admitting to the audience they haven’t a clue what they’re doing. But thankfully the scene passes and a wild adventure begins.

Straight out of the trade commissioner’s office and into the jungle, the woman, accompanied by native guides, faces a series of frightful sights until finally resting. Then, creeping out of the night, a gigantic snake slithers over a sleeping man’s torso. The snake is so massive, far more snake than anything Indiana Jones had to face and so real looking you have to believe it is real. Later, a man is eaten by a herd of alligators and again it looks astonishingly realistic.

The Prince’s temple is fantastically constructed, a ghoulish and exotic lair. Renavent plays his role effectively with a venomous smile and Bickford’s angry drunken doctor is very convincing. Hobart rises and falls to the level of those she works with (meaning that in most of the film she’s fine). A native female (Lupita Tovar) is always lurking around representing the scientist’s temptation to the primitive and adding to the fun.

In the days when Hollywood was less politically correct and not quite so sensitive to global markets, filmmakers would often focus a xenophobic lens on the bizarre and strange goings on in the Middle East and Far East. Borneo is surely a ghastly and primitive place, right? But what lies East of Borneo? A place more ghastly and primitive. Obviously. That is the tantalizing promise by the producers of this film. The result is a movie that is (surprise) ghastly and primitive, profoundly dark and insensitive. But also a lot of fun. Just don’t tell anyone. (Stephen Jared)


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