Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#372: Sanders of the River

(Zoltan Korda, 1935)

Hooboy, this movie is R-A-C-I-S-T. I'm trying to imagine how Paul Robeson felt when he sat down to watch the cut of this movie and that first card came on the screen talking about the courageous British men who tamed the Africans. I would imagine he didn't feel too good.

Criterion calls this an embarrassment right in their description of the movie on their website. Technically speaking, it's far from the worst movie to sport a spine number in the Collection. But in terms of pure dated nationalistic and racial attitudes, it's pretty hard to beat - at least until Birth of a Nation and Broken Blossoms enter the Collection. (Okay, it's probably not THAT racist, but still, this is a pretty awkward watch.)

As you might have guessed from my posts so far, I'm really not enjoying this Robeson boxset. It's not that I don't like Robeson, it's just that the movies aren't very good and the general collection seems more interesting as a historical document than as a collection of works of art. That's certainly OK - there's a real and meaningful place for this kind of collection in a line like Criterion. But as a film lover, historical curiosity does not trump what's actually on the screen. Anyway, one more to go.


  1. I just checked out your list of Robeson films that you haven't seen yet, and it looks like you're missing a few, that incidentally happen to be the best three films in the box: Borderline, Jericho and Native Land. You said "one more to go," so maybe you'll get to one of them, but all three are fascinating and deserve a viewing. See my blog for reviews that I wrote about them back in 2009.

  2. Interesting, those are the three films that do not have a spine number (which is why I haven't watched them). Funny that they would choose to attach the spine numbers to the lesser films... I'll have to pick those up at some point.

  3. There are multiple films on each disc, and I don't think they are considered supplements to the main feature. That's really odd that they only assigned a number to one title per disc. But I've given up on trying to figure out their numbering rules!

  4. Amen. Why give the individual films in the BBC boxset spine numbers but not the overall box? Same with the Rebel Samurai boxset, while Monsters and Madmen has a spine. And why don't the individual movies in the Golden Age of Television boxset get spine numbers? It's almost as if they don't think these are life and death questions...