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The Green Goddess

(1930 b 73')

En: 4 Ed: 5

Based on a play by William Archer, three people from England are taken hostage by an Asian potentate.

A plane crash-lands near India in the kingdom of Rukh; Major Crespin (H. B. Warner), Mrs. Crespin (Alice Joyce), and Dr. Traherne (Ralph Forbes) are not injured. Mrs. Crespin says she is no longer the wife of the major although she bore his children. They are received by the Rukh rajah (George Arliss), who speaks English and has a butler named Watkins (Ivan F. Simpson). They burn a news article about three Rukh men, who have been sentenced to death for political crimes in India; but the rajah knows all about it, as they are his brothers.

In the palace the rajah refuses to provide transportation, because his people believe that the goddess has sent these three to pay for the three about to be executed in India. The major draws his gun, but the rajah casually notes that his teeth (bullets) have been removed. They hear a wireless transmitting, and the rajah tells them the executions are scheduled for tomorrow at sunset. Mrs. Crespin asks for an exchange, but the rajah declines, saying "Asia has a long score against you swaggering lords," and he intends to get some back. The rajah visits her room. He will not contact India; but he promises to send for her children if she will be his queen. She says no. The rajah asks Watkins to send a message to see if they can understand Morse code. They pretend not to, realizing it was a test. The doctor writes a message for help, and they ask Watkins to send it; but he has no desire to help England, where he was in a reformatory for stealing as a poor child. When they promise him 2,000 pounds, he agrees but sends no message. The doctor and the major bind Watkins and throw him off the high balcony to his death. The major transmits the message and is shot by the rajah, saying he did not get it through, before he dies.

The next day the rajah wants his vengeance. The doctor asks Mrs. Crespin about the rajah's offer, and she says she loves the doctor. She begs the rajah to free the doctor but will not bring her children. As the rajah offers to let him go after she bears him a child, planes are seen overhead. One lands, and the pilot comes in, threatening to bomb. The rajah gives in, saying, "Barbarous Asia bows to civilized Europe." They leave, and the rajah concludes, "She probably would have been a nuisance."

This film betrays the imperialist prejudices of the English in India. The rajah is portrayed as clever but cruel, lusty, and vindictive; he is outsmarted by the English with their superior weapons. Yet his plight reveals the psychology of those who have suffered from imperialist domination and colonialism.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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