Monday, May 18, 2015


Mogambo; adventure/ drama, USA, 1953; D: John Ford, S: Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly

Eloise Kelly arrives in Kenya after an invitation from a Maharadja, but once there, she finds out he left her alone. She still finds a neat compensation in hunter Victor, and stays in his outpost. However, he does not want a long term relationship with her and cannot wait until she leaves. The next day, anthropologists Donald and his wife Linda show up, in order to study apes in the jungle. Victor brings them all along for a safari, but since he fell in love with Linda, Kelly is very jealous. Realizing he would ruin a marriage, Victor abandons Linda, who shoots him in the arm from resentment. Kelly is about to leave the place on a boat, but changes her mind and stays with Victor.

"Mogambo" ("Danger" in Swahili) is one of the few remakes that are actually better than the original, in this case "Red Dust", evidently also starring Clark Gable: it is not so much that John Ford is a better director than Victor Fleming, as much as that he somehow found a better adaptability to the material. Both films have the same daring plot involving a love triangle between the main hero and a married woman, yet both somehow lack the most obvious ingredient: the interaction and tension between the two women. They both only show the interaction between the man and one of the two women, which is somewhat lacking. "Mogambo" works the best in the first half: it is elegant, witty and refreshingly comical (when Kelly spots a snake in the room, she screams and hugs Victor. He just reacts calmly, saying: "Oh, that's Joe! He is there to catch mice... And to scare women so that I can protect them."), which all establish a superior tone compared to the original with ease. However, the second half is just one long, tiresome safari tour: while the African landscapes are beautiful to observe on film, they still cannot overshadow the storyline which never seems to "catch up" with them, which makes that part of the films seem like an empty walk. Only an occasional, typical Ford scene manage to lighten it up again (as Kelly is about to go to rest, sitting at a table in the night, a leopard suddenly enters her tent - and exits on the other side, as swiftly as he arrived). The most was achieved from the two actresses, who are wonderfully charming: Grace Kelly and, especially, Ava Gardner, whose voice and stance alone are so charismatic it warrants the film.


No comments: