When civilized men want anything, the uncivilized answer should always be no.
We knew we were in trouble about three minutes into White Savage, a movie that quickly revealed itself to be a bad hybrid of South Seas adventure and light romance. It features Dominican actress Maria Montez as the ruler of a Polynesian paradise called Temple Island that is coveted by two men. Good guy John Hall wants fishing rights to hunt sharks, while bad guy Thomas Gomez wants to steal the island's legendary treasure, which resides on the bottom of a sacred pool. Montez isn't keen on giving either man access, but she may not have a choice—she's liable to be betrayed by her brother, who's deeply in debt and willing to sell off their father's ancient land.
The movie features stalky, presumptuous male attitudes toward Montez, casts numerous bit players and extras in shoe polish, and features as an important character Charlie Chan portayer Sidney Toler in full inscrutable Asian mode, dispensing aphorisms for every occasion. In addition to these dubious aspects, almost the entire first half of the movie unspools to a highly annoying soundtrack of trilling flutes that are supposed to sound vaguely islandish. Don't get us wrong—we understand that the movie is meant to be largely lighthearted, but you know how to get future viewers to overlook flaws? Be a good movie. Excellence will buy a lot of forbearance. There's not much excellence in White Savage.
Are there any positives? Several. Montez is lovely. There's a tense, high stakes poker sequence that's a cut above average and shows that—similar to that old line from cowboy movies—white man not only speaks with forked tongue, but also plays with forked deck. Also positive, there's an outdoor island dance featuring some incredibly fit bodies of both sexes—we're talking co-ed six packs as far as the eye can see. And finally, because the movie is relentlessly dumb, if you're in the right frame of mind it can be funny. Otherwise, White Savage is just a throwaway wartime adventure set in the exotic Pacific islands, filmed in Los Angeles and environs, that takes viewers nowhere. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1943.