Strange Cargo - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Strange Cargo Reviews

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May 10, 2017
Action packed film of escaping convicts. The movie turns mystical which really sets it a part from other movies. Redemption is a running theme through out the entire thing. Strong performances. Its a great film!
August 11, 2015
I am not a big Clark Gable fan, and this isn't a right movie for Joan Crawford either. Their relationship isn't believable and neither is Joan Crawford in here.
½ October 20, 2013
It takes something in you to kill me that you haven't got.

Vern is a convict in South America. He tries to escape only to run into an American girl named Julie that turns him in. He falls for her and tries to escape again. His second escape attempt finds her as well, so she decides to join him in his quest to return to America. Julie has a hidden motive for joining Vern but what could it be? Will Vern make it back to America or will Julie's selfish plan thwart his attempt to regain freedom?

"We must talk again, messier. You have a brain. That makes two of us."

Frank Borzage, director of 7th Heaven, A Farewell to Arms, Stage Door Canteen, The Mortal Storm, China Doll, Bad Girl, Man's Castle, and Stranded, delivers Strange Cargo. The storyline for this picture has excellent characters but is a bit boring at times. This is a definite huge step down from movies like Life Boat and Life of Pie with similar plots. The acting is amazing and the cast includes Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Ian Hunter, and Peter Lorre.

"All I want is to get out of here and you happen to be going my way."

I DVR'd this picture off Turner Classic Movies (TCM) because it starred the talented Joan Crawford. I will say this movie had great characters and a well written script; however, the movie definitely felt dry at times and fairly boring in spots. Overall, this is an above average movie that is just okay.

"There's nothing worth stealing around here but freedom."

Grade: B-
½ September 1, 2013
"Strange Cargo" has all of the trappings of an exotic 1930s adventure film: a fog machine, sound effects in the jungle that don't make sense, quicksand, long-grown facial hair, ripped clothes, accents that range from not trying at all to over-the-top, and even a shark attack.  While the film isn't as light in the head as the Tarzan films that starred Johnny Weissmuller, "Strange Cargo" isn't that great either, either because there isn't enough action or because it's too long.  Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, in their eighth and last pairing together, barely manage to save the film from utter failure.
This time around, Gable plays André Verne, a prisoner that is completely desperate to get out of his water-locked jail. So when one of his fellow prisoners (Albert Dekker) devises a sure-to-be-flawless scheme to break out, Verne takes the risk, along with seven other jailbirds. They plan to take a sailboat as soon as they get to shore, and ride into the mainland.
Verne brings along his new girlfriend Julie (Crawford), a woman who arrived on the island as a lounge singer but quickly was fired after her relationship with him was discovered. As the plan is put into action, the prisoners end up having a hard time, as the trip begins with a long journey through the jungle, with little food and water.
When they actually to get to their boat, things begin messily, and completely cynically. But everything begins to change when one of the fellow passengers begins to resemble a saint-like figure.
The film's biggest problem is with its fascination with religion, and while moments certainly cram it down our throats, most of the time it leaves us more confused than anything.  "Strange Cargo" tries to convince us that the wise Cambreau (Ian Hunter) is God or at least God-like, and that the characters find redemption through him.  But as a supposed adventure film, this side-plot basically ruins everything.  As dramatic as it sounds, it's not an exaggeration.
Everything starts out excellently: Crawford and Gable automatically sizzle the film with their slick chemistry, the dialogue is quick-witted, and the steamy setting is enticing.  But once the main set of characters land on the boat to escape, everything goes downhill.  The plot almost ceases to move -- most films in the similar category would at least have the police hot on their tale or even a hurricane -- but "Strange Cargo" instead focuses on its characters, all of whom are too unlikable (except for Crawford and Gable, although Gable pushes it) to truly create interest.  Once the religious angle is introduced, the eye-rolls begin.  It's surprising how fast something can go completely wrong.
And it's sad. Crawford and Gable are fantastic together on screen. She, so glamorous and refined, is easily sexy, while he is grizzled, smart-alecky, and tough as nails. They make for a great contrast, and it's not hard to imagine them as a romantic couple. While there are moments in "Strange Cargo" where this quality is shown off, there isn't nearly enough.
It's a shame that Crawford and Gable had to go out like this, because they've done so much better.  Had it looked anything like 1935's "China Seas," which saw Jean Harlow as the female lead, it would have been a rollicking adventure, and a complete grand finale.  Too bad it didn't turn out that way.
½ August 15, 2012
Definitely a strange vehicle for Gable and Crawford. Strange but still quite entertaining. I found Gable's performance to be a little over the top at times but Ian Hunter was awesome as the peculiar Cambreau, and you can always count on Peter Lorre to be seedy and creepy. One thing I like about old Hollywood is that they could put some of the biggest stars in strange and interesting films like this one whereas these days so much is just recycled and remade garbage.
May 25, 2012
Director Frank Borzage and writer Lawrence Hazard's dialogue bring to life the story of most improbable of all miracles: redemption. The Christ figure played by Ian Hunter is so believable that you will find yourself watching all most against your will.
May 23, 2012
great chemistry between gable & crawford
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ January 28, 2012
Clark Gable's next picture after "Gone With the Wind" was "Strange Cargo," where he teamed back up with Joan Crawford. Instead of light romantic comedy, this time the legendary duo brings us complex, rather brainy drama. I would even describe this film as literary.

It has its flaws, but "Strange Cargo" is an interesting and enriching work of art with an unusual spiritual undercurrent. Set in the South American jungle, it tells the story of an inmate in a remote penal colony (Gable) and a tough broad from the gutter with no family (Crawford) struggling to get by working in cheap nightclubs (probably including prostitution).

Gable and several other inmates break out of the prison, and we follow them on their grueling trek. For reasons I won't explain, Crawford's character ends up going with them. Along the way, they all learn a lot about each other and the demons they're fighting.

There are so many characters that it gets a bit dizzying, and the script sometimes is a bit overly brainy. But there's a lot here to appreciate, and I'm saddened that "Strange Cargo" has been so completely forgotten.

In my continued exploration of the films of Joan Crawford, I'm realizing something more deeply than ever. The vast majority of good films have been forgotten. American culture has a bizarre tendency to forget about its movies. You'd think that good films would leave more of a trace in the culture. So much good work that no one knows about.

One tidbit: the director of "Strange Cargo," Frank Borzage (a man I've never heard of before this), won a Best Director award at the very first Oscar ceremony in 1929. The film was called "Seventh Heaven," starring Janet Gaynor. She also won an Oscar that night. Another forgotten movie from a forgotten director, starring a forgotten actress.
January 19, 2012
Frank Borzage's "Strange Cargo" has to be one of the most strikingly religious films to ever pass through the studio system. The character of Cambreau (played beautifully by Ian Hunter) is something very different from the easy wish-fulfillment angels of Henry Travers in "It's a Wonderful Life" or Cary Grant in "The Bishop's Wife"; rather than fall back on that sort of feel-good ecumenicism, "Strange Cargo" opts for hard theology. Here is a Christ figure who doesn't fix the characters' problems--instead he asks them to come unto him by turning inward to find their own solutions, and to find the gods within themselves. We are our own saviors, and, more importantly, we are each others' saviors--we know God because we know the Good in our fellow man. It's the sort of heady, real redemption that most Hollywood pictures wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, and here it's wrapped up in a tremendously entertaining romance with Joan Crawford and escaped convict Clark Gable, complete with fisticuffs, a greasy Peter Lorre, and adventure on the high sea. It's a grand, glorious concoction, the sort of strange art film that occasionally finds its way through the cogs of mainstream American filmmaking, and it's a rich, rewarding, exciting, and beautiful piece of work.
½ August 26, 2011
Where else are you going to find a thief, a whore, God and a man named "Pig" in the same picture?
April 11, 2011
Eighth and final on-screen pairing of Gable & Crawford, whose illicit and adulterous affair was soon to be stamped out by papa LB Mayer. Unusual in its absence of MGM's typical glamor and dazzle in this period, it also signals Crawford's evolution into stronger performances and better characters. The melodrama tends to run high, and the religious overtones are almost painfully layered on (I doubt any modern viewer is going to be very surprised with the 'revealing' final image, I even doubt anyone back in 1940 was).

All in all, an interesting film, certainly considering how it broke out of the 1940's mold and anticipated the darker, grittier style of films that would once again rule in years to come, but nowhere near a masterwork.
½ January 6, 2011
Very strange but fascinating.
Super Reviewer
½ October 29, 2010
It may seem a strange movie at first, but it's actually a very suspenseful drama, with a very interesting ending, and plus it's got a great starring cast with Crawford, Gable, and Lorre.
Super Reviewer
July 18, 2010
Two of Hollywood's powerhouses of that era teamed up to make what appears to be a pretty conventional prison break film, where Gable's lead character is very much an anti-hero. It's a bit over the top, even for the era it was made, but enjoyable to watch how the actors of that era worked together. I'd venture to say the scenes seem almost modern in construction, as opposed to the very stage-like methods used up until this time. Interesting supporting cast. Worth looking into it if you enjoy classic films.
May 18, 2010
Strange Cargo (1940)

This is the quintessential Clark Gable movie. He plays André Verne, a rough and tough Devil's Island inmate. He sees saloon girl, Julie (Joan Crawford) while working on the docks and the sparks fly. He has to have her, even grabbing her well-exposed leg. André escapes to her room just to be with her. But, Julie has no choice, and must turn him in.

This is the quintessential Joan Crawford movie too, with her typical tough-talking, Sadie Thompson character. I know that she's supposed to be without make-up, but she still comes off pretty glamorous despite roughing it in the jungle swamps and lost at sea.

Both people are lost souls who are trying to escape their lot in life, but are not given too many alternative chances, or choices in life. Julie is fleeing the amorous advances of M'sieu Pig (Peter Lorre) by moving in with a miner in the jungle, and André is escaping with some other hardened convicts led by the most dangerous Moll (Albert Dekker) who would stab you in the back as help you (even though he has a soft spot for Dufond (John Arledge). There's also Hessler (Paul Lukas) who marries and murders rich women.

A stranger walks into the prison, Chambreau (Ian Hunter) and tags along with the convicts. He's somehow let into the escape and has a weird effect on many of the men, including André.

Naturally, as in most Clark Gable movies, the love of a good woman was what turned him around. But, in this particular case, there's the mysterious Chambreau who has challenged André's conscience to redeem himself and do the right thing.
October 11, 2009
This movie suffers from an identity crisis since it wants to be an adventure movie as well as a film that carries a spiritual meaning. This spiritual message is embodied by the character of 'Cambreau', who seems a bit out of place and even laughable sometimes. This makes for an ending which exclamates the lesson about a sinner who gets enlightened and chooses for his atonement out of free will. The ending offers a strange contrast from the beginning since the punishement now only seems like a walk in the park according to Gable's behaviour. As a viewer you ask yourself 'why the hell did he have to go through all of those ordeals for', but I guess that's where the christian message comes around the corner once again.
½ September 20, 2009
Great movie it's a classic!
June 21, 2009
Not as much Peter Lorre as I was lead to believe but still a good drama. Not usually my type of film, but I enjoyed it.
½ February 22, 2009
[3.5] Gable escapes a penal colony and takes floozie Crawford along for the ride. Along with a handful of other fleeing criminals, they rough it through the jungle and long days at sea to reach the mainland and freedom. Sounds like a great matinee movie, but then enters Ian Hunter, who plays a moralizing goodie-two-shoes escapee named Cambreau. At the height of absurdity, Cambreau turns out to be none other than GOD. The movie ends with morally ambiguous Gable throwing Cambreau overboard, where of course Cambreau grabs a floating log and wraps his arms around it like Christ on the cross. When Gable realizes he just threw the Heavenly Father overboard, he rescues him, and then turns himself into the authorities... Give. Me. A. Fricking. Break. I was looking forward to a jungle adventure with Gable and Crawford, and was very unprepared for the insulting lunacy that ensued.
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