West of Zanzibar (1928)
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Critic Reviews for West of Zanzibar
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Chaney plays a stage magician whose signature trick is to transform a beautiful woman into a skeleton: This is an absolutely brilliant -- and economical -- visual evocation of the relationship between sex and death, the erotic and the morbid...
Audience Reviews for West of Zanzibar
I couldn't quite bare this film. The portrayal of Africans as savages and cannibals tainted my ability to watch it. It's a shame because Chaney & Barrymore are brilliant. However, in this context it is very hard to watch.
A remarkably dark, twisted movie, even by contemporary standards. And of course, it has a fantastic performance by Lon Chaney, playing a maniacal, vengeful Colonel Kurtz type who has paralyzed legs and laboriously drags himself around on his arms. "West of Zanzibar" is not as well-known as other Tod Browning films like "Dracula" and "Freaks," but it's just as powerful. I feel it desperately needed a flashier title -- "West of Zanzibar" suggests some dull National Geographic travelogue, not this sick, gripping melodrama. One warning: In a movie about African natives made in the 1920s, embarrassing racist stereotypes are a given.
Ok, so the "voodoo" tribespeople are outdated at best and racist at worst. But damn if this isn't exceptionally cracked melodrama, propelled by Lon Cheney, sans make-up, and he's incredible in every moment on camera. He didn't ever need to "Ham" it up, he just was made for the screen, especially in the case of this where it's about 'Dead-Legs', a paralyzed magician who spends 18 years crafting his plot of revenge against a former showman (Barrymore), and involving a certain daughter that his former love had with another man... OR DID SHE? Now, off to Zanzibar, to meet the Zanzibarbarians! Here we go again!
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