West of Zanzibar (1928)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Even by the standards of star Lon Chaney and director Tod Browning, West of Zanzibar is an unrelentingly grim and gruesome melodrama. Chaney delivers an unforgettable performance as Flint, the crippled "king" of a faraway jungle island. Swearing vengeance against Crane (Lionel Barrymore), the man who stole his wife and left him a paraplegic, Flint concentrates his hatred on Crane's daughter Anna (Jane Daly). Bankrolling the girl's convent education, Flint brings Anna to his island domain, where he pumps her full of narcotics and forces her into a life of prostitution and all-around depravity. As a final humiliation, he intends to allow Anna to be sacrificed in a native ritual. But when he finds out that Anna is actually his own daughter, Flint does an abrupt about-face and does all he can to rescue the girl and her dissolute sweetheart Doc (Warner Baxter) from the rampaging natives. West of Zanzibar was remade (and, it has been, argued, vastly improved upon) as Kongo (1932), with Walter Huston in the Chaney role.
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Lon Chaney
as Phroso 'Dead-Legs'
Lionel Barrymore
as Mr. Crane
Mary Nolan
as Maizie
Curtis Nero
as Bumbo
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for West of Zanzibar

All Critics (2)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

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...

Full Review… | June 27, 2012
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

What makes this film special is the virtuoso performance of Chaney.

Full Review… | April 30, 2003
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

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.

J. Scott Fugate
J. Scott Fugate

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.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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!

Jack Gattanella
Jack Gattanella

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