EAST OF SUMATRA (director: Budd Boetticher; screenwriter: from the novel by Louis L’Amour/Frank Gill Jr./Jack Natteford; cinematographer: Clifford Stine; editor: Virgil Vogel; music: Joseph Gershenson; cast: Jeff Chandler (Duke Mullane), Anthony Quinn ( Kiang, King), Marilyn Maxwell (Lory Hale), Jay C. Flippen (Mac), Gilchrist Stuart (Mr. Vickers), Suzan Ball (Minyora), John Sutton (Daniel Catlin), Aram Katcher (Atib), John Warbutton (Craig Keith), Gene Iglesias (Paulo), Anthony Eustrel (Clyde), James Craven (Drake), Michael Dale (Co-pilot), Scatman Crothers (Baltimore), Henry Earl Holliman (Cupid), Peter Graves (Cowboy), Charles Horvath (Corcoran); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Albert J. Cohen; Universal-International; 1953)
“Mostly contrived hokum adventure story, set on a remote Pacific island.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Budd Boetticher(“Red Ball Express”/”The Cimarron Kid”/”The Man From The Alamo”) gets over just fine with this mostly contrived hokum adventure story, set on a remote Pacific island among exploiter westerners working for a big international corporation and restless Javanese natives under the thumb of a despot king. That Jeff Chandler and Anthony Quinn excel as rival leaders gives this programmer some props, otherwise its a routine Hollywood two-fisted adventure/romance story not worth remembering. It’s based on the novel by Louis L’Amour, and is written by Frank Gill Jr. and adapted by Jack Natteford.

While macho American mining engineer Duke Mullane (Jeff Chandler) manages a tin mine in Malaya, he’s recruited by the field boss Craig Keith (John Warbutton) and his uptight budget executive Daniel Catlin (John Sutton) to find the valuable tin, needed for airplanes, cars and appliances, on a remote jungle east of Sumatra called Tungga Island. The penny-pinching Caitlin is placed in charge and he undermines Duke’s negotiation with the traditionalist King Kiang (Anthony Quinn) to pay the workers building the mine and the airplane runway in the jungle with Western medicines and trade goods. The natives stop working and Catlin arrives in the jungle with his fiancée Lory Hale (Marilyn Maxwell), an old flame of Duke’s when he was a pilot war hero.

When the English speaking native go-between, Atib (Aram Katcher), gets drunk and accidentally burns down the village and the lighter he stole from Duke is found at the burned-out site, the king blames Duke and destroys his group’s plane to escape and attempts to kill the group of westerners by starvation rather than in a gun battle. The king’s soon-to-be bride, Minyora (Suzan Ball, Lucy’s cousin), befriends Duke which leads to further misunderstandings for the unfortunate ladies man mining engineer.

During her jungle stay, Lory realizes she loves Duke and dumps her asshole boyfriend. So now all that’s left to end this unconvincing tale in its predictable way is an old-fashioned machete fight between Kiang and Duke, and the winner will get. to determine the fate of the Westerners.

There’s only so much a director can do with such an artificial story, and Boetticher does that.

Jeff Chandler, Suzan Ball, and Marilyn Maxwell in East of Sumatra (1953)


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”