END OF THE RIVER, THE(director: Derek Twist; screenwriters: Wolfgang Wilhelm/based on the novel Death of a Common Man by Desmond Holdridge; cinematographer: Chris Challis; editor: Bereton Porter; music: Lambert Williamson; cast: Sabu (Manoel), Esmond Knight (Dantos), Bibi Ferreira (Teresa), Antoinette Cellier (Conceicao), Torin Thatcher (Lisboa), Maurice Denham (Defending Counsel), James Hayter (Chico), Raymond Lovell (Porpino), Orlando Martins (Harrigan), Robert Douglas (Jones); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger; MGM; 1947-UK)
“Potentially powerful story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This exotic melodrama is based on the novel Death of a Common Man by Desmond Holdridge and is written by Wolfgang Wilhelm. Director Derek Twist (“Green Grow the Rushes”/”Police Dog”/”Rx for Murder”) allows the potentially powerful story, told in flashback, to never take hold and lose its grip as it becomes meandering. It’s a coming of age story of an uncivilized young Brazilian Indian man uprooted from his primitive village in the Amazon and forced to live among the white man, where he is so naive that he gets into serious trouble dealing with unscrupulous characters. The lad finds evil follows him from the jungle to the city, finding out there’s no escape from either.
The b/w pic was photographed, mostly on location, along the upper reaches of the Amazon, giving it an air of authenticity. But the primitive acting and peculiar nature of the uninspiring story ensured that it was a commercial and critical flop.
It stars Sabu, who was discovered in India by Robert Flaherty to play in Elephant Boy (1937). This was the naturalized US citizen Sabu’s tenth film (he made 23 films), before he died of a heart attack in 1963, at the age of 39.
The film opens with a sullen and uncommunicative Manoel (Sabu) standing trial for murder in a Brazilian courtroom. In flashback we learn why the lad is mute and won’t even talk to his sweet wife Teresa (Bibi Ferreira) or competent and caring lawyer (Maurice Denham).
Manoel (Sabu) happily lives a simple life with his widowed mom, older brother and sister. But he is betrayed by an evil tribal chieftain who forces his widowed mom to marry him and Manoel is then exiled from his village after unsuccessfully trying to defend his sister who was abused by the chief.
Now forced to survive alone in the white man’s world, the illiterate 21-year-old gets into some adventures in the jungle. An English gold prospector named Jones finds him severely wounded and nurses the boy back to health, and then leaves him in the hands of a cruel benefactor Porcino (Raymond Lovell) who beats him to find out where the prospector discovered gold. At a slave camp run by Cypriano Dantos (Esmond Knight) Manoel meets and falls in love with the sweet housekeeper Teresa. When Dantos becomes a victim of beri-beri, Manoel is led back to civilization by the imprisoned skipper for debt, Lisboa (Torin Thatcher). Thereby Manoel experiences in civilization a series of bizarre events, such as unwittingly joining the corrupt Brotherhood of Maritime Workers and then blacklisted from work by the authorities when the revolutionary union is put out of business. When Manoel at last gets a job on the docks, he gets into a brawl after picked on which culminates in his trial on a murder charge.
REVIEWED ON 9/18/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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