Friday, November 28, 2014

The Delightful Rogue (1929)

Who’s In It: Rod La Rocque (The Shadow Strikes), Rita La Roy (The Mandarin Mystery), and Charles Byer (Beautiful But Dumb).

What It’s About: A flamboyant, modern day pirate (La Rocque) pursues a singer (La Roy), causing her to question her relationship with her boyfriend (Byer).

How It Is: Not that delightful, actually. Calling the pirate Lastro “flamboyant” is an understatement. I don’t know the first thing about gay culture in the 1920s, but from this century looking back it’s impossible not to see Lastro as a gay stereotype (despite his professions of love to the singer Nydra). He's an annoying character at best.

Though he’s horrible, he could almost work as a plot device in the story of Nydra (La Roy) and Harry (Byer). Harry is a wealthy American who’s met Nydra on the South Pacific island of Tapit and fallen in love with her. Nydra loves him too, but doesn’t trust that his family will accept her or that his feelings for her will stay the same once they get back to the US. Lastro presents an opportunity for her to test Harry’s love though when Lastro kidnaps Harry and offers to release him unharmed if Nydra will spend the night with Lastro.

It could have been an interesting scenario if we weren’t clearly meant to hate Harry and root for Lastro. Harry’s reaction to the test is predictable and boring, but Lastro’s no alternative. His gaudy affectations aside, he’s just a butthole of a person. He claims that he never intended to force Nydra to have sex with him, but at the very least he’s perfectly willing for her to think that’s what he’s going to do. There’s no chemistry between him and her and it’s completely implausible that Nydra suddenly becomes attracted to him when Harry reveals his true colors.

On the positive side, Nydra’s a complex, independent character and I enjoyed spending time with her and wondering how she was going to pan out, even if I wasn’t happy with the result. And the South Seas setting is great, especially some of the street scenes that grabbed my imagination about island life. Nydra’s band is also very cool, especially the drummer who’s showy and flamboyant in a good way. Small pleasures, but they made the movie easier to get through.

Rating: Two out of five blowhard buccaneers.

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