Considering that this film was an all-black production with a very low budget, the results are surprisingly good. After all, many films made by the black community to be viewed by the black community were pretty dreadful affairs--mostly due to the incredibly poor production values. Here, however, Oscar Micheaux manages to make a film that is better than most mainstream films of the day. Part of is that he got a lot out of his cast and the money used to make the film and part of it is because the plot was so daring--and very ahead of its time.
Paul Robeson (in his first film) plays a horrible man. He is a con-man and poses as a preacher to bilk decent people out of their money. And, on top of that, he's a hard-drinking man who is not above using and destroying women in the process. For much of the film, his evil ways go undetected and he's seen as a pillar of the community. However, late in the film he goes way too far and his actions result in the death of a woman who inexplicably loved him. He is confronted with his evil near the end and this was very exciting. Unfortunately, this very modern and cynical look at church charlatans ran afoul of censors and Micheaux unfortunately was forced to tack on a bad ending that detracted, a bit, from the impact of the overall film.
Despite not getting a chance to hear Robeson's gorgeous voice since this is a silent, it did give him a great chance to show he could act--and act very well. In fact, of the many all-black productions I have watched, this has some of the best overall acting. Sure, there are a few silly characters here and there--but not many. Most are quite believable. There are a few minor quibbles about the film--apart from the ending. First, Robeson's character is not introduced well. Instead of seeing him live like the devil, the intertitle cards at the beginning tell about him--too much really. Second, the woman dying was clichéd. You don't just die of a broken heart and it could have been done in a much more believable manner--such as a suicide or having him beat her to death. Still, compared to all the films of the day, it was a wonderfully made film--and well worth seeing.
Body and Soul
Body and Soul
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A minister is malevolent and sinister behind his righteous facade. He consorts with, and later extorts from, the owner of a gambling house, and betrays an honest girl, eventually driving them both to ruin. —Martin H. Booda
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
March 31, 2022 at 04:43 AM