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Thursday, May 20, 2010

THE BLONDE CAPTIVE (1931)

This long-lost documentary/exploitation flick is a real curiosity and a telling look at how the then-exotic could be sleazily manipulated into the most feeble of wank-fodder for the most pathetic of trenchcoat brigade desperadoes.

Basically a chronicle of an expedition to Australia in search of the reportedly still-extant Neanderthal man, the film follows a pack of white anthropologists/explorers as they tour through such stops as New Zealand and Pago Pago, capturing every bit of "strange" non-whiteness that wandered into camera range. I can imagine how bizarre much of this material must have seemed to American audiences when seen nearly eighty years ago and much of the narration is a litany of smug and offensive sneering at native ways of life. Denigrating aboriginal peoples as "the lowest rung on the ladder of humanity" and describing most of the females as ugly, undesirable and not worth the attention of the white man (I shit you not), the filmmakers nonetheless make sure to capture images of every flappy and un-PLAYBOY-like set of nekkid breasts that they can find. Believe me when I say that it's about as appealing or erotic as watching one's eighty-year-old mud-caked grandma running around topless, displaying swaying udders that resemble socks filled with ball bearings. There are exceptions to that assessment, however, specifically the very cute and very topless obvious jailbait found on Bali. When the camera finds them the viewer is "treated" to borderline-pedophilic leering at their impossibly firm dairies that may make your skin crawl due to the creepy defilement of the girls' other-cultural innocence and lack of inhibitions about their bodies.

As the "scientific" expedition makes its way west across the vast expanse of Australia, we witness a lot of very interesting footage of the aborigines and their daily life and customs, but a lot of what would otherwise be fascinating is rendered distasteful thanks to the aforementioned tendency of the narration to describe the people as everything just shy of "sub-human" and frequently make mention of their "cannibalistic instincts" that could at any minute be directed at the expedition's members. There's even a dance of friendship done in honor of the filmmakers that is written off as "savagely repulsive" and "barbaric," utterly missing the intent of the tribesmen who perform it.

The "barbaric" dance of friendship.

All of this is presented in a non-credible attempt to prove that the aborigines are actually Neanderthals who somehow eluded extinction, a theory whose only claim to feasibility stems from a museum bust of a caveman that kinda/sorta looks like an aborigine.

But lest we forget, this film is supposedly about a blonde captive of some native savage, so where the hell is she? The person in question does not show up until the last four minutes of the film's seventy-three-minute running time, and when we do see her she is neither a beauty nor what would really be considered a captive.

The filmmakers notice a blonde-haired boy among the aborigines and their questions about the child's origins are answered when they meet the kid's dad, an aborigine who took as his wife the shipwrecked wife of a deceased pearl fisherman. A textbook example of someone who's "gone native," the so-called captive resembled a mellow and topless female version of Jon Pertwee who seemed totally free to leave if she so chose.

The unnamed star of the film.

Her story is not particularly interesting, in fact I've seen documentaries about the unashamedly redneck locals of backwoods counties in West Virginia that blow THE BLONDE CAPTIVE out of the water, so, despite its (thankful) brevity, I say give this time capsule a miss. Even for the dirt-cheap price of $5.99, this isn't worth the expenditure. Buy a sixer of beer instead.

Art from the DVD release.

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