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Mamba

USA 1930. Dir: Albert S. Rogell. 78 min. DCP

“The First All Technicolor Drama!” Mamba, a crazed colonialist drama set in pre-WWI German East Africa (now Tanzania), was Hollywood’s first all-colour feature-length talkie that wasn’t a musical. Made in two-strip Technicolor, it headlines Jean Hersholt — for whom Oscar’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is named — as a sadistic plantation owner who mistreats his African workers, sexually abuses native women, and is shunned by other European settlers. He “buys” the beautiful daughter of a destitute German aristocrat in a stab at respectability, but soon has a rival for his bride’s affections. This fast-paced film, representative of Old Hollywood’s racist depictions of “the Dark Continent,” was uncommonly extravagant and ambitious for a Poverty Row production. (Tiffany Pictures, its maker, would soon go bankrupt.) It was thought lost, except for fragments, until an intact print was located in Australia a decade ago.

— preceded by —

Hearst Metrotone News, Vol. 1, No. 269 (1930) • Short newsreel. 9 min.
Me and the Boys (1929) • Musical short with Estelle Brody and Ben Pollack’s jazz band. Dir: Victor Saville. 9 min.