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Curse of the Ubangi

Curse of the Ubangi(1946)

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After a narrator introduces the themes of witchcraft, magic and voodoo, and examines the superstitions that lie behind every culture's belief system, images of penitents carrying crosses and exotic dances and rituals illustrate the concept. Then the film's focus switches to circuses and their dubious history as popular entertainment. The capture and training of seals and sea elephants first is seen, followed by shots of other wild animals, such as African lions, the Bengal tiger and leopards, being hunted and trapped. As a leopard is depicted with a female circus trainer, the narrator discusses how circuses once attempted to train many other exotic animals, such as okapi, zebras, giraffes and kangaroos. Giraffes are seen being pursued by hunters, while monkeys, called "man's little brother," are shown playing and then being chased by hungry pythons. When two native hunters appear in the jungle, the pythons flee, and the men take the monkey, apparently without struggle, along with them for sale to the circus. One of the snakes then captures a small mouse-deer, which also is running from the scent of humans. As the narrator ponders the cruelty of men who care only for their own comfort and profit, and questions the morality of capturing animals for circuses, water buffalo, hippopotami, rhinoceri and alligators are seen. Under the indifferent eye of the hippopotamus, the deadly river alligators then eat a boy who has destroyed their eggs. In the ocean, meanwhile, a school of whales spout water while a gun crew shoots harpoons from a nearby boat. The wounded whale slowly dies, then is hoisted aboveboard, to be displayed for five cents per customer. The narrator then explains how circus exhibitors, needing new thrills, once looked for the "missing link" between ape and man: Insensitive white men bribe native tribesmen, whose greed gets the better of them, to trap first an orangutan, then a native Ubangi, for use in the circus. Ubangi girls, with "clapper lips," cringe in fear of the white man, while their chief places a curse on them. Back in a vacant lot in America, a circus tent goes up and animals are paraded to lure customers. Various attractions are shown, but, as the narrator explains, the curse of the vengeful Ubangi asserts itself when a renowned trapeze artist falls to her death on Friday the 13th, two hundred circus employees are poisoned by arsenic, a clown is trampled by an elephant, a panther mauls its trainer, and a fire destroys an entire "big top." In conclusion, the narrator asks, "Are these unforeseen manifestations of the supernatural at work?"