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In 1910, on the island of Sourabaya, Java, a newspaper reports the bankruptcy of the local coal company, and carries a photograph of the company's Swedish general manager, Hendrik Heyst. In the bar of his hotel, Mr. Schomberg spreads rumors that Hendrik is not to be trusted because he robbed and possibly murdered the owner of the coal company, who is missing. When Hendrik arrives to stay at the hotel while conducting business in town, however, Schomberg is solicitous, but continues to talk behind his back. Mrs. Schomberg, who is terrified of her husband, stands mutely at the cash register, day in and day out. When one of Hendrik's friends entreats him to reveal the truth, that the owner of the coal company absconded with the remaining funds, Hendrik states that he is uninterested in gossip, and only wishes to live on his island alone, away from people, as all his work relationships seem to turn sour. In the evening, Hendrik listens to a performance of an all-female orchestra operated by Señor and Madame Makanoff. During a break, Madame Makanoff reminds the pianist, Alma, that she has a contractual obligation to be agreeable to gentlemen, and in this instance, she must sit with Schomberg. Alma is repelled by Schomberg, however, and Hendrik, who witnesses Madame Makanoff literally twisting Alma's arm, invites her to sit with him, and offers his assistance. Alma is pleased and surprised by Hendrik's kindness, and Hendrik finds himself growing fond of her during their conversation. Later that evening when Alma discovers that the Makanoffs have sold her contract to the lascivious Schomberg, she seeks out Hendrik and asks his help. Hendrik, who has been thinking of her all evening, catches a late night boat to his island with Alma. The next morning, Schomberg becomes enraged when he learns he has been duped and attacks Makanoff, who escapes with his troupe. Moments later, three new guests arrive: Briton Mr. Jones, a malevolent thief, his "secretary" Martin Ricardo, a Cockney who keeps a knife strapped to his ankle, and Pedro, a dim-witted and violent servant, who throws out anyone who comes near Jones or his belongings. Within a short period of time, Schomberg wishes to rid his hotel of these new guests, but is frightened of them. Ricardo advises him that Jones will leave only when he has found something worth his while. On this advice, Schomberg tells Ricardo about Hendrik, who he says lives alone on his island and is "rotten with money." Schomberg also bitterly tells Ricardo about Alma, which sparks Ricardo's interest, although he avows that Jones hates women. Schomberg offers them his boat. On his island, Hendrik is pleased by Alma's company and reveals to her his father's advice that compelled him to live alone on an island: "The world is a mad dog and will bite you if you give it a chance. A man who forms a tie is lost." Hendrik has fallen in love with Alma, but due to his belief in solitude, he informs Alma that he intends to signal a boat to pick her up, despite her protests. Hendrik is surprised shortly thereafter when a small boat carrying Jones, Ricardo and Pedro bumps up to his jetty. The three men are unconscious due to dehydration, and after Hendrik revives them with water, Ricardo explains that they discovered their barrels were filled with salt water, and that they had been told that Borneo was only two days away. Hendrik is suspicious of the men, but offers them a cabin for the night. His only servant, Wang, is frightened by the men and abandons Hendrik. While Hendrik gathers some supplies, Ricardo steals into his house, takes his gun, and introduces himself to Alma, to whom he is immediately attracted. Sensing danger, Alma plays into his hands and leads him to believe that she will help him rob Hendrik. Alma does not reveal her visitation to Hendrik, who lights the signal light for the boat to stop at the island, and informs Jones that he wishes them to leave that evening. Jones, who is unaware of Alma's presence on the island, foists Pedro's services on Hendrik and makes it clear he has no intention of leaving, after which Ricardo knocks down the signal light. Before dinner, Hendrik confesses to Alma that he feels totally powerless against these men, having no weapon or boat, and not even being able to "speak with the authority of a killer." Jones stays in the cabin while Ricardo has dinner with Hendrik and Alma, but Hendrik interrupts the dinner and insists Ricardo accompany him to the cabin, where he will speak with Jones. Before leaving, he takes Alma aside and warns her to hide out by the rocks. A thunder storm erupts, and while Ricardo returns to the house, Jones holds Hendrik at gunpoint and insists on knowing the whereabouts of Hendrik's hidden fortune. Hendrik is amused by the misconception and convinces Jones that he is penniless by telling him that Schomberg would have told Ricardo anything to avenge himself on Hendrik because of Alma. Jones is appalled that he was unaware of Alma's involvement, and realizes that he will have to kill Ricardo in addition to Hendrik and Alma. Likewise, Hendrik is shocked to learn that Alma did not tell him that Ricardo was at his house that afternoon. Both men leap to action and head for the house, where Alma has dressed in her finest clothes and has Ricardo entranced. Alma tricks Ricardo into taking his knife out of its sheath and then stabs him to death. In the meantime, Wang has returned and shoots Pedro. Hendrik witnesses Alma's action and, embracing her, confesses his love for her. Jones is about to shoot Hendrik to prevent him from incriminating him, but Hendrik kicks a table over and the candles go out. Hendrik, now in control, taunts Jones in the darkness, who fires aimlessly with Hendrik's own gun. Finally, the two men struggle and a shot is fired, and to Alma's relief, Hendrik emerges victorious.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: week of 23 Dec 1940|
|Release Date:||1941||Production Date:||
35mm:7/91:SHD. Plot & sub headings by SHD.
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures, Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Paramount Pictures, Inc.|
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