Cast & Crew
H. T. Cowling
Walter A. Futter
After an American adventurer hears the tale of India's White Goddess, a young woman who, as the child of slain Russian refugees, was reared by Tibetian Lamas in a remote Himalayan valley and is now revered as a near deity, he determines to see the Goddess for himself. The first leg of the adventurer's journey takes him on the roadways that lead to the temples of the Hindus. In one such temple, the adventurer witnesses the worship of the ten-armed Goddess of Kali, which he refers to as "sex in its lowest form." He also sees India's "Holy Men," street paupers he describes disparagingly as self-tortured, palsied "mendicants." As the adventurer passes by Indians debilitated by poverty and hunger, he describes and comments on the Hindu worship of cows and peacocks as sacred animals and on the rigid, ancient caste system. Somewhat disillusioned by what he has seen, the adventurer seeks a famous Guru, who takes him to witness the Ceremony of Treemiri. After bathing in the Holy Water of a sacred river, pilgrims participating in the ceremony undergo extreme self-torture, which involves beds of spikes and skewers driven through their flesh. The adventurer notes that in spite of the pilgrims' apparent torment, no blood or wounds are detected on their skin, nor do they express any pain. After several days of the frenzied rite, the Guru leads the adventurer to the remote East Indian jungles. There they experience killer pythons and vampire bats, which the Hindus believe house the souls of sinful men doomed to a lowly reincarnation. In the city of Srinigar, at the Vale of Kashmir, the Guru then leaves the adventurer, promising to reunite with him in two weeks. The adventurer relaxes briefly in Srinigar's beautiful Shalimar Gardens. Two weeks later, the adventurer arrives at the "filthy" Ganges River, where he witnesses more pilgrims engaging in religious rites, including cremation. After learning that his Guru has died, the adventurer travels toward Dehli and encounters a group of Crow People, a religious sect that believes that stealing is a spiritual requirement. The adventurer watches as some of the Crow People help trap an escaped lion as he tangles with a local tiger. In Dehli, the adventurer colors his face brown so that he may attend a Ramadan prayer service at the Great Mosque. During the service, however, the adventurer is identified as an intruder and is chased by a vicious mob of worshippers. Barely escaping capture, the adventurer finally travels to the Himalayas on a train of snow camels. While crossing the treacherous mountains, the adventurer is attacked by Robber Monks, another religious sect, but is saved by a Lama, who the adventurer soon learns is the White Goddess' benefactor. The Lama, believing that the adventurer has been sent by Buddha to take the Goddess back to her people, guides him to Ram Gelong in the Forbidden Valley. Once there, the Lama tries unsuccessfully to convince his fellow Lamas to free the White Goddess, who is about to be sacrificed to them as the living Bride of Buddha. During the ceremony, there is an earthquake, followed by a mountain slide. Although the Lama and the adventurer escape the disaster, the White Goddess, having accepted her religion and her fate, stays behind for the sacrifice.
This film was novelized in 1933 by Will C. Murphey, but it is not known if the book appeared before or after the film's release. A copy of the novelette, which apparently was published in serial form, was included in the copyright records as a description of the film's contents. According to reviews, the film opens with a written disclaimer that reveals that parts of the story were fictionalized and were shot in Hollywood. Richard Halliburton, a popular author, mountain climber and adventurer who died in 1939 while sailing from Hong Kong to San Francisco, appeared in person at Radio City screenings in New York. According to trade paper reports of Halliburton's address to the Radio City audience, the adventurer was not in India during the shooting of the film. According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the picture was re-issued in 1941 under the title The Bride of Buddha.