Tuesday 30 January 2018

On Blu-ray - David Hare rediscovers "One of the greatest works of unadulterated camp in cinema" GARDEN OF ALLAH (Richard Boleslawski, 1936)

One of the greatest works of unadulterated camp in cinema, the Polish emigre, Stanislavski-trained director Richard Boleslawski's 1936 early three strip Technicolor Garden of Allah, from the High Trash Exotica novel of the same name by Robert S. Hichens.
This was Dietrich's second outing after she and Jo parted company and she’s playing her part at so subdued a level she might as well be in another movie. In the first screen she's glimpsed for the first time, having returned to the Convent where she spent the last few years "recovering" from some psychic pain after the death of her father.
"uttering silent prayer" Marlene Dietrich, Garden of Allah
She appears to be uttering silent prayer in this screen above but is more than likely cursing "where are you now, Jo?" She's interrupted in her thoughts by the ever buoyant Mother Josephine and the pair recite some of the fruitiest dialogue this side of Oscar Wilde . 
Marlene: "Mother Jospehine, it's like coming home."
MJ: "You're not happy my child?:" 
Marlene: "The only time I was happy was when I was here".
MJ: "But surely after your father's death you travelled?"
Marlene: "Yes, I travelled the world. Paris, VIenna, the Riviera. But in the midst of people I was always lonely. What am I to do Mother Josephine, what I am to do?"
MJ: "Do? Life is fulll of interesting things. You must find them."
Marlene: "But how, Mother? Where?
MJ: "Perhaps, perhaps... the desert."
Marlene: "The desert, Mother, what will I find there?"
MJ: "There in the Solitudes, you may find yourself, In the face of the Infinite your grief will vanish."
"the worst rug of his career" Charles Boyer, Garden of Allah
Thus announced, Dietrich sets off (First Class this time) for Morocco where she finds, rather than the Infinite, Charles Boyer wearing the worst rug of his career (above) as Father Boris the Trappist monk, in civvies, on the lam from his order, dealing with some out-of-control horniness, and that most sublime emblem of 30s Kitsch, the Austrian born "exotic dancer" Tilly Losch, who does the hoochy cooch in the screen below to a crowd of casting call, toothless "Arabs" who wiggle their ears, do tricks with their handlebar moustaches and inflate their cheeks with their tongues, whilst leering at Tilly, all in close up.
"hoochy cooch" Tilly Losch, Garden of Allah
As a bonus Joseph Schildkraut does his peerless screaming queen impersonation playing Marlene's Arab "tour guide". The two of them look great together, in otherwise totally flatly photographed wide two shots with zero movement. At this point there is no more to say but that the movie is completely irresistible. 

Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray is taken from the same very fine source that was used ten years ago for one of the nicest 3-strip Tech transfers to DVD held by the Selznick estate. The new Blu-ray takes this very early beauty to an even higher level of gorgeousness, and it's really worth the price of admission, if not only for the batshit crazy Tilly Losch dance number, but the gorgeous Technicolor. Region Free.


  1. "Madame is going to the Sahara?". Irresistible indeed. And yes, gorgeous Blu-ray.

  2. Hello Tom, long time no drink!! Later this year in Paris?

    1. Bonjour David. Sure, let's catch up when you're in Paris!


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