|The Barbarian (1933)
||[Dec. 8th, 2009|02:12 am]
Pre-Code Films (1929 - 1934)
The Barbarian opens with the arrival in Cairo of a European woman (played by Myrna Loy) and her fiance. At the railway station a handsome young Arab attaches himself to her as a guide and interpreter. In fact he’s really a prince, sent to the city to experience something of life but working at a useful trade. His interpretation of the concept of a useful trade is rather loose however - he’s been spending much of his time as a gigolo. He decides that Diana (Myrna Loy) is the woman of his dreams. |
At first she isn’t terribly interested, but soon she starts to fall for his charms. And after he kidnaps her, gives her a whipping and then rapes her she realises that of course she loves him. But there’s still the inconvenience of her fiance. Will true love win out?
This is one of those movies that could only have been made in the pre-code era (it was released in 1933). Whether you find it watchable or not really depends on the extent to which you’re willing to make allowances for the attitudes and sexual mores of a different time, and also perhaps on the extent to which you see Diana as being a victim or a willing accomplice. I have no idea how audiences at the time would have responded. We’re clearly expected to believe that she really is attracted to him and that she really does fall in love with him. You’ll have to decide for yourself. I certainly had problems with that aspect of the film.
Aside from that it’s a well-acted and well-crafted movie, with a sizzling performance by Loy. It’s very pre-code indeed, even including a nude bathtub scene. This is really a movie you’re either going to love or detest.