Lovely Anita dreams of escaping the monotony of her island home and sailing to bustling Havana. But when her abusive father promises her to the greasy local merchant, Anita does everything in her power to make her dream a reality.
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Anita Morgan, a descendant of the famous pirate Henry Morgan, is living a carefree and careless life on an island in the Carribean, but had much rather be living the same life In Havana. When she learns that her father, in exchange for money, has promised her hand in marriage to one of his swarthy friends, she is more convinced that Havana is the place to be. When an American comes to the island to buy some pearls, she falls in love with him. and when she discovers he is to be tricked out of his money and killed, she makes plans to save him...and go to Havana with him.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Anita (Lupe Velez) dreams of reaching Havana and being "free" but her sadistic father (Gibson Gowland) trades her to a pawn seller (Jean Hersholt) but her one chance of escape comes from an American trader (John Holland) who shows up on the island. This pre-code has a reputation of being fairly dirty but I think most of the elements are rather weak or at least not as strong as some previous films. Sure, most of what we see here would be a major no no within a couple years but there are still much better and much dirtier pre-codes out there. In a lot of ways the story reminded me somewhat of D.W. Griffith's BROKEN BLOSSOMS because both films deal with a sweet girl being abused both mentally and physically by their father. King was a follower of Griffith so I do wonder if certain scenes in that 1919 classic were in his mind while filming this. The biggest problem I had with the film was the direction, which was quite weak from the start and things never really picked up until the very end. The current DVD offers the film up in an "uncut" 84-minute version and a shorter, wider released 63-minute version. I elected to watch the shorter version because several reviews I read said it was the better one and it isn't missing any of the "pre-code" stuff. From what I've read, the studio realized they had a pretty weak film so they took out a lot of the dialogue and released it with everything else in tact. I briefly jumped through the longer version and the majority of the uncut footage is just dialogue scenes that really add up to nothing. The pacing in the shorter version is pretty bad and it's even worse in the longer one because it never seems obvious what the director or screenwriter were trying to do. Velez dances around constantly trying to sell her innocence while the men look dirty and act like slime. Nothing ever really happens because the characters just talk, talk and talk some more and quite often these scenes just go no where as if they were just made up on the spot and the actors didn't know when to quit talking. Velez is pretty good in her role but the screenplay doesn't do her character much justice. The same is true with Holland who pretty much just stands around waiting to rescue the girl. Fans of GREED will enjoy seeing Hersholt and Gowland working together again and Universal horror fans will see a young Rondo Hatton in his first film. HELL HARBOR is a pretty weak movie all around and there's certainly not enough to make it worth sitting through unless you're a fan of one of the stars and must see everything they've done.
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