Screen Directors Playhouse: Affair in Sumatra (1956)
** (out of 4)
A couple screen legends are wasted in director Byron Haskin's entry in the Screen Directors Playhouse series. Dr. Martin Kelog (Ralph Bellamy) arrives at a rubber plantation where he finds the native, half-breed owner (Rita Gam) hasn't much connection to her workers. He tries to convince her that proper sanitation would do everyone some good. As the two slowly begin to fall in love the native starts to wonder where her priorities should lie. AFFAIR IN SUMATRA features a couple good performances but sadly the melodramatic nature of the picture is just way too boring and preachy to ever fully work. As with many of the episodes in this series, the biggest problem is the screenplay itself. The biggest issue with the story here is that it never seems to know what it wants to do. On one hand you've got the story about the native who struggles between her "rich" side and the side of her that is one of the natives. On the other hand you get the love story between her and the doctor. Then you have a really over-the-top portion that deals with the sanitation that the natives aren't getting. There wasn't a single second in this picture where it made sense as to what the screenwriter or director was trying to do and in the end it really hurt the film because it's impossible to really care about any of these characters or their problems. Bellamy, one of the most underrated actors of his generation, offers up a nice performance. Gam, on the other hand, is pretty forgettable in her role and even Basil Rathbone is wasted in a thankless supporting part. AFFAIR IN SUMATRA comes as a real disappointment considering the cast.
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