The studio gave Edgar G. Ulmer an evocative title and a six-day schedule, which is more than enough for this bit of overpowering ingenuity. A POV tracking shot introduces a bevy of sarong-wrapped "hostesses" in the South Seas, their madam (Gale Sondergaard) throws open wicker doors to reveal stock footage from The Hurricane, possibly -- what could a tropical paradise be in Ulmer's severe universe but a counterfeit projection, a mirage? The island's nightclub-brothel island is a purposely drab affair ("Don't be disappointed, you'll see murder and mayhem any moment now," quips one traveler), revealed as a rickety set as it is demolished by a brawl between seafaring rivals (John Carradine, Frank Fenton). The McGuffin is a sunken fortune, plantation owner Sidney Toler watches from the sidelines, waiting to pounce. It is said that Ulmer came up with the idea by Murnau's side on the set of Tabu, and its ghostly dinghy indeed drifts at the bottom of the screen during Carradine's farewell kiss with Sondergaard, on its way to Mizoguchi's The Crucified Lovers (and Corman's Creature from the Haunted Sea). Elsewhere, Ulmer's erudite mind expresses itself opulently within bald scenarios: Carradine in cap, striped shirt and pipe is unaccountably a CÚzanne sight, Wagnerian chorales hail the diving-bell figure as it is lowered into an aquarium, the native chief warns of incoming disasters ("Much bad magic in sea and sky") by pointing to the mirrored Rorschach blot of clouds somewhere in the distance. The characters seek to manipulate each other's destinies, though Nature still has the final, annihilating word on human venality. With Veda Ann Borg, and Rick Vallin. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce