West of Zanzibar

Overview

In this lurid Tod Browning melodrama, boasting a thoroughly creepy performance by Lon Chaney, Chaney plays Phroso, a limehouse magician who is thoroughly in love with his wife Anna Jacquelin Gadsdon. Also in love with Phroso's wife is ivory-trader Crane Lionel Barrymore. After a performance, Anna tells Phroso that she is leaving him to go away with Crane to Africa. After Phroso confronts Crane, Crane kicks him down a second-floor landing, crippling him. Months later, Phroso, now known as "Dead Legs" Flint, is now...
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Overview

In this lurid Tod Browning melodrama, boasting a thoroughly creepy performance by Lon Chaney, Chaney plays Phroso, a limehouse magician who is thoroughly in love with his wife Anna Jacquelin Gadsdon. Also in love with Phroso's wife is ivory-trader Crane Lionel Barrymore. After a performance, Anna tells Phroso that she is leaving him to go away with Crane to Africa. After Phroso confronts Crane, Crane kicks him down a second-floor landing, crippling him. Months later, Phroso, now known as "Dead Legs" Flint, is now seen to be paralyzed from the chest down, and he gets around by pulling himself forward by his hands. He enters a church where he sees Annie has returned, but she is dead at the altar, leaving her child Maizie, whom Dead Legs assumes to be Crane's child, crying next to her. Hate consumes the soul of Dead Legs, and he swears vengeance on Crane. Years pass. Dead Legs is now lording it over a group of African savages as their god. Maizie Mary Nolan has been installed at a brothel in Zanzibar and is now a broken-down alcoholic prostitute. Dead Legs conspires to steal some of Crane's ivory so Crane can appear before Dead Legs, and his revenge can be redeemed. He sends for Maizie and reveals her to Crane. He plans on killing Crane and, due to an African tribal custom that says a man's daughter must be burned at the stake when he dies, have the savages have their way with Maizie. But when Crane arrives and he tells Dead Legs that Maizie is not his daughter but Dead Legs' daughter, Dead Legs is stupefied. Crane leaves and is shot by the savages, his body returned to Dead Legs. Now the bloodthirsty savages want Maizie, so that she can be sacrificed at the stake. Dead Legs, as her father, must now conspire a way to save his daughter from certain death.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Hans J. Wollstein
One of the Tod Browning-Lon Chaney team's best efforts -- in retrospect at least -- West of Zanzibar was met with some derision in its day, one trade-paper going so far as to actively campaign for exchanges not to book the film. And West of Zanzibar certainly is lurid, but by today's standards, most entertainingly so. Chaney is quite simply marvelous as the stage magician wreaking vengeance on the man (Lionel Barrymore) whom he mistakenly believes ran off with his wife (Jane Daly) and fathered her child. Filmed entirely at the MGM back lot in Culver City and employing the usual colorful Browning types in supporting and bit roles, this melodrama remains an eye-opener all the way through, and boasts a climax that still packs a punch. Leading lady Mary Nolan, formerly "Bubbles" Wilson and Imogene Robertson, was on loan from Universal and her performance, one surmises, drew heavily on her offscreen experiences as the former mistress of blackface comic Frank Tinney -- by all accounts a real-life version of Chaney's vengeful magician. As Nolan's ill-fated mother, Jane Daly (aka Jacqueline Gadsden) was given little material to exhibit her special brand of icy beauty, but Lionel Barrymore, as her seducer, was let loose by Browning and emerged overblown in comparison to Chaney's carefully wrought cripple. Music-hall eccentric Chaz Chase (no relation to Charlie!) appeared briefly as himself in the opening cabaret scene.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/24/2012
  • UPC: 883316485286
  • Original Release: 1928
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Region Code: 0
  • Presentation: Pan & Scan
  • Time: 1:05:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 44,341

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lon Chaney Flint, Phroso
Lionel Barrymore Crane
Warner Baxter Doc
Mary Nolan Maizie
Jacqueline Gadsdon Anna
Kalla Pasha Babe
Curtis Nero Bumbo
Technical Credits
Tod Browning Director
Elliott J. Clawson Screenwriter
Cedric Gibbons Art Director, Set Decoration/Design
Percy Hilburn Cinematographer
Harry Reynolds Editor
Irving G. Thalberg Producer
Waldemar Young Screenwriter
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- West of Zanzibar
1. Chapter 1 [10:00]
2. Chapter 2 [10:00]
3. Chapter 3 [10:00]
4. Chapter 4 [10:00]
5. Chapter 5 [10:00]
6. Chapter 6 [10:00]
7. Chapter 7 [4:43]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- West of Zanzibar
   Play
   Chapters
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