A Caravan of Thrills Told with Lusty Laughter.
If only even a smidgen of that statement were true regarding 1947’s Technicolor film Slave Girl. It sports a decent cast, lead by Yvonne De Carlo (in her first starring role) and George Brent and Humpy the Camel. What could possibly go wrong?
The camel might be a tipoff, though he’s voiced by Buddy Hackett.
It sounds like a typical late 1940s adventure film, perhaps even a weak swashbuckler. George Brent is Matt Claibourne, a womanizing debtor sent to Tripoli with a chest of gold to pay the ransom for imprisoned American sailors. He and his sidekick Chips (Broderick Crawford) head to Tripoli where the encounter the vexing Francesca (Yvonne De Carlo). In short order they’ve had their gold stolen and are between to rival groups for the control of Tripoli!
By the end of the film, you almost wait for the camel to appear – he’s the narrator of sorts and interjects his perspective- just to break up the monotony. Though the plot isn’t complicated it’s hard to follow simply because all of the locals are almost identically bland and uninteresting. Francesca and Matt both try to play against each other and the rival groups but it doesn’t really matter that much. Everyone runs around for a bit in the Pasha’s castle and later on around the area on horseback, flitting one way and then another.
It’s clear the producers realized that they had a bomb on their hands somewhere along the line as it looks like Slave Girl was started perhaps in a fairly straightforward manner with comedic elements added in as they went in a poor attempt to punch up the proceedings. Teetering between drama and comedy doesn’t work well here, with especially George Brent seems to mistime about each punch line, though in his defense the jokes are campy to say the least.
Which brings us to Humpy (some say his name is Lumpy, which could also be correct). He’s atrocious, but makes you remember you’re alive by pointing out the obvious. For example, when he’s being led across some sand dunes he cries out, “Here’s where I got something in my eyes. I think it was sand.” High art it isn’t. And we didn’t even mention the seamen who attacks folks with his gut.
It’s hard to get a feel for either Yvonne De Carlo or George Brent as the material is beneath both of them. Thankfully Slave Girl didn’t tarnish De Carlo’s young career and Brent’s was already on the wane so surely the experience becomes a mere footnote for both of them.
Sadly Slave Girl leaves quite a bit to be desired. Some of the scenery is nice but there’s too much lacking in other areas to overcome. If you’re an Abbott and Costello fan, seeing director Charles Lamont’s name here should be what poker players would call a ‘tell.’ He also directed 1956’s Francis in the Haunted House so perhaps movies with talking animals was his niche.