The Sunday Intertitle: That Great Ray

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Not “that great ray that first brought life into the universe,” the one spoken of so fervidly by Colin Clive in FRANKENSTEIN, but a fish. THE SEA BAT does feature Boris Karloff, though, in a pre-monster role, and I’m impressed at seeing the word “specie” in an MGM movie from 1930.

This MGM melodrama has surly Charles Bickford as a Devil’s Island escapee masquerading as a priest, and sultry Raquel Torres (whose career climaxed in DUCK SOUP) as an islander of Spanish descent, and Nil Asther is her brother, who uncomfortably has a lot of sexual chemistry with her onscreen. And there’s Gibson Gowland, McTeague from GREED, and Mack Swain from THE GOLD RUSH. Wesley Ruggles directed most of it, with fluid camerawork on location, even underwater, but Lionel Barrymore seems to have been brought in to screw things up.

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The big fake manta ray looks pretty good — better than Bruce the shark by a country mile. Torres looks pretty good too, in her wet shirt. But the film is dramatically a snore — included here because the introductory title is quite something. Not many films about sponge fishing, are there?

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Maybe the weird industry is really an allegory for the movies, which is why the plot is driven by sex, commerce and impersonation. But then what does the fish represent?

(Undersea menaces are us this week at Limerwrecks.)

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4 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: That Great Ray”

  1. This one is new to me. There are far more undersea creature films than the giant monster films from the fifties.

  2. …and more pre-Frankenstein Karloff films than you would think possible.

  3. Christopher Says:

    Raquel Torres played a convincing island girl in White Shadows In The South Seas 1928..one of my favorite silents..worthy of a good look.

  4. Origin of the legendary studio exec quote: “Boys, I’ve a great idea: let’s fill the screen with tits!” Flaherty was booted off the project and went to work with Murnau on Tabu, which he then quit (more amicably).

    I ought to watch it again — I love soundies, and this is the first MGM movie with a recorded score.

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