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West of Zanzibar (1928)

When she found out what I did to you... she hated me!

Crane (Lionel Barrymore)

Phroso (Lon Chaney) is paralyzed during a scuffle with Crane (Lionel Barrymore,) the man with whom his wife, Anna (Jacqueline Gadsdon) is having an affair and leaving the country. A year later, he finds her dead inside a church with a baby beside her. 18 years later, he’s living West of Zanzibar and creating an intricate plan of revenge.


At this point in the film, the setting seemed familiar, and I had to check to make sure I hadn’t seen it another time. I hadn’t. However, I had unknowingly seen one of its remakes, Kongo (1932.) While I didn’t remember the overall plot, I remembered fine details such as “Dead-Legs” scaling a rope from the top floor of his African hut to the ground floor.


West of Zanzibar turns out to be a cautionary tale about both the dangers of making assumptions and being careful about what you wish for. Spoiler alert! There’s not a happy ending and everything we think we know about a character turns out to be false, causing us to learn the same lessons that he does.


Its soap opera-ish story is reminiscent of several other silent Chaney films. He often plays a wronged man seeking revenge. Here, though, he’s more unlikable than ever before. Yes, he’s the victim, but the lengths to which he goes for retribution must be from a man who is also at least a little bit mentally deranged.


After some twists and turns in the final act, there’s a clever conclusion that saves the life of the one innocent person in the film, and then everyone else gets what’s coming to them. It’s in some ways familiar, yet also unpredictable. It’s not my favorite of Chaney and director Tod Browning’s collaborations, but I nevertheless recommend you watch it at some point.


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The name I'm giving him (first letter of first name must be first letter of last name, Barrymore) is:

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