Tuesday, 8 December 2015
A Passenger to Bali (1950)
Even by Mill Creek's less-than-rigorous-standards, this "film" is a perplexing inclusion in the Chilling Classic box set. For one thing, it's not a film. It's an episode of a TV show called Studio One, which presented one-hour screen adaptations of novels and short stories. The show was sponsored by Westinghouse, and the episode still includes the comically earnest and unconsciously sexist Westinghouse adverts of the time ("A gal's best friend is her refrigerator!").
The plot of the episode is that the captain of a small cargo ship finds himself persuaded to take a passenger at short notice. The man purports to be a Dutch missionary, travelling to Bali to bring his Christian message to the local people. His transparent eagerness to get a ship immediately should be something of a warning, but the captain allows him to come aboard.
If we are to believe later dialogue, the captain's decision is motivated by compassion. If so, he soon has reason to rue his soft-heartedness. His passenger is not a missionary, but an anarchist revolutionary, and none of the colonial governments of the region will accept him ashore. The ship is barred from all ports, becoming a latter day Flying Dutchman. I don't know if the anarchist's assumed nationality was a deliberate link to the famous ghost ship, but it'd be a bit sad if it were an accident, given how often they mention it.
The performances in this are decent enough, though the production values in other respects are obviously quite cheap. The sets are few and spartan, to say the least. But it's mostly the script that's an issue. Even setting aside the casual racism it displays as a product of the time it was made, we're left with a pretty weak story. There are literally thousands of islands in South East Asia, and I find it very unlikely that the captain couldn't be rid of his unwelcome passenger if he really wanted to be: simply put him ashore at some tiny bay.
Harmless, but not memorable in any way. Well, except for the dreadful adverts.