THE GREEN GODDESS. Warner Brothers, 1930. George Arliss, Ralph Forbes, H.B. Warner, Alice Joyce. Director: Alfred E. Green.

   Speaking of surprises, there’s a nifty one at the end of The Green Goddess, a remake of a venerable Silent Film derived from a creaky play by William Archer. Both films starred that shameless old ham George Arliss (whom a critic dubbed “The Man of One Face”) delivering a magnificently fruity performance as the half-mad ruler of some lost city in the remote regions of what C. Aubrey Smith used to call “Injah.”

   This film may be the spiritual progenitor of every “lost city” serial and B-movie ever made. Certainly, all the elements are there, what with the doughty downed flyers (Ralph Forbes and H. B. Warner, back when he had hair) and the woman they both love (Alice Joyce) at the mercy of heathen zealots, playing cat-and-mouse with Arliss amid splendiferous sets and keeping upper lips stiff to the point of Lockjaw. There are hairbreadth escapes, human sacrifices, stylish lust, and everything else kids go to the movies for.

   At Center Stage, though, is the unforgettable Arliss, who — how can I describe it? — manages to ham it up without overacting. He ladles out every line of his drippy dialogue with all the relish of Robert Newton or Tod Slaughter, yet somehow manages to gently kid the whole thing at the same time.

   It’s a performance of enormous gusto and more complexity than you might think, and as a reward for it, Arliss gets to wrap up the film with a Closing Line guaranteed to awaken even the most jaded viewer, Watch it and see.

— Reprinted from A Shropshire Sleuth #44, May 1990.