Jericho Film Details
Overview: During WWI, action hero Robeson escapes an unjust death sentence to ramble around Arabia.
Review: The plot for “Jericho” is the best thing about this film, as it’s amazingly original and I honestly can’t think of another film like this one. It begins during WWI on a troop transport ship crossing the Atlantic. Paul Robeson plays a well-respected soldier who is made a corporal because of his skills and charisma–plus the Captain (Henry Wilcoxon) has known him for many years and trusts him completely. However, during a torpedoing of the ship, Robeson accidentally kills his sergeant while trying to save several lives. While he is completely innocent of murder, the court martial doesn’t see it that way and he’s sentenced to death! While it’s never said in the film, you’d think this sentence is due more to his race and a desire to teach the men a lesson than anything else. The Captain also thinks this is unjust and lets his guard down briefly–and Robeson escapes. In a harsh punishment for neglecting to guard the prisoner well, Wilcoxon is himself sentenced to five years in prison! As for Robeson, he at first poses as a French-speaking Moroccan soldier (his real life skill with many languages make this work well in the film). Then, when he reaches the North African coast, he makes for the desert along with his fast-talking friend (Wallace Ford). Both of them eventually fall in with some desert traders and because of Robeson’s medical skills, he soon gains great favor among the tribe. And, he soon works his way up in the tribe and is beloved. After nearly five years, Wilcoxon is released from prison and he vows to somehow find Robeson. But, considering no one knows where Robeson is, the task seems impossible–especially since the last place he was seen was in France. Now here is where he movie gets bad. Despite a HUGE planet with only 1 chance in 10048304349602 of finding him, Wilcoxon just happens upon Robeson!! It’s a shame they did this, as up until then I really respected the writing. Aside from some horribly stereotypical depictions early on of blacks shooting dice (uggh!), the film was top-notch and depicted Robeson with great dignity. Now, however, a cheap cliché is used to advance the plot. Not good. But at least the film did maintain its excellent characterization for Robeson–as too often in other films he played ridiculously black characters (such as loincloth-wearing Africans named Bosambo). What happens next you’ll just have to see for yourself. Overall, I’d say this film is well worth seeing even if the print used by Criterion is less than stellar and even if there are a few clichés here and there–the sum total far outweighs the negatives. You not only get to see Robeson in one of his better roles but you also get the treat of hearing him sing several times throughout the film–and he had the voice of an angel.
Country: United Kingdom
Duration: 77 min
Genre: Drama, Musical, Adventure
Also known as: Jericó,Jericho,De zwarte korporaal,Dark Sands