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Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness

USA 1927
produced by
Jesse L. Lasky, Adolph Zukor, Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper for Famous Players/Paramount
directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper
starring Kru, Chantui, Nah, Ladah, Bimbo the Monkey

silent

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Kru and his family live in the Siames jungle, actually further into the jungle thanmost others. They spend their days growing rice and defending their lifestock from the likes of leopards and tigers - and so far successfully, too. Then though, an elephant (or Chang, as the natives call the elephants) destroys Kru's crops, and Kru asks the people from the village he once lived in to help him capture the elephant. They build a trap and the very next day they have captured a baby elephant.

Kru claims the baby elephant for himself, since it was elephants who have destroyed his crops - but that would turn out to be a fatal mistake when that night mama elephant comes to her baby's rescue and destroys Kru's house, with Kru and his family being able to rescue themselves only in the very last minute.

Kru and family take to the village to warn the villagers of an elephant herde - but they are ridiculed, until minutes later, elephants arrive on the scene and flatten the whole village ...

The villagers decide to retaliate and build a krall - a big cage that even withholds the strength of a herde of maddened elephants - and drive the herde into the krall to capture it. Soon, with the help of fire, the elephants are captured, and soon they are broken and tamed ... and in the end we see Kru building himself a new home, with the help of his tamed elephant ...

 

Chang, a Drama of the Wilderness is a very early example of docu-drama (decades before that dreadful word was actually invented), meaning it is a documentary to some extent and stars authentic Siamese natives from the jungle as themselves, but the actual story is scripted and many scenes are clearly staged. The outcome is an impressive looking jungle adventure/drama with production values - like the authentic sets, authentic jungle animals in droves, a real-life elephant stampede - big-time Hollywood production companies of the time (and even of nowadays) could only dream of ... if only because they don't usually go to the Siamese jungle to shoot (which back in 1927 of course was a much bigger deal than nowadays). Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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