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This 1936 Mae West semi-comedic shocker was in ways too strong for Paramount Pictures, but not in the fashion one might think. West's powerful allure is on display as per usual, but the plot goes places controversial of a different stripe. At a brief 77 minutes, Klondike Annie is brisk, entertaining, and just slightly fractured.
West plays Rose Carlton, a sultry performer under some sort of thrall to Chan Lo, (Harold Huber) a wealthy Chinese mogul ruling over his portion of 1890s San Francisco. While Carlton performs a musical number for Lo's patrons, we see the spell she casts. Lo notes that spell as well, and that Carlton seems attracted to men other than he. When Carlton makes a play to escape servitude to Lo, something mysterious happens (8-minutes of which ended on the cutting-room floor) and she's soon lamming it to Nome, Alaska on a merchant ship.
There, Carlton must contend with the affections of the ship's captain, Bull Brackett (Victor McLaglen), as well as those of the hunky Lawmen who want to know what happened to Chan Lo, and why saintly Sister Annie Alden appears to be a buxom songstress who looks just like Carlton.
Meanwhile, Carlton, in the guess of Sister Annie, appears to be having a crisis of conscience, a change of heart. Will she adopt the ways of the Lord, or keep strumming that banjo? Or maybe there's another fate in store! From a play by Mae West, this movie, like much of West's work, contains more than meets the eye, and is at times sexy, funny, and dramatic, with a feminist subtext and racial undertones as well.
Of course, West's thoughtful and revolutionary nature is wrapped up in a sultry bombshell coating. If one wants to absorb her messages about women's sexuality, they can. If one wants to simply heat up as she casually looks a man up and down, there's that too. West's dialog is certainly sharp, such as when Lo opines that there are only two types of perfectly good men, "one dead, the other unborn", "which one are you?" queries the songstress. But when West tees up against both the boozing prospectors and the timid, religious Temperance Society meant to save them, we see who has the real power, and it's a delight.
Klondike Annie represents a flawed pinnacle of Mae West's work; the controversial fulcrum that sets Rose Carlton on the road was vengefully cut by a studio unhappy with the star, leaving viewers to piece it together from a few snippets of dialog. What remains, however, is still a compelling story, with enough of West's trademark licentiousness, bravado, and coyly lacerating humor to please fans. Recommended.
Arriving in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, Klondike Annie looks fine in this 1920 x 1080P black and white presentation, all things considered. Original negatives for the movies in Kino Lorber's Mae West Studio Classics no longer exist, so this and others in the series have been sourced from ‘safety duplicates'. Klondike Annie sports pretty robust film-grain throughout. By nature it's a low-light affair, which often can amp up the grain, and minor instances of film wear are evident, though not troubling. Black levels and the gray-scale, overall, are rich, and details in lighter scenes are pretty sharp. Considering the source, this is a decent enough presentation, and should satisfy most viewers.
Audio is equal to video in terms of quality, for Klondike Annie. The Mono track is given the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 treatment and sounds just fine, without any real hiss or damage, and clean, clear dialog. The mix is appropriate, with musical numbers and soundtrack elements sharing space nicely.
Kino Lorber supplies its Mae West Studio Classics (9 of them) with Trailers for each, and each gets a thoughtful Commentary Track, in this case by film historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson, which are as much about West and her career as they are about the movie itself. This one is lively, entertaining and educational in equal measures, delving nicely into the socio-political nature of West's career, and the anachronistic nature of this movie's plot-elements as they related to Paramount Pictures at the time..
Klondike Annie represents a flawed pinnacle of Mae West's work. West plays Rose Carlton, a songstress in the servitude Chan Lo, a wealthy Chinese man in 1890s San Francisco. Circumstances soon find Carlton fleeing in disguise to the Great White North, but the controversial fulcrum that sets her on the road was vengefully cut by a studio unhappy with the star, leaving viewers to piece it together from a few snippets of dialog. What remains, however, is still a compelling story, with enough of West's trademark licentiousness, bravado, and coyly lacerating humor to please fans. Recommended.