The Emperor Jones


Action / Drama / Music

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Fresh67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled52%
IMDb Rating6.4101101

islandescapepre-codecaribbean sea

Plot summary

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700.26 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 16 min
P/S ...
1.27 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 16 min
P/S 0 / 1

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bkoganbing8 / 10

The Emperor Porgy

Although purist fans of Eugene O'Neill will not be happy, a great deal of the spirit of The Emperor Jones is captured in this rather abbreviated version with an additional backstory added about how one Brutus Jones, former Pullman porter in the USA got to be the ruler of a Caribbean island and The Emperor Jones.

The original play has the white merchant character Smithers played here by Dudley Digges as the eyes of author O'Neill who narrates the first scene in flashback. Here we have a straight narrative with a backstory added. If you think that the backstory looks something like Porgy And Bess that's because the screenplay was written by Dubose Hayward the original author of that work before the Gershwin brothers set it to music.

Back in those days being a Pullman porter was a status symbol among black people, the first labor union organized that gained decent wages and collective bargaining rights for black people was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. When Brutus Jones kills his friend in that crap game in a fight over a woman, he's not just a fugitive, he's lost a lot of standing among his peers. But in fleeing to that Caribbean island where the natives are descended from escaped slaves who still retained some animist beliefs from Africa, he's got it all over this crowd and reasserts himself with nerve, knowledge, and a little trickery and a bit of help from Dudley Digges's character.

Although he did not originate the role, Paul Robeson debuted with it on the London stage and the actor who Eugene O'Neill handpicked to originate the part, one Charles Gilpin faded into obscurity. Of course there's also no singing in O'Neill's Emperor Jones, but Robeson's bass/baritone gets a few good songs in as well, from hymns, to Negro spirituals, to some convict laments. Robeson was always a powerful performer no matter what you think of his politics.

This version of The Emperor Jones has as much Hayward as O'Neill, still what O'Neill was trying to convey comes out in a glorious triumphal performance by Paul Robeson.

Reviewed by gavin69427 / 10

Rated X By An...

Unscrupulously ambitious Brutus Jones escapes from jail after killing a guard and through bluff and bravado finds himself the emperor of a Caribbean island.

Apparently, when this film came out it was controversial in black communities because of the use of the n-word, and even Paul Robeson went on to say he "regretted" the picture. Strange that today (2016) we celebrate the film as a great achievement.

Indeed, regardless of any racism or stereotypes, we have to marvel at the achievement of making a film with strong black characters in 1933. Has any other film even come close to this around the same time? I don't think so. Black actors were still largely used for comic relief up through the 1940s!

Reviewed by JohnHowardReid7 / 10

Oddly, the O'Neill Climax Is Not As Effective As Heyward's Prologue

Not a great deal of the O'Neill play is retained in this adaptation, and I thought that climax was the least effective portion of the film despite its tinted visuals and stereo sound effects. The preceding 45 minutes, enhanced by Robeson's virile presence and his superlative singing, were much more impressive. Just about every scene took place at night where Haller's noirish photography contributed to the fascinating atmosphere.

Once we arrive on the island, however, and are confronted by Dudley Digges as a stage Cockney and other theatrical contrivances, the narrative's admirably headlong pace not only slows down considerably, but the movie itself starts to fall apart—although we still have some great moments as the vain Jones takes over the kingship and attempts to bleed the natives white.

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