What Do You Think?: Tupapaoo (1938)

WHAT DO YOU THINK?: TUPAPAOO (1938)
Article 4489 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-29-2013
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Featuring Carey Wilson, Moroni Olsen
Country: USA
What it is: A native curse

When a con man arrives on a remote island, he cheats the natives out of their land. A falling star prompts the natives to lay a curse on the con man, but the con man knows that that’s just a native superstition… or is it?

This MGM short was apparently part of a series. Based on what I see here, the series must have told stories in which the ending’s explanation is ambiguous, and the audience is asked “What do you think?” as the central gimmick. In this instance, the ambiguity has to do whether the con man’s fate is a result of the curse or merely coincidence. Though the short has several characters, the only voice we here is of the narrator, who explains the action as it occurs. At only eleven minutes, it moves pretty quickly; I could easily see how the movie could have been stretched to B-movie feature length by fleshing out the characters, though I think it works just fine in this format. I think the ambiguity of the fantastic content is especially interesting here as the director was Jacques Tourneur, who would go on to direct several movies for Val Lewton, many of which were also ambiguous about the nature of their fantastic content. I felt this was a nifty and entertaining short.

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