Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer play a pair of lost souls who meet in the desert. She is the sheltered Domini, looking for spiritual enlightenment in the Sahara. He is Boris, a young monk who has abandoned the monastery... more », wanting to experience the outside world. Together, they fall in love and try to come to terms with their mutual guilt while having a passionate affair. C. Aubrey Smith and Basil Rathbone serve as guides for Domini. John Carradine cameos as a bizarre fortune teller. Unfortunately, even an excellent cast can't save this sandy soaper from itself. Although the Technicolor cinematography is gorgeous, and Dietrich sports a new and more stunning gown for every desert occasion, viewers will find no oasis to quench their thirst. Basically, this is a very early version of Hollywood's "sex and sand" films, so popular in the 1950s--lush, unusual, and ultimately silly. --Mark Savary« less
James D'Arc | Orem, Utah United States | 12/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Producer David O. Selznick let the viewer know from the beginning of his films that they were "in the tradition of quality" from the colonial-like logo at the beginning all the way through to the end. THE GARDEN OF ALLAH was his first film in the then-rather new three-strip Technicolor. Up to now, one could only wince at prints that belched muffled sound and greeted the eye with unbalanced color and fuzzy optics. One was left to wonder just what standard of "quality" Selznick settled for in this expensively mounted films of the 1930s and 1940s.Fortunately, with Anchor Bay's DVD release, ALLAH is a classic literally reborn. Thanks to the Disney company, the current owner of the picture and responsible for restoring it, ALLAH is an entirely new film--sharp focus, vivid, stunning Technicolor, and a soundtrack that not only has a tremendous presence, but brings out all of the instruments and subtle tones in the great score by Max Steiner that provides at least half of the mood and atmosphere of this film.Yes, the story is old-fashioned about a trappist monk (Boyer) who renounces his vows and marries a lonely rich woman (Dietrich) who goes into the desert to find her meaning in life. But ALLAH shows just why Boyer and Dietrich were hot stuff in those days. This fatalistic story has a charm all its own, due in large part to the magnificent presentation of Anchor Bay's tremendous print. Anchor Bay's ALLAH sets a completely new standard for the DVD of a Technicolor film from the 30s. Enjoy"
A DIETRICH CURIOUSITY.
scotsladdie | 08/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"An unusual film which will appeal to some for that very reason. The production values were obviously first-rate: the photography, musical score and direction are fine while the plot and characterisations are fairly rich and deep. As Domini, Dietrich is all nobility here. Seeking a spiritual rest after caring for her dying father, her advisor tells her to seek peace in the Algerian desert where she meets a trappist monk - who has broken his vows - in the person of Charles Boyer...This film wasn't one of Marlene's personal favourites: she thought the dialogue was in parts ridiculous - i.e. having to say such lines as "Nobody but God and I know what is in my heart" during a romantic interlude with Boyer. "The conceit of it! I tell you I very nearly died"! was her remark. Based upon the 1904 novel by Robert Hitchens, this curious film was shot on location near Yuma, Arizona. The film was sensitively directed by Richard Boleslawski and the still - gorgeous colour cinematography won an AA for Howard Greene."
For Lovers of doomed exotic Romance
Fernando Silva | Santiago de Chile. | 10/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Handsome movie, breathtakingly filmed in color, in fact, one of the first full length films in technicolor.
The image of the dvd edition, is so near perfection that it's difficult to believe that this picture was released in 1936!The plot is for sure outdated, but nevertheless the story of the doomed love affair between convent-educated Domini Enfilden and russian Boris Androvsky, a tormented trappist monk, who's just fled from his monastery, set against the beautiful background scenery of the desert, is enjoyable due to its aforementioned technical qualities and the "continental"appeal of both stars, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer.Although Dietrich looks stylish and alluring as Domini Enfilden, I feel she never looked as good again, as in her early `30s black & white Paramount films, directed by Von Sternberg. Boyer is effective as the troubled monk, who wants a taste of the "outside world".Excellent support by Basil Rathbone, Joseph Schildkraut and C. Aubrey Smith, plus a spectacular exotic arab dance sequence by then newcomer, Tilly Losch."
Wavishing! Womantic! Wisible!
Randy Buck | Brooklyn, NY USA | 02/16/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A Technicolor fever dream of a movie, GARDEN OF ALLAH is a guilty pleasure par excellence. Any dramatic tension that depends on the burning passion of Boyer and Dietrich is doomed from the start; two more self-absorbed performers never graced the camera. But, in parallel universes of suffering, they pout and posture and preen so gracefully, all is quickly forgiven. Joseph Schildkraut and Tilly Losch bring a touch of Mittle Europe to the Exotic East, and David O. Selznick's over-the-top physical production is as hyperbolic as the story and stars. Quentin Crisp said that in his youth, most movies were made for melancholy middle-aged women. This picture is what he meant. Open a box of chocolates, and wallow."
Beautiful restoration of a classic film
Penumbra | Atlanta, GA USA | 07/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"All classic films deserve to be seen on their own terms. "The Garden of Allah" is a product of 1936 Hollywood and an excellent product it is!
Early in the film we learn that a Trappist monk has run away from the monastery and forsaken his vows. When this is revealed to his brother monks their shock is almost palpable through the camera and across the decades. The runaway priest (Charles Boyer) soon crosses paths with a beautiful, kind and wealthy woman (Marlene Dietrich) who is going on a spiritual retreat into the desert. One thing leads to another and the couple soon fall in love. She doesn't know his secret, but the audience does. (Frankly, I did find the premise shocking, especially considering the era in which it was made.)
"The Garden of Allah" is a visually stunning film. The MGM print has been superbly restored. The palette is warm and rich without looking oversaturated as was the case with many other Technicolor films of the same era. (The way Technicolor is used in "The Garden of Allah" makes "Gone With the Wind" look garish by comparison.)
The cinematography is astonishing! There are plenty of gorgeous shots of Buttercup Dunes, California sanding in for the Sahara. But even more impressive are scenes such as the one in which the dancing girl first sees Boyer's character and her eyes literally sparkle; the play of light and shadow across the faces of the lovers under the palm trees of an oasis; or the unshed tears in Boyer's eye at the end of the film.
Domini Enfilden may not have been Marlene Dietrich's finest acting role, but I've never seen her look more exquisite than she does here. The costumes, the color, the lights - all show her off to maximum advantage. Throughout the film she barely raises her voice above a husky whisper, but her face is expressive enough to convey emotions from joy to despair. (The one bit of trivia I have about this film is that it was originally intended as a vehicle for the then 25 year old Merle Oberon, but went to the 35 year old Dietrich instead.)
Charles Boyer, at 36, made quite a handsome and dreamy romantic lead. It's too bad entire generations grew up associating him with Pepe le Pew. Boyer acted not only with his face and voice, but with his posture. A shot of his back conveys as much anguish as another shot of a single tear in the corner of his eye.
Basil Rathbone is Count Ferdinand Anteoni, a European who has decided to make the desert his home. He moves easily between desert garb and hounds tooth jacket. Rathbone has one of the most beautiful speaking voices I've ever heard.
John Carradine has an small, but interesting part, as a blind Arab who tells fortunes by "reading the sand." He has a terrific, wordless moment of anguish after he realizes Domini has only listened to the happy parts of reading he gave her and she has completely ignored his warning.
There are no special features. English, French or Spanish subtitles are available.
"Garden of Allah" is a very impressive film. Highly recommended to classic film fans!"