"La Baker"s Film Debut.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 06/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"SIREN OF THE TROPICS was the first of a series of French films featuring legendary dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker and her only silent feature. It is part of a three film set released on DVD by Kino International to honor the legendary performer (her centenary is next year). SIREN was long thought to have been lost but, like a number of silents in recent times, a copy has turned up and proved to be in good condition which can be witnessed on this DVD.
The image quality is very good and it has been tinted to 1920s style specifications. There are a few brief portions where the film jitters or throbs due to shrinkage and judging from the trailer which is included, some footage seems to be missing but it doesn't detract from the overall presentation. "La Baker", as the French called her is a sensation in her debut essentially playing herself as she appeared at the Folies Bergere. The latter parts of the film display her stage act and enable us to see her as Paris saw her in 1926 making it not only entertaining but a valuable historical record as well.
Unfortunately the rest of the movie is not very good with the rest of the performers coming nowhere near Baker's ability. Like another film recently released on DVD featuring an exotic star (PICCADILLY with Anna May Wong), SIREN has yet another tired melodramatic plot with the exotic star there as icing on the cake. As well made as it is with some beautiful art deco settings and extremely racy footage of Josephine Baker sans clothing, SIREN ultimately illustrates what was happening to silent films everywhere (except in the Soviet Union) just before sound arrived. The pictures look great but the use of cinema technique and especially the storytelling just weren't there. Even in Europe the mindset of Hollywood was taking over.
Nevertheless I recommend this DVD for the chance to see one of the great cabaret performers of the 20th century in what is her best film along with plenty of extras including a 20 minute documentary on Josephine Baker produced by her son and an incredibly risque' short featuring an inebriated fireman who sees nude chorus girls everywhere. Donald Sosin's musical accompaniment is fine as usual ranging from solo piano to tropical sounding melodies which enhance the action. Bottom line (pun intended): 3 star film, 5 star presentation, 4 stars overall."
Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 06/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The color-tinted "Siren of the Tropics(1927)" was Josephine Baker's first film. Though silent, you can almost hear her vivacious spirit speak. A young engineer is banished to the Parisian Antilles on a doomed mining project. Papitou(Baker), the jungle girl who falls for the white adventurer, follows him back to Paris. Her mad-cap chase on the ship(as a stow-away) is quite funny. She slips on mounds of coal(turning black), and then is immersed in white powder. The sequence is resolved when Baker takes a bath. Kino's "Siren of the Tropics" is a fully-restored DVD with a documentary, a short-subject, songs, and a stills-gallery. It is part of Kino's Josephine Baker DVD-trilogy. As a child in St. Louis, Baker rummaged for food behind Soulard Market. She fled to Paris at age 17. An exotic dancer, Baker was performing at the Folies Bergere by 1925. By 1927, her earnings set her above any other entertainer in Europe at the time. This film is a chance to see her famous Paris stage act. When she starred in "Siren of the Tropics", she was only 21. Through the magic of Kino, you can view this complete early film. Until just recently, all that was available was the damaged first and last two reels."
Nice, lively and entertaining DVD
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 07/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a nice and entertaining look at coloured dancer and actress, Josephine Baker, who found fame in Paris and made her film debut in "Siren of the Tropics." This film was just made for Baker's very lively and playful screen personality as she plays a native of the Antilles who falls for a Frenchman, then follows him back to Paris. The tropical setting is ideal for Baker to show off her long legs and exotic beauty, at the same time captivating audiences with her antics, bubbly personality and constant fast yet graceful movements. Needless to say, Josephine steals the show and is the highlight of "Siren of the Tropics", but I also enjoyed the excellent musical score by Donald Sosin which included some Jazz and exotic tunes to perfectly match each scene. The colour-tinting of this film is nice, and picture quality is good overall, and even the story, while a bit weak in places perhaps, it still intriguing enough: a wealthy French Marquis has inappropriate intentions towards his goddaughter, and when she announces her engagement, the Marquis schemes to get rid of her fiancé. He sends him to the distant colonies in the Antilles where one of his henchmen is assigned to murder him, but fortunately a wild native beauty - Josephine Baker as Papitou - comes to his rescue. There is a touch of comedy here and there, especially when Papitou wants to follow her new love to France, and the final highlight of the film, no doubt, is seeing Baker dance `The Charleston'. While there is nothing outstanding or brilliant about "Siren of the Tropics", it is still very entertaining viewing, thanks to Baker's electric and energetic performance. The bonus features on this DVD also make it worth while, especially the surprising short French comedy "The Fireman of the Folies-Bergere" in which Baker also plays a small part. This short will probably be an eye-opener for the non-French due to the many nudes in this good little comedy! Other bonus material shed a bit more light on Baker herself, and is also fun to watch. Definitely an enjoyable DVD for anyone with a taste for the exotic and for exuberant 1920s dancing!"
An African American Hoofer
Carver G. Barney | 07/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved Josephine Baker's role as Papatu. The film showed how beautiful and sexy Ms Baker really was. The film illustrated her excellent dance moves and a marquee talent as a leading star in the film Siren of the Tropics, she was a very decent comedic actress. I would recommend Siren of the Tropics to everyone!"