UNTAMED is further proof that Susan Hayward, aside from feisty flaunting of that red mane and a manner of matching bodily curves to husky panting that would shame a cheetah, also possessed some of the sharpest teeth in Hollywood, given the way she could chew scenery to ribbons. In this 1955 epic she gnaws away half of Africa south of the Zambezi as a lustful Irish gal (minus accent) who goes to the Dutch Free State in South Africa during the 1850s to farm, get rich with diamonds, lose fortune, regain it, seduce and use three men, fight Zulus, and just basically kick up enough melodramatic dust for three movies.
‘Torn’ by a clutch of screenwriters from a novel, it covers so much ground so fast and so foolishly in 111 minutes that it’s fruitless to keep track of Hayward’s ever-shifting romantic loyalties, though it’s not hard to guess she’ll eventually end up with nominal leading man Tyrone Power.
It was the studio-soured Power’s last contract job for Fox, after making them richer for 18 years, but he doesn’t have all that much to do but look good, ride well and have a bullwhip fight with Richard Egan, main competitor for Susan’s slaps and sighs.
Throw in Rita Moreno (still in her ethnicity-juggling days as an impatient temptress), Agnes Moorehead, and a lightning bolt that splits a giant tree and drops it on Egan, who gets a wooden-leg as a result. It worsens his attitude, already surly, since he was trying to rape Hayward during the storm. Don’t neglect a pretty spectacular battle with 2,500 Zulu extras ( second-unit location filming in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, mixed with the stars closeups, shot back in California) that’s certainly the visual highlight of the dumb drama.
Expense ($3,560,000) and ballyhoo (” It’s AFRICOLOSSAL!”) didn’t translate into enough profit when the movie took in $5,500,000. Moreno has the best line, laying into Hayward over the leg-shy Egan: “…what’s left of him is mine! ” As to historical accuracy, well, the movie gets the continent right.
With John Justin, Hope Emerson, Brad Dexter, Kevin Corcoran. Directed by Henry King.