The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958)

Genres - Historical Film, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 30, 1958 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Whatever one may think of him as an actor, John Wayne is clearly a man of action, which makes the casting of him in The Barbarian and the Geisha especially curious. Wayne plays a diplomat here, the real-life Townsend Harris, and it's not a part that draws on the reservoirs of strength that are part and parcel of Wayne. Barbarian's story is about a man of inaction; not of indecision, really, but a man who must act like a diplomat and wait for the appropriate moments to act. Those moments are few and far between in Barbarian, and one grows weary waiting for the inner tiger in Wayne to get a chance to spring into action. Charles Grayson's script is tasteful and, for a Hollywood movie, fairly faithful to facts; it just doesn't provide the amount of drama that it keeps thinking it does. Matters are not helped by John Huston's surprisingly uninvolved direction. Huston was a director who usually left an indelible impression on his films, but here it's journeyman work that could have been done by just about anyone. There's no passion on his end, and the film suffers as a result. Barbarian looks good and isn't short on scenery, costumes and atmosphere; but it does lack life.