Mill Creek Musings: The White Orchid (1954)

Robert Burton (William Lundigan) is an archaeologist working to find remains of the Toltec civilization in southern Mexico. He sends for a photographer to accompany him on his mission, and is disappointed to find that the photographer sent to him is a young woman named Kathryn (Peggie Castle).

Robert doesn’t think she can get the job done, and they constantly butt heads over his narrow-minded attitude. It isn’t until Kathryn follows through with Burton’s assignment to photograph a local fiesta that he begins to respect her. Robert is impressed by Kathryn’s talent and the fact that she’s quickly able to talk a local plantation owner (Armando Silvestre) into being their guide.

(Image via movieposter.com)
(Image via movieposter.com)

Robert not only grows to respect Kathryn: he begins falling in love with her. But trouble brews when their guide falls for her as well.

The White Orchid (1954) was directed by Reginald Le Borg. This film appears in Mill Creek’s Nifty Fifties boxed set. The print isn’t too good, with a pretty fuzzy picture, but the film’s color palate is beautiful and the sound quality is decent.

Like last week’s film, Love Island, today’s Mill Creek feature follows a love triangle in an “exotic” location. Luckily, this 77-minute film has a much better story to tell than the former.

The White Orchid is not a standard romance, and that’s a good thing, because it means there are a lot of different moods and elements at play to keep the viewer occupied by the film. There’s intrigue from the search that Robert is on to see if descendents of “lost” civilizations are living in remote areas. There’s danger and adventure as the trio travel through the country. There’s a bit of a noir twist as Kathryn takes advantage of Robert and Juan’s affections for her, pitting them against each other to accomplish her own goals, like any great noir fatale would do.

There’s even an ending action sequence which is, in a word, insane. *Spoiler* A whole village is burned in order to save Kathryn. *End spoiler*

The performances of Peggie Castle, William Lundigan and Armando Silvestre carry all of these different veins of the plot successfully. They’re all capable actors, and they do well in their roles here, Peggie Castle especially.

On a less positive note, I have a feeling these depictions of the “jungle”-dwelling ancient people aren’t incredibly accurate. But luckily they only play a part in the final 20 minutes or so of the film, so they don’t bring it down too much.

The White Orchid is a decent watch – not a Class A film by any means, but the performances are solid and the blend of romance with adventure is enjoyable. The score: 2.5/5

If you’re interested in watching this film but don’t want to purchase the Mill Creek set, it can be found on YouTube or the Internet Archive.

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