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East of Sumatra

East of Sumatra(1953)

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At a tin mine in Malaya, owner Craig Keith and executive Daniel Catlin arrive just as expert supervisor Duke Mullane is beating up a drunken crew member. Catlin expresses distaste for Duke, but after Keith shows Duke his new assignment--to find tin in the remote mountains of Tungga Island, near Sumatra--he names Catlin as Duke's new boss. Catlin's first decision is to refuse Duke his hefty payment demands, but Keith overrules him. Catlin and Duke travel to the executive's Singapore office, where Catlin's fiancée, Lory Hale, visits and is startled to see Duke, her old lover. After Catlin leaves the room, Lory announces that she now loves only Catlin, and Duke promises roughly not to inform him of their past. Duke's crew then travels to Tungga and, after setting up camp, they are invited by mischievous local Atib to a feast with his tribe's king, Kiang. There, Duke asks for workers to help build the mine and Kiang negotiates for payments in Western medicines. Duke also offers his lighter, which bears an airplane imprint for every fighter he shot down in the war. When Kiang says he cannot accept it, Duke leaves it on the table, where it is stolen by Atib. A gorgeous dancer performs and, though Duke admires her, he soon discovers that she is Kiang's fiancée, Minyora. Kiang notices Duke's interest and, later that night, reveals to Minyora that he cannot live without her. Over the next days, Kiang's men work diligently, and Duke awaits the supplies with which to pay them. When Catlin finally sends a plane, however, it contains only machinery, and Duke calls him in a fury. Soon after, Minyora visits Duke and reveals that she is half English and yearning to speak to white people. Atib spies on them and informs Kiang, who stalks over and throws Duke out. Just as Duke's men discover a rich vein of tin, the next plane arrives, carrying only Catlin and Lory. The next day, Kiang keeps his men from working until the supplies show up, and Catlin chastises Duke for his inability to "handle the natives." They visit Kiang together, but when Minyora sticks up for Duke, an infuriated Kiang refuses to work with the white men at all. That night, Lory visits Duke, but the two end up quarrelling over their past. Hours later, a drunken Atib accidentally sets fire to the tribe's supply hut with Duke's lighter. When Kiang finds the lighter in the ashes, he announces to Duke and Catlin that he has burned their plane, trapping them in the jungle, and will surround their camp until they starve to death. Over the next days, every attempt to gather food and water is thwarted by Kiang's warriors. One night, as Duke keeps watch, Minyora sneaks in and informs him of a temple high in the mountains in which they can be safe. When Duke tries to find it, Kiang sees him and forces him to return to the camp. Duke turns to alcohol, and is drunk when one night he grabs Lory and kisses her and then, later, allows Minyora to visit him. The two fall asleep, and when she leaves the next morning, Atib sees her. Within minutes, she races back to warn the camp that Kiang, furious with her supposed infidelity, is on his way to kill them all. She leads them to the temple, followed closely by Kiang's men. Two of Duke's crew are killed, and one, Paulo, is shot with a poisoned arrow before they reach the temple, which Kiang dares not infiltrate. Even after Minyora cleanses and cauterizes Paulo's wound, saving him, Duke remains distraught over the deaths of his men and soon decides to sacrifice himself to Kiang. Upon hearing his declaration, Lory reveals that she cannot bear to lose Duke, and Catlin watches in resignation as they kiss. Duke calls to Kiang, who challenges him to duel using machetes and torches. At the end of the long fight, only one machete remains within reach, and Duke grabs it just as Kiang jumps on him. Impaled, Kiang lives only long enough to name a despondent Minyora the new queen. Her first decree is for her people to help Duke's crew. Within days, the mine is working and Catlin bids a fond farewell to Lory, who stays behind with Duke.