Starring Jean Hersholt, Mamba takes place in 1913 in German East Africa, now Tanzania. August Bolte is a thoroughly disgusting plantation owner, who violently mistreats his African workers, sexually abuses native women, and is shunned by both the British and German military officers garrisoned in the border area between British and German colonies. He buys himself an impoverished countess as a wife and brings her back to Africa where she soon is terrorized by the alien environment.
The film went into production in late 1929, when Tiffany, a low-budget, independent studio decided to play with the big boys in Hollywood, investing half a million dollars to make a sound, color and 3-D film, at least according to Film Daily. Shot on the Universal lot by action specialist Albert S. Rogell, the film kept running out of money, but the gamble paid off. When the film opened in New York in March 1930, it broke the box office record for the Gaiety Theatre. That didn't help Tiffany, which went bankrupt in 1932, as the Depression deepened, its catalog of prints and negatives disappearing into oblivion.
It was not until 2009 that an Australian film impresario, Paul Brennan, “discovered” an original two-color Technicolor IB nitrate print, belonging to an old couple in their 80s who lived in or near Adelaide. But there were problems. The film had been sent to Australia in 1930 with Vitaphone sound discs, rather than sound on the film, and some of those discs were missing. Brennan contacted Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project, who put him in touch with UCLA’s motion picture archivist Todd Wiener; miraculously, the discs had survived at UCLA, as well as two reels of color nitrate. In 2012, the original print was sent to UCLA for this restoration. —Jan-Christopher Horak
35mm, color, 70 min. Director: Albert Rogell. Production: Tiffany Productions/Colorart. Distribution: Tiffany Pictures. Story: F.Schumann-Heink, John Reinhardt. Continuity: Tom Miranda, Winifred Dunn. Editor: Richard Cahoon. Cinematography: Charles P. Boyle. Art Direction: Andre Chotin. Cast: Jean Hersholt, Eleanor Boardman, Ralph Forbes, Claude Fleming, William Von Brincken.
Restored from a 35mm nitrate print and RCA sound discs. Laboratory services by Fotokem, Pacific Title & Art Studio, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to: Paul Brennan, Jonas Nordin, the Library of Congress, and especially to Murray and Pat Matthews who guarded the nitrate print.