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Landscapes of Fantasy, Gardens of Deceit

The Adventure Film Between Colonialism and Tourism

2. 1929 to 1945

2. 1929–1938

  1. Hans Jürgen Wulff

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf029

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Wulff, H. J. 2011. Landscapes of Fantasy, Gardens of Deceit. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 2:2:29.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011


The adventure film is one of film history's most expansive and heterogeneous genres. At its core is the exoticist adventure tale that frequently references and romanticizes the era of colonialism, but the genre also intersects with several partially overlapping subgenres, such as the medieval knight's tale, the pirate story and the high seas adventure, tales from the Arabian Nights, the swords-and-sandals epic, the cloak-and-dagger story, and the travelogue and discovery tale. The adventure film's themes and motives are drawn from popular adventure literature that peaked between the late eighteenth and late nineteenth centuries and frequently adopted a serial mode. The writings of authors such as Alexandre Dumas, Sir Walter Scott, H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne, and, later, Jack London, Joseph Conrad, and Rudyard Kipling paved the way for the genre's cinematic success, though the literary motif of the aventiure2 harks back to the legends of medieval knighthood. Likewise, the figure of the adventurer who sets out to distant shores to save the Holy Land, to conquer the Americas for the Spanish crown, or to liberate the Americas from the crown, who may be marooned on a distant island or become ruler of the jungle, has older roots and appears in many guises. But it was not until the nineteenth century that the specific tropes to which the genre has closely adhered — and which, it seems, still shape the stories of twentieth-century adventurers — began to crystallize. These adventurers may discover the North Pole, fight bounty hunters amidst the Pyramids or wildlife poachers in the jungle, run a plantation in colonial Indochina, fly postal planes across the Andes, or ferry passengers and cargo across treacherous South Pacific waters.


  • garden;
  • landscape;
  • scenes of history;
  • exotic landscapes;
  • colonialism;
  • tourism;
  • border crossing