Jamil (Ramon Novarro) lives in Cairo and makes a living out of being a driver for wealthy female American visitors and then scamming them for whatever he can get from them. As soon as Diana Standing (Myrna Loy) gets off the train in Cairo, Jamil knows he’s found his next mark. He immediately tries to become her driver, but Diana’s fiance Gerald (Reginald Denny) puts a stop to him. Undeterred, Jamil ups his game from “scam artist” to “frighteningly manipulative” by stealing her dog and returning it to her later. When she offers him a reward, he tells her to repay the favor by letting him be her driver.
This time around, Diana agrees and Jamil’s frightening behavior only continues and gets worse. He constantly sets up situations that would allow him to come off as a hero to Diana and that get her alone with him. Once he starts trying to romantically woo her, she tries to send him away and heads off on a caravan through the desert to visit Gerald, who has been away on business.
But even in the desert, there is no escape from Jamil and he forces his way into being her guide again. Once again, he tries to woo Diana, who isn’t having it and demands that they go back to Cairo immediately. So what does Jamil do? Send her chaperone on a different route so that it’s just him and Diana alone in the middle of the desert. Then he brings her to Achmed Pasha’s (Edward Arnold) oasis. Pasha is Gerald’s business partner who also has designs on Diana, so Jamil tells him that it was her idea to be there so that he would try to come onto her and he could come to her rescue again.
After Jamil and Diana flee from Pasha’s oasis, Pasha sends some people after them to bring her back, but Jamil not only kills them, but kills Diana’s horse in the process. Jamil forces Diana to walk along side him while he rides on the horse and when they stop for water, he refuses to let her have a drink before him and the horse. With Diana’s spirit now completely broken, he drags her to his home village where he plans to marry her. She breaks away from the ceremony and returns to Gerald to marry him. But just as she’s about to marry Gerald, guess who shows up yet again? Yep, Jamil’s back to make another attempt for Diana. Only this time Diana, for some reason, decides she’d rather be with Jamil and leaves Gerald standing at the altar.
My two GIF review of The Barbarian:
Oh, good Lord, this movie. I …just…WHAT WAS THAT?! Allegedly, this was supposed to be a romance, but it seemed more like a horror film to me. It was outright disturbing. There is absolutely nothing romantic or charming about Jamil’s pursuit of Diana; it’s nothing but stalking and dangerously manipulative behavior. I certainly wasn’t rooting for Jamil and Diana to wind up together. The only union I wanted to see between these people was of her fist meeting his face. I could not get past Jamil’s astounding creepiness to possibly enjoy The Barbarian on any other levels. I wish I could get those 83 minutes back so I could spend it doing something more productive like watching my cats sleep.