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Although his murdered friend was by all accounts a scoundrel a true "bounder" Edward Wales is determined to trap his killer by staging a seance using a famous medium. Many of the 13 seance ... See full summary »
'Tiger' Haynes is a respected trapper of jungle beasts for zoos and circuses and a doting father to his beautiful young daughter Toyo. When he finds out that she's fallen in love with Bobby Bailey, the son of a wealthy circus owner he frequently deals with, Haynes is initially suspicious of the young man's motives. However, Bailey's sincerity soon wins him over, and they take the river boat to Saigon together to see the young man's father. While on board Bobby meets the femme fatale cougar, Mme. de Sylva, who immediately desires the young man and easily seduces him. In reality, she is Toyo's mother and a notoriously predatory seductress. Tiger adamantly insinuates himself between de Sylva and her latest conquest and seemingly breaks up the romance and returns home to oversee Toyo and Bobby's wedding, but Toyo's mother unexpectedly arrives with the objective of vamping Bobby. In order to avoid having Toyo's heart broken by her mother, Tiger resorts to the 'law of the jungle.' Written by
Entertaining and somewhat disturbing - and Taylor and Velez light up the screen
"Where East is East" is another entertaining and somewhat disturbing film from Director Tod Browning and Lon Chaney, this one set in Asia. Chaney plays a wild animal trainer whose daughter (Lupe Vélez) falls in love with a young man (Lloyd Hughes). After some initial reluctance, Chaney supports their intended marriage, but then trouble comes in the form of Madame de Sylva (Estelle Taylor), an Asian seductress. As she moves in on Hughes, we find out she's actually Chaney's old wife and Vélez's mother, who abandoned them long ago. A disturbing love triangle is thus formed between a young man and a mother and her daughter. Chaney snarls and is and tries to protect his daughter, compelling as always, but it's the women who steal this show. Vélez is a bundle of energy and plays her part with a touching innocence and charm, and Taylor absolutely lights up the screen from the moment she appears her face and hair are just stunning. The two of them and a macabre (if a bit contrived) ending easily make this a film worth watching.
Some notes of interest in the personal lives of the cast: Chaney would sadly die just one year later, and Vélez and Taylor would become such close friends that it would be Taylor at Vélez's side the night she committed suicide 15 years later.
Also, some notes on the subject of race, always a lightning rod in watching these old films: It's disappointing that none of the principal Asian roles are played by Asians, Asian countries and cultures are muddled together, and Asian characters are shown butchering basic grammar even when they should be speaking in their native languages to one another. On the other hand, Browning doesn't play to other stereotypes, wisely doesn't attempt to make Taylor or Vélez look "more Asian" with garish make-up, knowing it would be ridiculous (see Renee Adoree in 1927's Mr. Wu, among others), and also includes three lines in correct Chinese, as opposed to putting up a hodgepodge of nonsensical characters. (And interestingly enough, he doesn't even translate those lines into English.) Not bad, especially for 1929.
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