Princess Ling Moy, a young and beautiful Chinese aristocrat lives next door, unbeknownst to her, to Dr. Fu Manchu, a brilliant but twisted genius who is out to rule the world. She is ...
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During the Boxer Rebellion in China during the early 20th century, in which a Chinese secret society attacked all westerners and anyone who associated with them, Dr. Fu Manchu's wife and ... See full summary »
Englishmen race to find the tomb of Genghis Khan. They have to get there fast, as the evil genius Dr. Fu Manchu is also searching, and if he gets the mysteriously powerful relics, he and ... See full summary »
The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a prophecy that will enable him to conquer the world. His nemesis, Dr. Nayland Smith, and ... See full summary »
The port city of Bristol, England, in the 1800s is home to Java Head, a sailing ship line company. The owner has two sons. One, a handsome seafarer, is in love with a local girl, but cannot... See full summary »
A young Englishman abroad, Michael, visits the local low-life spot of Tiger Bay to test his assertion that the spirit of human romance survives even in the most unpromising of circumstances... See full summary »
J. Elder Wills
Anna May Wong,
Princess Ling Moy, a young and beautiful Chinese aristocrat lives next door, unbeknownst to her, to Dr. Fu Manchu, a brilliant but twisted genius who is out to rule the world. She is involved with Ah Kee, a handsome young man, who also unbeknownst to her, is a secret agent out to thwart the heinous plots of Fu Manchu. As it turns out, Fu is not only her next-door neighbor, he is also, (unbeknownst to her), her father. When she finds out, will she take her father's part and fight the men out to get Fu, or will she become a brave heroine and save the world even if it is from the devious doings of her own Dad? Yes, it's dated, and there isn't nearly enough of Warner Oland in it; but it moves along well, has a lot of action, Wong and Hayakawa were fine actors, and if you're a Charley Chan fan, it's worth it to how much, if any, of Fu Oland used when creating Charley Chan. Written by
Recently I saw Anna May Wong in Piccadilly, a stylish silent melodrama made in England in 1929. It has its flaws, but over all it struck me as quite interesting and unusual, and it did provide its fascinating star with a role she could sink her teeth into. Anna May Wong was virtually the only Chinese-American leading lady of her era, gorgeous in an unconventional way, with a magnetism rivaling that of Louise Brooks. I was eager to see more of her work, and knew that she'd made several silent films in Hollywood during the '20s and a number of talkies there in the '30s, after she'd returned from Europe.
One of Anna May's first vehicles upon her return to the U.S. was Daughter of the Dragon, which was also one of the first screen adaptations of a Fu Manchu story from Sax Rohmer's long-running series of books. Unfortunately, while Piccadilly exhibited the best technical qualities of the late silent era, including first-rate cinematography, fluid camera movement, and smooth editing, this film exhibits some of the weakest traits of early talkies: the dialog is awkward, the editing rhythm is lethargic, and the acting (with a couple of exceptions) is theatrical in the worst sense of the word. There are sporadic attempts by the director to infuse the movie with striking visuals, such as silhouettes cast on screens or quirky camera angles, but for the most part the presentation is as flat and dull as a school play. Aside from rare bursts of action we find ourselves staring at actors who strike attitudes and declaim purple prose against the harsh crackle of the soundtrack, with no background music to help smooth over the rough spots.
Anna May Wong's charisma is intact, but the material she was given to deliver in Daughter of the Dragon puts her dignity to a severe test. I never expected Political Correctness from a Fu Manchu movie, but it was nonetheless disheartening to observe the Yellow Peril stereotypes on parade here. Sinister Orientals spy on enemies through panels in the wall, and gongs are struck at key moments as Dr. Fu Manchu intones such lines as: "My flower daughter, the knife would wither your petal fingers." Fans of the Charlie Chan series might be surprised to find Warner Oland playing Fu, very much the opposite of his more benign Asian portrayals. Legendary Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa is on hand as a Chinese detective working for Scotland Yard, thus providing a positive Asian role model to balance the villainy of the others, but even in his case it's made clear in an early scene that he's a "special worker," not an official member of the force.
Hayakawa manages to retain his dignity in the midst of this hokum, and so does Anna May Wong, but the waste of these two extraordinary actors is frustrating to witness. This movie is as silly as the toy dragon breathing fire under the opening credits, and perhaps it can be enjoyed as such, but if you care about these actors as human beings it leaves a depressing aftertaste. One last thought: what's the deal with sinister Asians spying on people through sliding panels in the wall? What's up with that? I mean, did you ever see an old movie where sinister Lithuanians, Greeks or Eskimos spy on people through sliding panels? Oh well, I guess it's just one of those inscrutable mysteries of the Hollywood Orient.
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