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Josef von Sternberg
Anna May Wong
Early in World War II, Chungking schoolteacher Lin Yang is recruited to help with the dangerous mission of protecting the Allied supply line from Burma into China. In spite of the danger involved, her determination to help is strengthened when one of her young students is killed in a Japanese air raid. Some time later, she is part of a group of Allied representatives departing from Lashio, on a bus traveling the Burma Road back to China. A bridge outage forces them to spend the night in a monastery along the way, and during the night they watch in horror as a supply convoy of trucks is bombed by Japanese planes. The timing and accuracy of the raid brings them to realize that either one of their group, or perhaps the priest in the monastery, is really an enemy agent. Written by
Some B movies transcend, others lower themselves into the "so bad t's funny' category. But most fall into the general category of 'good B-movie" - entertaining but forgettable.
This film can be enjoyed as a good B-movie, If one doesn't know much of film history, there it ends - a solid B- movie from the early '40s.
But pay attention! I've watched this film several times - it's actually difficult to watch, the scene where the young boy gets wasted by Japanese machine gun fire is not fun. But the images keep pulling me along.
This is a great film, for two reasons. First, director Lewis, cinematographer Cline and editor Henkel are using the film to work out knowledge of film history that more mainstream studios would not have allowed then - Sergei Eisentein's influence is all over the film.
Secondly, Anna May Wong - a great actress relegated to small parts as the 'sultry Asian' - she is truly magnificent here, this performance would have won an Oscar for any other actress at a later time.
Yes it's still a B-movie plot and much of the dialog has to conform to that. But so much of this is rich in construction and detail that I insist it remains a classic - unrecognized but undeniable.
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