A merchant marine captain, rescued from the Chinese Communists by local villagers, is "shanghaied" into transporting the whole village to Hong Kong on an ancient paddle steamer. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There was some surprise when Lauren Bacall agreed to make the movie since she was a left-wing Democrat and the film was right-wing Cold War propaganda. See more »
When the ferry pulls into Hong Kong, they encounter a Royal Navy vessel with close-ups of the sailors. Ordinarily, British sailors wear a tally on their caps with the name of their ship printed on it. However, the sailors' tallies only have "HMS" on them and no ship's name. See more »
Capt. Tom Wilder:
[spoken through voice tube to engine room]
If you want a last look at home, you'd better take it now.
[heavy with sorrow]
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The title is shown in Chinese characters, which dissolve into English. See more »
Barrelling Down Blood Alley With The Duke At The Helm!
I was sparked to comment after reading another user comment here that contended Blood Alley is one of John Wayne's worst films. It may not be at the top of the heap, but it's far from the bottom. It well accomplishes what it sets out to do--entertain: fun, engrossing, action-packed and--on the wide-screen edition DVD I have--beautiful to behold.
The reviewer especially criticized Wayne's frequent side comments to "Baby" and the film's having non-Orientals playing the Chinese. I didn't find either factor a deterrent to my enjoyment. First, I took Baby to be Wayne's guardian angel more than an imaginary girlfriend. And I think his occasional comment to her was fitting. Yeah, the Captain Wilder got a little dotty after spending all those years alone in that cell. His hangup about "tennis shoes" was another example of his having gone a bit stir crazy.
Having non-Orientals play Chinese or Japanese was not uncommon in the Hollywood of yesteryear. Remember Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto? And closer to our time David Carradine in Kung Fu. I never understood why this is a stumbling-block for some people. And in Blood Alley the American actors playing Chinese did a great job.
Paul Fix first and foremost gets a nod. He made Mr. Tso a distinct character through mannerisms and distinctive sage-like speech. I especially liked the scene where Captain Wilder told him to toss that ornate sculpture in the furnace to fuel the ship, "That'll burn" Duke says, but Fix calmly notes how a craftsman put 10 years of his life into creating it. Here was a man who respected and had appreciation for the intangible things, like beauty and like freedom, which is what Mr. Tso was risking his life to help his townspeople regain.
Mike Mazurki also gets kudos for putting in a great performance as Big Hans. No, he didn't really look Oriental, but he brought weight to his part, especially in his first scene. You could tell that he was a guy you could count on. And for film buffs familiar with Mazurki, wasn't it nice to see him playing a good guy for a change?
Finally, the reviewer said Lauren Bacall was wooden. Well, was she ever among Hollywood's most dynamic actresses? I thought she did a good job with what she had to work with. She did seem tacked onto the film and her story was secondary to the main plot. I never did get a firm grasp on the subplot involving her father or why she ran off in the ship graveyard. However, she did sizzle in the scenes in the pilot house, especially when coming between Wilder and the ship's wheel. Yes, this film was not her finest hour, but Bacall certainly redeemed herself in The Shootist and proved she did indeed have an on-screen chemistry with Wayne.
Admittedly Blood Alley does not have a place in the crowded pantheon of GREAT John Wayne films, but it is certainly not among his worst! And as a huge fan of the Duke I can't even suggest a film for that dishonor. For me, any film featuring John Wayne is going to be better than most anything else on at the same time.
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