Gilbert de Quincey is an early 19th-century adventurer involved with helping runaway slave girls and victims of a tong war in San Francisco. Garbed in black from head to toe, de Quincey ... See full summary »
Gilbert de Quincey is an early 19th-century adventurer involved with helping runaway slave girls and victims of a tong war in San Francisco. Garbed in black from head to toe, de Quincey narrates his adventures. At the slave auction where beautiful Oriental girls are displayed in hanging bamboo cages, de Quincey befriends a tiny wisecracking female Oriental dwarf. Written by
Gilbert De Quincey:
In that first instance of her image passing the lenses of my eyes, I felt that I was hanging in the immensity of space and she was floating with me - chained, locked inextricably together; arms, brains, heart pulsations, unable to flee, unable to break apart; sinking, sinking through the inexhaustible depths of time. I forgot the long journey by the sea. I forgot the pain. I forgot my mission. Was it the heavy, drifting perfume of the incense or some feverish fantasy searing my brain...
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The only similarity this bears to Thomas De Quincy's "Confessions Of An English Opium Eater" is that both characters have the name Thomas De Quincy. The novel is an autobiography of the effects on opium on one man's life, while the film is a Vincent Price lead "Lady From Shanghai" like twisting film noir.
Price's De Quincy is a sailor, whose voice over is a Raymond Chandler meets De Quincy poetry, come to San Francisco after a long stay in "the orient", where he involves himself in the dubious world of human trafficking, particularly brides in China Town during the 1800's Tong Gang Wars. The film opens with a brutal scene involving screaming women thrown in a net like freshly caught tuna, and then a violent battle between two gangs on the beach as they try to deliver the kidnapped women to their fate.
Albert Zugsmith produced classics like "The Incredible Shrinking Man", "Written On The Wind", and "Touch Of Evil", along with directing many exploitation flicks, which this film veers into from time to time. The film is more in the Siejun Suzuki brand of wildly inventive, free wheeling pulpy expressionism, than Ed Wood kitschy ineptness. Despite the title the only scene involving opium is when Price takes some in order to get close to the women trafficking ring, and has a particularly impressive Lynchian circa Elephant-Man era hallucination scene (which is worth price of admission alone).
However the best scene comes when Price wakes up surrounded by guards and has to make a slow motion (cus he's high on opium) dash out of the den, and to the rooftops of china town. The scene is also completely silent, and truly marvelous in it's execution. I know slow motion action sequences where Greogiran chanting plays over sweat glistened A-listers shooting each other in mid air are common place now, but in Zugsmith's hands your reminded of excting an action sequence can be when it's done right. The plot is not particularly strong.
Why De Quincy is saving the girl, or what he is doing in China town at all, has many twists and turns, and leaves some gaps to be filled? But the direction, the suspense, and especially Price's performance make lines that would sound preposterous and almost Terrance Malick like in their stream of consciousness like "You wear as many masks as their are stars reflected in a gutter", sound as if he says them everyday. Such are the gifts of Price.
I was very pleased with this movie, that can be found easily on Youtube, though you might want to get a good copy to take in the fullness of Zugsmith's frames.There is a dreaminess and nightmarishness to all of the scenes, like opium was poured over a script to a lesser film, and this movie stumbled out of a smoke ridden room, rambling of dancing girls emerging from cages, crashes through windows, being swept to sea from sewer drains, and teetering on the edge of rooftops with vertigo at a snails pace, and feeling "the abbacus of fate has your number". Good times.
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