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Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)

 -  Drama  -  20 June 1962 (USA)
6.8
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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 »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Gilbert De Quincey
Linda Ho ...
Ruby Low
Richard Loo ...
George Wah
...
Lotus (as June Kim)
Philip Ahn ...
Ching Foon
Yvonne Moray ...
Child
Caroline Kido ...
Lo Tsen
Terence de Marney ...
Scrawny Man
Geri Hoo ...
2nd Dancing Girl
Gerald Jann ...
Fat Chinese
Vivianne Manku ...
Catatonic Girl
Miel Saan ...
Look Gow
Joanne Miya ...
1st Dancing Girl
...
Auctionieer (as John Mamo)
Keiko ...
3rd Dancing Girl
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Storyline

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 alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Dare you enter the nightmare zone of the incredible?

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Drama

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20 June 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Souls for Sale  »

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(Westrex Recording System)
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Gilbert De Quincey: [narration] When the dreams of the dark, idle, monstrous phenomenae move forever forward... wild, barbarous, capricious into the great yawning darkness... to be fixed for centuries in secret rooms. De Quincey, the artist ?, De Quincey, the pagan priest, to be worshiped, to be sacrificed. What is a dream and what is reality? Sometimes a man's life can be a nightmare; other times, cannot a nightmare be life? And the voices that I heard, were they the voices of some strange imitation of men in some...
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User Reviews

 
SOULS FOR SALE aka CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER (Albert Zugsmith, 1962) ***
15 May 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

While I have always been interested in watching this one because of its potential campy wretchedness (courtesy of exploitationer Zugsmith's involvement and Leonard Maltin's unflattering *1/2 rating), I only actively sought to acquire it once I learned of its surprising inclusion in celebrated film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's iconoclastic "Alternative Top 100 list" counterpart to the AFI's official list! As if that was not recommendation enough, a movie-buff friend of mine recently alerted me to the fact that, on the film's entry on Joe Dante's "Trailers From Hell" website, the genial American director names CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER one of his all-time favorites!

Some years ago I had read Thomas DeQuincey's literary classic "Confessions Of An English Opium Eater" (for the record, Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA {1977} derives its title from the author's "Suspiria De Profundis") – along with Aleister Crowley's "Diary Of A Drug Fiend" (another such book I acquired but which I have yet to go through is Aldous Huxley's "The Doors Of Perception") – while preparing to embark on my third screenplay…but its semi-autobiographical fantasia nature has, so far, largely proved hard to pin down! Having said that, despite the fact that Vincent Price's central character in the movie was named Gilbert DeQuincey and it does feature a series of hallucinatory sequences, the film under review is no adaptation of the book. For one thing, it is set in San Francisco against the original's London and, as if to emphasize that difference, it was distributed also under the alternative monikers of SOULS FOR SALE (which is the title sported by the thankfully good-looking TV print I watched that does justice to Eugene Lourie''s remarkable production design - after an earlier one I had come by proved very fuzzy!) and EVILS OF CHINATOWN. For what it is worth, the film is said to have inspired John Carpenter's BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986), a guilty pleasure from my childhood days!

Actually, this is the first example I have watched from Zugsmith's tawdry directorial efforts and, by all accounts, it is the only one worth seeing. Conversely, his credits as producer were pretty impressive and versatile: Douglas Sirk's WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) and THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1957); a clutch of Jack Arnold films, including his best i.e. THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957); and, finally, Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) which, given its drug-addiction subplot, is the most pertinent to CONFESSIONS. Discriminating viewers might well find this one of the most inept things they had ever witnessed but, for those able to accept its uniqueness, the sheer oddity on display exerts an undeniable fascination. Right from the opening sequence showing a horse galloping on a deserted beach, followed by a curiously silent pirate crew manhandling their captive female cargo around (sometimes being literally thrown overboard into a descending net and falling, comically speeded-up, into place and in unison on a waiting barge!) and, when a scuffle erupts on the beach between Tong factions, the horse makes a sudden reappearance to save one of the girls (who later has an active part in the narrative) by pushing her assailant off of a cliff! The 'abduction of women for pleasure' theme links this to Price's later vehicle, the Harry Alan Towers production HOUSE OF A THOUSAND DOLLS (1967; where the star's role was more ambiguous yet less adventurous than here), a viewing of which actually preceded this one!

The hallucination sequences are truly weird here, with a proliferation of predictably nightmarish images and slow-motion chases that are suddenly speeded-up, like Price's fall from a rooftop; incidentally, it is a rare sight to have Vincent Price as the action hero…but, then, the entire film feels like it did not belong in the early 1960s! The underground slave trading sequence is one of the most striking in the film, even if this includes a succession of protracted dance routines that are meant to show off the attractive qualities of the 'merchandise' on display to the gathering of prospective buyers! Price, who is forever spouting poetically-defiant lines at his captors (even while embarrassingly hanging off-the-ground on a meat-hook!), finds an improbable ally in a spirited female midget who eventually gets a knife in the back just as they are about to make their escape down a manhole. Curiously enough for a movie of which he is the intermittent narrator, Price himself is presumed dead at the very end as he and the villainess (the actress playing her bears the unfortunately appropriate name of Linda Ho!) are whisked away by the flowing underground currents.


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