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Confessions of an Opium Eater
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Index 12 reviews in total 

36 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Undiscovered classic!!!

Author: Fuzzbomb from Chinatown, London
12 August 2003

OK, I've known I've wanted to see this for years, but had no idea how great it would be!!! Price is as ace as usual, but the scene is well and truly stolen by the little dwarf girl. Some more things that make the film great - The fact that all the Orientals talk in broken English, while Price fills every line with overblown emotion and literate philosophical asides, the record number of secret passages and lifts, the incredible opium trip/dream sequence (and the resulting slow-motion escape is even better)and the fact that the whole thing plays like a 30's adventure film mixed with a 60's drug film! Perfect.

Highly recommended, naturally.

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21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A film for fans of cult cinema

Author: ghannah from Australia
2 November 1999

Enter a world of hidden rooms, sliding panels, secret passages, narrow sewers and opium dens; a world where, at the Hour of the Rat, pretty Chinese girls are auctioned off to the highest bidder. When Gilbert De Quincey (Vincent Price) arrives in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1902, he is quickly embroiled in a viscous Tong war between two rival factions. The seductive Ruby Low and her followers organize the picture bride auctions on behalf of ancient Ling Tan. The supporters of the Chinese Gazette's murdered editor, George Wah, oppose them. De Quincey bears the moon serpent tattoo, aligning him with Ruby Low, but his actions suggest he may have other motives.

Albert Zugsmith, better known as the producer of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil", produced and directed "Opium Eater", a black and white b-grader hastily dismissed by reviewers. It has genuine merit to those who like offbeat cinema. Although it uses Thomas De Quincey's 1821 book title, (actually called "Confessions of an English Opium Eater") it conjures up its own story of deception and murder. Price as Gilbert De Quincey, who also narrates the film, suggests he is an ancestor. "Opium Eater" actually has more in common with the Fu Manchu mysteries or the yellow peril pulps popular in the 1930s. Add to this its fortune cookie dialogue and ramblings about dreams, reality, death and destiny and you have one very strange movie indeed. There is no doubt "Opium Eater" is bizarre, but it is also literate and genuinely mysterious.

Albert Glasser's spooky soundtrack is one of the films great strengths. His eerie electronic score endows it with an ambience of unease and dislocation. In one scene, after Price awakens from his opium-induced nightmare, axe-wielding henchmen chase him across rooftops. Here the music drops right off the soundtrack and we are left with only an unnerving silence. Zugsmith's direction is clumsy at times but many intriguing moments make up for this, including his creative use of slow motion and the nightmare montage in the joss house. This drug scene must have been quite controversial in 1962 and I wonder if it was snipped from certain prints or caused the film to be banned in some areas.

The love/hate relationship between De Quincey and Ruby Low suggests their fate is predetermined and leads to a quite unexpected, but oddly satisfying outcome.

It's a flawed film, but remains a curious, haunting experience deserving of a cult following. >

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16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Completely bizarre cult oddity!

Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
31 October 2006

If it's a completely bizarre horror flick you're after, then you can go wrong with Confessions of an Opium Eater as there is NOTHING typical about this flick, and overall it is just as much an oddity as its title suggests it is! I actually saw this film under the alternative title 'Souls for Sale', but 'Confessions of an Opium Eater' does the film far more justice. My main reason for seeing the film was because it's a Vincent Price film that I'd never come across before, and anyone seeing Confessions of an Opium Eater for the same reason won't be disappointed as this is Vincent Price as you've never seen him! Indeed, not even the usually distinctive master of the macabre can deliver the usual in this film. The plot is often confusing and doesn't always flow well, but the themes of opium induced hallucinations, Chinese human auctions and odd little midgets are usually enough to see it through and ensure that it's hard to care about the shortcomings with the plot.

The dialogue is surprisingly lyrical, and it's a huge benefit to the film that Vincent Price is on hand to deliver it. Price's voice always bodes well with dialogue like this, and that doesn't change here. Confessions of an Opium Eater was filmed in black and white, and while the cinematography looks rather cheap; it does fit the feel of the film. Vincent Price takes centre stage at almost all times, and while there are some memorable characters among the supporting cast - it is always clear that this is Price's film. The film is directed by Albert Zugsmith; and the fact that he is better known for his producing credits is hardly surprising as his direction isn't exactly inspiring...but then again, you can't expect brilliance in a B-movie picture like this one. There are a number of standout moments in the film, however, and chief among them is Price's hallucination sequence; which somehow manages to blend well with the rest of the picture. Overall, Confessions of an Opium Eater is a film that is well worth tracking down despite not being one of price's out and out best efforts, and I highly recommend it.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:


Author: MARIO GAUCI ( from Naxxar, Malta
15 May 2011

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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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Up In Smoke

Author: Joseph Sylvers from United States
9 May 2010

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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Drugs, chopsticks, and some very funny cameos.

Author: Kingkitsch ( from Las Vegas, Nevada
19 June 2015

It's great to be able to finally see "Confessions of an Opium Eater" in a decent print via DVD. It's been obscure and unavailable for a long time. All I knew was that it existed, and a memory of some stills from this weird little gem in "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine.

Ah, 1962. Producer/director Albert Zugsmith evidently met his Muse and cranked out this gleefully un-PC look at the Yellow Peril in San Francisco 1902. Zugsmith, despite some legitimate credits on his resume, wallowed in exploitation for the most part. COAOE somehow escaped Zugsmith's penchant for low-level production and rose above what should have been a Z-list production. What resulted was a real oddity, a bastardized version of Thomas De Quincey's late 1800s drug tale. This movie bears little resemblance to De Quincey's fable. The screenplay is more Sax Rohmer/Fu Manchu than anything else.

This drive-in classic has it all folks. Enigmatic fortune cookie wisdom, secret passages out the yin-yang, a sultry Dragon Lady named Ruby with world domination on her mind, a wisecracking Chinese Munchkin sing-song girl, Polynesian twerking, firecrackers, Tong warfare, every Chinese actor in Hollywood, Vincent Price as a moody poetic sort of action hero...and yes, opium. Price's opium dream is a real hoot for fans of late 1950s Allied Artists horror/sci-fi flicks. After nodding off on the pipe, Vinny gets visited by a host of critters from other AA pics in short cameo appearances. He sees the "eyeball hand" from Invasion of the Saucermen, crawling along. He sees the monster tarantula from The Spider. He sees the "voodoo woman" from Voodoo Woman. He sees the skull from Screaming Skull. Also lots of Chinese masks and fish-eye lens howling people. Zugsmith really raided the AA vaults to put this trip together.

The famous slo-mo scene, done in complete silence, is still pretty effective. It's surreal, dreamy, and unexpected. Also of note is the "girl auction" in which captive gals from the United Nations perform native dances for the Mandarin crowd and their impressive wisdom hats. Watch for Miss Polynesia, who really does twerk, in addition to writhing around to a soundtrack that switches from ersatz Chinese to SF North Beach beatnik coffee bar free form jazz. Tasty!

Well worth seeking out if you've heard about this. It's short and to the point. Also extremely weird. The ending is unexpected. Over fifty years later, a movie like this could not be made. There are racial stereotypes presented in an unapologetic manner, strictly due to the time in which it was made.

Anyway, how can you resist a movie that owns the line: "NO! Use the velvet whips, they don't mar the body!" Delicious.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:


Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
5 November 2012

Vincent Price is one of my favourite actors, always delivering no matter the material. Confessions of an Opium Eater is no exception, it is not his best film or performance by a long shot, but it is an interesting film and Price commands the film wonderfully in the way few people do. Confessions of an Opium Eater is a long way from flawless, some of the direction is uninspiring, the dialogue does have a tendency to ramble on too much and the dance numbers are very dreary. However, while the story is on the silly side, what does elevate it to a significant degree is the startling atmosphere that is evoked. When it comes to the film's highlights, they are most certainly the trippy dream sequence and the slow-motion escape scene. I did like the look of the film, slow-motion technique is not a favourite of mine but due to the subject it actually worked to give some realism. The costumes and scenery are quite nice too, as is the eerie score. Price is great, and the supporting performances are good(though few stand out as really, really impressive) especially from Linda Ho. So overall, it was an interesting and decent movie. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

tong war world

Author: Lee Eisenberg ( from Portland, Oregon, USA
26 November 2011

One of Vincent Price's lesser known movies casts him as an adventurer who discovers that one of the tongs in San Francisco's Chinatown is selling young women into servitude. The really cool scene in "Confessions of an Opium Eater" is Price's opium-induced hallucination; think of it as an early acid trip. The rest of the movie is kind of corny, but the corniness in Price's movies is part of what made them so much fun. Parts of the movie are confusing due to the secret passages in the buildings.

Overall, it's a pretty fun movie. Price's narration definitely adds to the campy feeling. Of course, his best movies were Roger Corman's adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's works.

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Vincent Price smokes opium and battles Tongs in auction of kidnapped females

Author: msroz from United States
13 June 2016

The previous comments about the good, bad and ugly of "Confessions of an Opium Eater" (1962) are accurate, coming from some people who love the movie's odd character and some who notice its faults. It has both.

The good points include the following. There's a dream-like opening sequence of kidnapped Oriental women being off-loaded from a ship near San Francisco. They will be taken, caged, cleaned up and pressured into dancing at an auction of themselves. A newspaper editor wants to stop this Tong practice, but he's slain. Vincent Price is the protagonist who takes his place. Price has a sequence in slow-motion that's original and captivating that forms part of his adventures escaping from Tong clutches and being pursued. Another plus are the tunnels, secret passages, elevators, inaccessible buildings and mysterious people and sets that dominate the show. The music is the eerie theremin, often used in sci-fi movies. Price is another plus, delivering florid lines of poetic style. A cast of familiar Oriental actors is another plus. Add to it the lesser known and minor actress Linda Ho as a sort of femme fatale. The cinematography is very good in black and white with the great Joseph Biroc at the helm.

Now the negatives. The continuity of the story is low. Price more or less moves around the hidden rooms and passages, much of the time being pursued, sometimes captured, sometimes escaping, always looking for the auction. He rambles on and so do the Chinese characters, whose dialog and broken English are very tedious. They often make no sense or are just plain lousy. When finally we see the auction and several dances, they are quite amateurish and boring. The staging by the director is just fair. The movie has a significant tendency to become boring when it slows down. The production values are low, making the movie seem rather empty at times with cheap sets, like a low-budget TV production.

Overall, I personally didn't really like the movie. It became too static, talky and incoherent for me. If it had lived up to Price's power as a performer, it would have been really a genuine gem; but it surely did not rise to his level.

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9 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

so bad it's good

Author: kyrat from CA, USA
10 August 2001

The writing was wonderfully florid and obtuse, I think the script was simply a collection of fortune cookies strung together. Although I like Vincent Price, the "most beautiful Chinese midget" was the starring character. Even the ending and the last lines were great and in the spirit of the movie.

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