Taking a breather from a succession of Corman/Poe tales, Vincent Price stars as the hero of this rather bizarre tale of human trafficking at the turn of the century San Francisco circa 1902.
Utilizing the effective tones of Mr. Price, the film starts with a narration leading to a fog shrouded schooner transporting a group of Asian women to the mainland. Their ultimate destination is to be auctioned into the slave trade.
The first 10 minutes is played silently featuring the women being moved from one ship to another in chains culminating in a battle of warring Tongs on shore. One of which is led by the well known Richard Loo.
Into the story comes the mysterious stranger Mr. Price. He connects with Linda Ho and Philip Ahn although I’m not really sure what his reason is. Plot points are rather weak throughout this Albert Zugsmith directed rarity. Hard to believe this is the same Zugsmith credited as the Producer on the Welles classic Touch of Evil just four years previously.
Apparently Vincent has been sent by whom I do not know to save the enslaved beauties and smash the sex trade ring. He’ll have to free some of the captives from bamboo cages and enlists the aide of a physically challenged elderly slave.
Since the drug Opium figures in the title, we may as well have Vincent take part in smoking a pipe full of the narcotic. This leads to a psychedelic trip years before Roger Corman and Peter Fonda would embark on one of their own. Once Price begins to come out of his stupor we’re treated to a cool fight scene where Price takes on all comers in a slow motion style with no sound.
Following a set of clues leads Vincent to the auction itself where the women are pampered and forced to dance for prospective buyers including Victor Sun Yung currently on break from filming Bonanza episodes to partake in the debauchery of this black and white time capsule.
This one has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The musical score sounds like it’s been taken from a low budget sci-fi drive in flick and I couldn’t help but think this might have been better served as the template for a script featuring Fu Manchu with Price as his arch nemesis Nayland Smith. Dare I even suggest a missed opportunity of Price vs. Lee!
Color could have helped this low budget effort as well. Generally the outfits worn by the women are colorful and the floating dragons and kites would have been better served.
What these captive women really needed was Liam Neeson in his Taken mode to storm in and kill every male in sight.
Weird as this one may seem it still has the wonderful friend to all, Vincent Price to enjoy in something a little different then his usual fare from the era. So tune in and see Vincent take on all comers, battle Tong members in a sewer system and shrug off threats of being tortured by the “death of a 1000 cuts.”
Thankfully due to the Warner Archive collection we can do just that.
Tortured by the death of a 1000 cats? I’d hate to have been the animal wrangler on THIS film! 😉 But seriously, you make this sound like an interesting watch; I wonder if this is where the idea for ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ came from!
1000 cuts but cats could have been fun!!! I never thought of Big Trouble but yes i can see that.
A near-perfect double feature would be this and Castle of Fu Manchu, as both fall under the “so bad they’re (questionably) good” category.
That could work. Terror of the Tongs would fit as well. As long as we get Chris lee in there somewhere.