Victor Sen Yung

The Back of Beyond (1955, Arthur Ripley)

The Back of Beyond has perfectly good production values–it takes place in the West Indies, at a British protectorate island (it’s a Maugham adaptation, where else would it take place)–but director Ripley doesn’t have much going for him.

It’s a play on TV, sure, but he doesn’t know when to use his close-ups and when not to use them. He’s got a fine lead in Alexis Smith as an unfaithful wife (cavorting with her husband’s assistant) and George Macready is great as the husband. Even though Ripley’s direction lacks subtlety, the strange relationship between the couple comes through in the performances.

And Smith does get one rather good monologue towards the end.

Once it becomes clear nothing interesting is going to happen in Beyond, it becomes tiresome. There are all sorts of innuendoes no one ever delivers; Ripley’s not an imaginative director. His actors are good though.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Arthur Ripley; teleplay by Frederick Brady, based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham; director of photography, George E. Diskant; edited by Samuel E. Beetley; produced by Warren Lewis.

Starring Alexis Smith (Violet Saffrey), George Macready (Roger Saffrey), Robin Hughes (Tom Clark), John Hamilton (Fraser), Leonard Mudie (Gannon) and Victor Sen Yung (Peng).


China (1943, John Farrow)

China has a lot to do. While it’s a propaganda picture meant to rally American support for the Chinese, it’s also propaganda for the future of China. Loretta Young plays a school teacher and her charges, in almost every one of their scenes, extol the virtues of Western democracy.

There’s also the redemptive aspect for Alan Ladd’s apolitical war profiteer.

But dismissing or discrediting China as a propaganda picture is a mistake. It’s an amazing war film; it’s exceptionally rough action film. For every weak propaganda moment, there’s a fantastic subtle one. The performances from Ladd and Young are outstanding. William Bendix plays Ladd’s sidekick and carries China for a bit at the beginning. It takes the script a while to get comfortable with Ladd, since he’s so unlikable.

The film opens with an incredibly long tracking shot. Farrow does a great job directing China, with the opening tracking shot one of the many wow moments. It shows a village’s destruction (from Japanese bombs) while introducing Bendix and giving him a little story arc. It’s masterful.

The effects keep up the rest of the run time.

Farrow never brings attention to China‘s accelerated pace. It takes place over approxmiately forty-eight hours. The time crunch leads to some painfully obvious exposition to introduce characters. It’s a necessary evil, though no one fars too badly. The fast pace and frequent set pieces make the film a thrill ride, but there’s still a lot of content.

China ably transcends its propaganda.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Farrow; screenplay by Frank Butler, based on a play by Archibald Forbes; director of photography, Leo Tover; edited by Eda Warren; music by Victor Young; produced by Richard Blumenthal; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Loretta Young (Carolyn Grant), Alan Ladd (David Jones), William Bendix (Johnny Sparrow), Philip Ahn (Lin Cho, First Brother), Iris Wong (Kwan Su), Victor Sen Yung (Lin Wei, Third Brother), Marianne Quon (Tan Ying), Jessie Tai Sing (Student), Richard Loo (Lin Yun), Irene Tso (‘Donald Duck’), Ching Wah Lee (Chang Teh), Soo Yong (Tai Shen), Beal Wong (Capt. Tao-Yuan-Kai), Bruce Wong (Aide to Captain Tao) and Barbara Jean Wong (Nan Ti).


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