8/16/09

Fran Goria Presents: For The Love of Price: Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)


Directed by Albert Zugsmith

Written by Thomas DeQuincey(book), and Robert Hill(screenplay)

Starring Vincent Price, Linda Ho, Richard Loo and Yvonne Moray

RANDOM TRIVIA

Tagline:Dare you enter the nightmare zone of The Incredible?

On cover of his script for Confessions of an Opium Eater, Vincent crossed out the author’s name and wrote “Peking Noodle Co. Inc.”. He then added “The death of me”.


Gilbert DeQuincey(Price) is an adventurer who comes to San Francisco at the turn of the century. San Francisco’s Chinatown is in the middle of a Tong war. One faction is headed by Ruby Low(Ho). They make their money by selling the opium they earn by hosting “bride auctions”. The rival faction is fronted by George Wah(Loo), a newspaper editor fighting to end the sale of oriental slave girls kept in bamboo cages.

Although DeQuincey shares serpent and crescent moon tattoo with Ruby Low, his sympathies seem to lie with her rivals. Through a maze of secret passages, hidden rooms and an opium den, DeQuincey befriends a wisecracking oriental midget bride(Moray). She seems to have a motherly affection for him, and she aides him in many jams. Together they try to stop
Ruby Low and her slave trade.

THOUGHTS

Confessions of an Opium Eater was a decent film, for a low budget from the early sixties.It was based on a novel by Thomas DeQuincey titled Confessions of an English Opium Eater(1822). The film really makes me want to read the book. I am interested in knowing how it translated, and it would be nice to fill in some holes in the story. The plot did not seem fully developed. This could have been the author or the screenwriter (I am leaning towards the screenwriter). Price’s character also had some narration parts. Perhaps this was intended to fill in the plot gaps, but it was mostly just Chinese proverbs and opium references. I admit, it was crazy fun to hear Vincent Price’s voice speaking of opium trips, but it did not seem necessary. The 85 minute black and white had some fairly decent camera work, but most of the effects fell short. don’t get me wrong, I love to see a dummy thrown off a building just as much as the next girl, but there is such a thing as too many dummies.

Confessions… is only vaguely about opium. It is used to bid in the bride auctions, and to fund Ruby Low’s operations. There is also a scene of an opium den. DeQuincey stumbles into it while searching secret passages, and decides to stay a while. He also refers to opium in narration. The film is mainly about the Tong war and the slave trade.The major plot point is the slave trade. Young oriental girls are kidnapped from their homes and brought to America. They are then bathed, dressed and displayed as brides in bamboo cages. They are then forced to do sexy dances as potential “husbands” bid on them. This concept was also used to advertise the film. Theaters would display bamboo cages with dancing girls in their lobbies.

Although he was not at his best, Vincent Price was the most talented actor in the film (obviously). There was also one other stand out in the acting department. Yvonne Moray, the oriental midget, was great. She almost stole the scene from Price himself once or twice. And her character was just plain lovable. Unfortunately, she was also the victim of bad dubbing in one scene. It sounded like she went from sweet little lady to giant hairy man. It was distracting and hilarious at the same time. I realized that her character had no name when I was trying find the name of the actress. She is credited as The Child. I found this strange because her character was not a child. I also thought it was odd for such a main character to be unnamed.

I liked watching Confessions of an Opium Eater. This was a completely different type of role for Vincent Price. It was essentially an action film. The screenplay called for him to be athletic. He had to climb a building, jump through a window, have fistfights, get chased by bad guys, and more. This is a far cry from the sinister characters he plays in his horror roles. I had read of this one in a couple of the books I have on Price. I had been actively seeking it for years. When I finally got my hands on it, I was thrilled. It is such an oddity compared to the rest of my collection. It was refreshing to see another facet to Vincent Price. It helps to keep my obsession new and exciting. I have seen many far better, and a few worse, Price films, but I highly recommend this one to any fan. All in all, I enjoyed my time as an opium eater.


1 comment:

  1. I've always wanted to read the novel. I never have though. It is on my must read list. I've never seen this film. I'll have to check it out. I am a big Vincent Price fan.

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