Confessions of an Opium Eater

The venerable conceit of poet and emperor as repining mistress and neglectful lover, to which something new has been added, “the human auctions of Chinatown.”

A hundred years after De Quincey, a descendant of his in the realm of Lon Chaney and Tod Browning. “Devil and drunkard, ghost and poet was I.A job of work in a Tong war.

“Confucius says the superior man blames himself, the inferior man blames others, and I am most inferior so I decided to wear my shirt.”

“Your shirt? Chain mail.”

“Mm, made in Peking by Chen Hop. Very soft and very comforting, seeing that no knife can penetrate it.”

Out of De Quincey by the author of Russ Meyer’s Fanny Hill.  “Sometimes very hard to tell, who is mad and who is not... I am not Western woman, I was born on bumboat on river near Soochow. I have no need to wear false face.”

“Somehow I think you wear more faces than there are stars in a gutter after the rain.”

“It’s been a long time, since I have seen myself in gutter.”

“Eh, you have a gilt mirror now, I dare say. Still, I think maybe I’d like ya better the other way.”

“Perhaps you will find out. But remember, when the dragon banners fall, and the Tong war begins, sometimes both man and the heavens find their last reflections together in those gutters.”

An opium den. “From the dreams of the dark idol monstrous phenomena move endlessly forward, wild, barbarous, capricious, into the great yawning darkness, to be fixed for centuries in secret rooms...Cf. Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet.

“I can buy an army when I go back to China, me, born on a Soochow bumboat! I will rule over a province, I will sit at the foot of the emperor!”

Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader), “most bizarre, beautiful and poetic”. TV Guide, “bizarre little drug adventure”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “absurd melodrama”, citing the Monthly Film Bulletin, “has to be seen to be believed.”


The Phantom Gunslinger

The silent film is admired so much by Zugsmith in The Phantom Gunslinger that, as far as possible, he treats it as one, taking a cue from Jacques Tourneur’s The Comedy of Terrors to film whole sequences in the speeded-up form by which the art was known in its earliest revivals. His cast are all able, but in the lead he has an actor of genius who understands the style completely, who speaks the language fluently, whose every pratfall and gesture owes nothing to Lloyd and Keaton and Chaplin that isn’t the genuine article, and this comic actor is Troy Donahue.

The blond bridegroom of Yucca Flats is shot in the steeple at his own wedding, and rises to Heaven on a cloud. God sends him back, he’s killed in a gunfight with the marauders, rises on a cloud, is sent back. The town is renamed Cold Steele, he climbs out of his own open grave during the funeral, stumbling as he does so, and takes on the varmints, one of whom is a girl in disguise (Elizabeth Campbell).

By way of the Chow En Lie Rapid Clean laundry (its Instant Exit is the front window), they all wind up in Hell, but he and his bride (Sabrina) and the girl are blasted out, rise to Heaven (the girl astride her own cloud like a broncobuster), and are sent back to Earth for the last time, to the sound of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Emilio Fernandez as the sheriff watches the first murder through a spyglass, dashes to his horse and falls off as it rears. Jose Rene Ruiz deflects the new sheriff’s aim with his paddle ball during the gunfight, and bullets ricochet on various iron articles until all three participants are dead. Pivoting on one foot stuck in a cake, the phantom gunslinger fells the villains one by one with his extended leg at the saloon, or fends off flying lead with a frying pan in each hand. All of this in fast-motion sequences by Gabriel Figueroa.