Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Tonight's Movie: King of Chinatown (1939) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I've been awaiting the Anna May Wong Collection from Kino Lorber with great anticipation, and I'm glad to say the first film I watched from this set didn't disappoint.

KING OF CHINATOWN (1939) is a 57-minute Paramount Pictures "B" film which I found both different and entertaining.

It's the story of Frank Baturin (Akim Tamiroff), a mobster with a heart of gold, and Dr. Mary Ling (Wong), a gifted surgeon who saves his life after he's shot.

Mary believes her father (Sidney Toler) may have been the one who pulled the trigger, which causes her to be particularly anxious to save her patient, but the reality is it was rival mobster Mike (Anthony Quinn).

During his convalescence Baturin quietly falls for Mary and resolves to change. But with Mike moving in to get rid of Baturin for good, is it too late to start over?

This is a short and sweet story which is also rather unusual. Mobster movies are a dime a dozen, but a '30s film where the antihero falls for his Chinese-American female surgeon? That's something else again. Tamiroff and Wong both give subtle, moving performances which I appreciated.

Both Wong and Philip Ahn, who plays an attorney, are treated in the film with the utmost respect as accomplished professionals. Their culture is likewise presented appreciatively. The tone of the film was rather modern -- in a good way -- and not necessarily what one might expect in the '30s, which made the film interesting on multiple levels.

The solid supporting cast includes J. Carrol Naish, Roscoe Karns, Ray Mayer, Bernadene Hayes, Richard Denning, and Charles Trowbridge.

The movie was directed by Nick Grinde and filmed by Leo Tover. The screenplay was cowritten by Lillie Hayward, whose credits included the Western BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948). I just revisited BLOOD ON THE MOON a couple weeks ago at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

The black and white print absolutely gleams on Kino Lorber's Blu-ray. What a treat to have a "B" movie look so great!

Extras consist of a commentary track by David Del Valle and Stan Shaffer; a 4K restoration of the trailer; and two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

Look for my reviews of the other films in the set, DANGEROUS TO KNOW (1938) and ISLAND OF LOST MEN (1939), at a future date.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.


Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, I enjoyed your good write-up of KING OF CHINATOWN(filmed 1938, released 1929). This movie and the other titles in the ANNA MAY WONG COLLECTION intrigue me right down to the ground. I've never viewed KING OF CHINATOWN and ISLAND OF LOST MEN(1939). I think I viewed DANGEROUS TO KNOW(filmed 1937, released 1938) one time, but it's been so long ago that I just recall it faintly. Anyway, these movies just weren't shown on tv in my neck of the woods during the 1960's and 1970's. Also, I don't recall them being aired in my area during the cable-tv explosion of the 1980's. I presume that they didn't receive a Beta or VHS release, either.

Thank you for the heads up.

8:01 PM  

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