Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, June 6, 2008

MR. WU (1927)

MR. WU (1927). Director: William Nigh.

Lon Chaney is excellent in this handsomely produced silent film in which he essays elderly Grandfather Wu, and then his grandson, Mandarin Wu, as an adult. Mandarin Wu has a daughter Nang Ping (Rene Adoree) who falls in love with the Caucasian Basil Gregory (Ralph Forbes), with tragic results. If there's any problem with Mr. Wu is that what begins as a credible enough and reasonably compelling drama turns into a kind of Fu Manchu variation, with the script turning Wu into the evil, sadistic stereotype of the "Yellow Peril" variety. It's one thing to adhere to traditions, but Wu is a complete fanatic, which the film never really makes clear. Still, even these scenes, bolstered by the performance of Louise Dresser as Basil's mother, hold the attention and are well-done for what they are. John Arnold's cinematography is of a high order. Some shots, consisting of several elements, are so strikingly composed that they almost achieve a 3D effect. Anna May Wong has a small role as Nang Ping's attendant and friend, Loo Song. This was seen accompanied by an excellent original score by Marie Newman.

Verdict: Definitely worth a look, but watch out for Wu. **1/2.

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