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

Thursday, January 28, 2010


THE HATCHET MAN (1932). Director: William Wellman.

Wong (Edward G. Robinson) is a "hatchet man" or enforcer [or hit man] for his local Chinese Tong in Chinatown. He is at first horrified to discover that his next assignment is to kill a man who is his best and oldest friend, Sun [a superb J. Carroll Naish, who is nearly unrecognizable under his excellent make up]. Wong inherits Sun's wealth, business -- and daughter Toya (Loretta Young), who years later becomes his wife. Unfortunately, Toya develops a yen for her bodyguard. Robinson basically eschews Oriental make up, while Young does look somewhat Chinese. "Ming the Merciless" Charles Middleton has a part in this film, but I confess I didn't spot him. This film is interesting and different, has a clever ending, but its very morally ambiguous and we never learn how Toya would react if she learned exactly what happened when she was a child.

Verdict: Well-acted but not exactly a Chinese Godfather. **.

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