December 14, 2015
The Toll of the Sea.
Review #766: The Toll of the Sea.
Anna May Wong (Lotus Flower), Kenneth Harlan (Allen Carver), Beatrice Bentley (Barbara 'Elsie' Carver), Priscilla Moran (Little Allen), Etta Lee (Gossip), and Ming Young (Gossip) Directed by Chester M. Franklin.
Not only am I reviewing a 1920s film, I'm reviewing a movie filmed in Technicolor. In fact, this was the 2nd (two-color - red and green) Technicolor film made in Hollywood (the first being the now mostly lost film The Gulf Between - 1917), with this also being Wong's first starring role. The same process that this film was made under would later be used for the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera, The Black Pirate, it was utilized until 1928. The movie was thought to be lost in the 1967 MGM vault fire, but it was restored in 1985 by the UCLA Film and Television Archive from the original negative, though they did need to shoot the final four minutes due to that part being lost, even utilizing an original two-color Technicolor camera to capture shots of the Pacific Ocean, key to the climax, while also recreating the titles for the close sequence. The movie is based off the opera Madame Butterfly, which had been adapted twice prior to this film. It's interesting to look at the movie and the colors brought out by the camera (especially the greens), which makes it all seem like I'm looking at a painting come to life. The colorful look of the movie certainly seems to contrast with the gloomy tone, especially evident in Wong's expressions (and tears), especially near the end. She stands out among the rest of the actors (rightfully so), visually and in terms of acting, filled with grace, style, but also grief. It is a great movie? No, but it is at least a good one to watch, and given that it lasts barely less than an hour and is easily available to find, I'd recommend seeing it, alongside the technical achievements of color that the movie made in over 90 years ago.
Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.