Monday, December 14, 2009


In 1910 Hong Kong, the Red Dragon Tong is a group of Chinese gangsters who extort money from merchants, deal in drugs and prostitution, and have the populace living in fear. Their mark is the mutilation of the hands of people who cross them. Even the British tend to overlook their shipping losses to them (as one of the District Commissioners is in the pay of the the Tong). But they go too far when, while searching for an incriminating list of Tong members that was being smuggled to a resistance group called The Liberators, they kill the daughter of a sea captain (Geoffrey Toone) who vows to get revenge against the Tong’s leader. Toone gets help from the leader of The Liberators (who spends most of the movie in disguise as a beggar) and a Eurasian girl who has spent much of her life in bondage to the gangsters. But can they prevail against the small army of opium-addled assassins who are unleashed against the enemies of the Tong?

This is one of Hammer’s B-thrillers (as opposed to the horror films that made them famous), and something of a throwback to the "Yellow Peril" crime movies of the 30's. Most of the Asian characters are played by Anglo actors, including the Tong leader, Christopher Lee, in make-up that looks like a dry run for his Fu Manchu movies a few years later. Actually, Lee doesn’t have much screen time, but his presence dominates the film. Toone (pictured above) makes an effective dime-novel hero, even undergoing a bare-chested "bone-scraping" torture scene, though Yvonne Monlaur as the half-caste sex slave sidekick is fairly wooden. Overall, paced a bit sluggishly but a passable popcorn melodrama. [DVD]

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