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Journal of No. 118

January 8th, 2013

Tonight's Dubious Task @ 08:49 pm

Wandering through the public domain, overly digitally compressed, 5 DVD set of 50 Mystery Classics that I got for $0.50 at a garage sale... to identify the worst yellowface, in my opinion.

Bad: Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto in Mr. Moto's Last Warning. As a film, the best of the three (ok, the only one I watched to the end) but still, it's... Peter Lorre being Peter Lorre with glasses and partially blacked out teeth. Possibly worse was George Sanders pretending to be French, or maybe Italian... I'm still not sure which.
Worse: Boris Karloff as Mr. Wong in Mr. Wong: Detective. It's... Boris Karloff.
Worst: Bela Lugosi as the bad guy in The Mysterious Mr. Wong. It's... Bela Lugosi. Y'know... Hungarian is barely related to other European languages, much less any Asian ones. I dare you to summon the suspension of disbelief required to make this less than hideously jarring.
(Not in the running, but still the all-time worst: Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's.)

In my mind (if nowhere else) there's some sort of sliding scale of year vs. caricature that regulates my opinion of these things. Peter Sellers as Charlie Chan Sidney Wang in Murder by Death may be later than Breakfast at Tiffany's, but it's still not as bad. I mean, Yunioshi (Rooney's role) is a minor part in the film. Even in these low-budget low-brow films from the 30's & 40's, bit parts could be played by actual Asian people. Speaking of which... hello, Lotus Long:

Milo Perrier: What do you make of all of this, Wang?
Sidney Wang: Is confusing.
Lionel Twain: [from moose head] IT! IT is confusing! Say your goddamn pronouns!
Sidney Wang: Oh, there, voice come from cow on wall...
Lionel Twain: Moose, moose you imbecile!
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Date:January 9th, 2013 03:01 am (UTC)
Murder by Death can be forgiven that particular excess, since it would be hard to send up Charlie Chan without it.

And, apparently, I have to say that two Wongs don't make it right. (Apparently Karloff played Mr. Wong in several films, too.)

Journal of No. 118