Robert Osborne, in the host segment, explained that in those days, part of the reason movies were made at major studios was so that they could promote their stars. The fact that they had no Asian stars meant that the cast had to be entirely Caucasion. And that's . . . what's with the eye taping . . .
Oddly enough, what the strange makeup succeeded in doing, more than making the actors look Chinese, was to make them look Romulan. And, not for the first time, it occurs to me that the alien species on Star Trek were based to a significant extent on the portrayal of foreigners in old Hollywood.
I know I'm not the first person to suggest that. I can't be. But, boy, is it ever apparent in Dragon Seed. Even the dialogue has the peculiar, almost lyrical formality of Star Trek aliens.
But if one somehow manages to set aside feelings about the inaccuracies of a movie made entirely by people foreign to its setting and culture, there are some really good qualities. The art direction and costumes were quite beautiful and even seemed authentic. Scenes of dialogue between Hepburn and Huston were very effective. Sure, they were wearing silly makeup, but they were also both incredible actors. They created something with shear, brute, actor force.
Made in 1944, the movie was meant to show American audiences how horrifically the Chinese were being treated by their Japanese captors. But some of the best scenes are good for avoiding any attempts at harsh realism, as when we get to watch Hepburn stealing into a Japanese occupied mansion to put poison in their feast ducks.
Last night, I dreamt I was watching a trailor for a movie starring Johnny Depp. It took place in the early 1930s and Depp was taken to prison for several years. He emerged with an insane grin, telling people he'd met an angel and he was going to create a comic serial about him. That angel's name? Superman!