Screenplay: Albert Sidney Fleischman
Release: Warner Archive
Have you ever watched The African Queen and though, “boy I wish this was casually racist?” Then Blood Alley is for you. This is white savior fiction at its best with a John Wayne produced feature in which he saves Chinese refugees.
“Powder your nose, baby,” the craggy-voiced skipper bellows. “We’re coming into Hong Kong.” Getting there wasn’t easy for wily Merchant Marine Capt. Tom Wilder. But it’s exciting – and all an action fan might expect from a movie teaming legends John Wayne, Lauren Bacall and director William A. Wellman. Wilder braves dangerous waters and pursuing Red Chinese forces while steering a boatload of Chinese refugees and a doctor’s daughter (Bacall) along a 300-mile waterway to freedom’s shores. Wellman and his crew cram the CinemaScope frame with riches both scenic (Northern California locales authentically stand in for the Formosa Straits) and action-packed. This ship is under full steam. Destination: Blood Alley!
This is not the first time on this website where I have railed against racism starring John Wayne. I really don’t want to focus on it too much because there is more movie than that which helps me understand some family elders. But it is there, front and center, for all to see. The Duke speaks a few lines in Chinese and he sounds like another prominent bigot. But that is beyond the scope of this review.
The reason I chose to watch the film is because of Lauren Bacall who is always a treat and rarely lets me down, and she didn’t here. Bacall is the bright point in the picture and is hold up my paltry score.
There is one scene I wish to highlight near the end of the film and I can do this without spoiling a single thing because it is an effects shot. (Sorry for the dreadful screen cap, I don’t have the disc handy.) This shot falls into the category of movie magic and I love t when I see a model shot which is so clearly models. I won’t suggest that they could have this shot in the picture any other way but it sticks out like a sore thumb. And I love it.
I have to note that unlike most of the Warner Archive blu-ray releases this one suffers, a bit, in picture quality. I would not suggest this is an authoring issue but just the product of the final edited feature. There are a lot of cross fades and those shots rarely hold up with the studios only have access to prints and not elements.
So I cannot recommend this picture.
Instead you should totally pick up a copy of their recent Batman: Mask of the Phantasm release as it is beautiful and Batman.
Director: 6 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 0 – Main performance: 7 – Else performance: 1 – Score: 5 – Sound: 6 – Story: 6 – Script: 3 – Effects: 4 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 5 – Keeps interest: 7 – Lasting: 0