Friday, 21 October 2011

Friday Night Film: Confessions Of An Opium Eater

Ever wondered if there was a dreamlike film about drugs which featured Vincent Price as a tattooed action hero? Well, yeah, wonder no more, there actually is. 'Confessions Of An Opium Eater' was directed by prolific schlockmeister Albert Zugsmith and is really, really bizarre.

Price plays Gilbert De Quincey, a sailor, secret agent and distant relative of our very own Thomas De Quincey, the famous writer / dissolute opium fiend. Gilbert is a kind of Edwardian James Bond - quick with his fists and his lips and partial to a bit of forbidden pleasure. He arrives in San Francisco's Chinatown and very quickly becomes embroiled in a Tong War and, before you can say, 'Gilbert? What kind of name is that?', he's up to his polo neck in dwarves, drugs, slaves and being chased by caricature Chinamen with choppers.

'Yes, Gilbert. Well, I like it'.

Discarded lots in a Human Auction.

Desperate flight.

Some bizarre imagery.

A pretty crazy trip from its long, wordless surrealistic opening sequence to its sudden, cryptic ending, 'Confesions Of An Opium Eater' is a unique experience, full of bizarre imagery, oblique angles, balletic fight scenes and portentous, cod philosophical narration from Price ('was it the heady, drifting perfume of the incense or some feverish fantasy searing my brain?') and big chunks of the original De Quincey's opiate inspired purple prose. It also has some really offbeat music from Albert Glasser and an incredible dream sequence.

'I knew whoever she was, this woman had to be a kind of - fate - for me'.

Chinaman with Chopper.

In search of a dream...
 Albert Zugsmith (1910-1993) was, from his fantastic name downwards, film exploitation personified, with a prolific set of production credits ranging from 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' to 'Touch Of Evil'. He was also an interesting director, although many of his films are just plain awful. However, 'Confessions...' and a later brace of trashy counter cultural oddities ('Psychedelic Sexualis' and 'LSD, I Hate You', both 1966) are enough to cement his reputation as a very Friday Night Film kind of guy.

For now, here's the aforementioned drug / dream / drug-dream sequence in all its flipped out morning glory. Make sure you watch it to the end.

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