Lady from Chungking (1943)

 

 

 

Director:  William Nigh.

Cast:  Anna May Wong (Kwan Mei), Harold Huber (General Kaimura), Mae Clarke (Lavara), Rick Vallin (Rodney Carr), Paul Bryar (Pat O'Roulke), Ted Hecht (Lieutenant Shimoto), Ludwig Donath (Hans Gruber), James B. Leong (Chen), Archie Got (Mochow), Walter Soo Hoo (Lu-Chi).

Chinese woman guerrilla leader resists the Japanese occupation during WWII.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

In the rice fields, a Japanese soldier breaks a child's boat.  Kwan Mei comes to his rescue.  Later knives and other weapons are distributed to the Chinese peasants by the guerillas.  Hans Gruber, a local German merchant, pays very little money for the peasants' goods.  A blonde singer with an American accent named Lavara works as a singer for Gruber.  The man ingratiates himself with the Japanese. 

The Japanese and Chinese watch the skies as the Japanese try to down some American planes of the Flying Tigers.  Gruber cheers the downing of a plane, but is embarrassed when he is told that the plane that went down was Japanese.  An American plane is downed, but the pilots manage to parachute out.  A Japanese soldier tries to kill one of the parachutists.  He gets off a couple of shots, but then is killed by one of the Chinese guerillas.  The wounded parachutist lands and the Chinese grab him and hide him in a hay wagon.  A pilot named Rodney Carr is captured by the Japanese. 

The recently arrived General Kaimura seems more concerned about getting women for his sexual pleasure than the military situation.  He tells Lt. Shimoto to acquire some women for him, but they must be cultured women; the higher their social status the better.  The lieutenant sees Kwan Mei in the fields and wants her for the General.  Before the Japanese arrived, she was of high status and is very cultured.  In this Kwan Mei sees the possibility of spying on the Japanese. 

Lavara talks with Kwan Mei.  The Chinese guerillas do not trust the blonde woman, but Kwan Mei tells them that she can be trusted.  Kwan Mei watches over a wounded American pilot.  The pilot asks her where are his pilot buddies.  Kwan Mei finds out that the pilot is from Brooklyn. 

Lavara visits Rodney.  He likes her and calls her Time Square.  She tells him that she has never been to the states.  But otherwise she has been all over the world.  She manages to sneak some food to him. 

In Gruber's place, the General comes to eat.  Lavara sings a Russian song for the General.  The General likes her and asks her to sit down.  Lavara explains to him that her mother is American and her father is Russian.  The General tells her that she is an aristocrat.  This makes Lavara laugh, which irritates the General.  The lieutenant is out looking for women for the General.  He runs into Kwan Mei.  He fully accepts her, but warns her that there should be no slip ups or else. 

The General is drunk.  He shoves the also drunken Lavara  away from him.  Lavara starts saying too much, which arouses the interest of the Japanese.  The General is going to punish Lavara, but Kwan Mei saves her by intervening with the General.  The General and Kwan Mei drink champagne together.  The General tells her that he thinks he is going to be a big success.  Kwan Mei pumps him for information.  The lieutenant comes in to tell the General that the Japanese overseer's dead body has been discovered.  The General is mad about being interrupted.  Kwan Mei asks him when his troops will arrive.  His answer is very vague. 

Gruber is worried about Lavara.  The greedy man has a money for guns bargain with the Chinese guerillas and he does not want the talkative Lavara upsetting things.  The lieutenant comes in to talk with Kwan Mei.  He tells her that she was in the rice field where the Japanese overseer was killed.  He threatens to tell the General about her.  But Kwan Mei stands up to him.  She simply asks the lieutenant if he would disillusion the General about her?  The lieutenant backs down. 

The lieutenant brings in the coolies for interrogation.  A young man who speaks up to protect his father from possible execution comes to the attention of the Japanese.  The Japanese tell him to talk or die.  Kwan Mei intervenes asking the General why does he want to kill off the Chinese laborers who are so valuable to the Japanese occupation.  The General listens to her and calls off the executions.  He tells the lieutenant to release all the coolies, except for one.  But Kwan Mei is even able to save the tall one too.  But Kwan Mei cannot save the old men.  The General has them executed.  He seems to enjoy the whole thing.  Kwan Mei tears up at the sight of the executions. 

Kwan Mei puts a sleeping potion into the General's champagne drink.  He talks about his troops soon being in Chungking.  The General goes to sleep and she calls a meeting with the guerillas.  She runs into Lavara and tells her that they need her help to rescue pilot Rodney.  She says "I know you will do it and thanks."  Lavara now has to get the keys to Rodney's cell. 

Kwan Mei tells the guerillas that the Japanese are planning a western offensive.  She emphasizes that the troop train must not arrive.  She sends a message out to the Flying Tigers to bomb the train.  But the wild Japanese man whose father was executed expresses serious doubt about Kwan Mei.  She tells him that she is sorry about his father.  She tried, but failed, to save the older gentleman.  She looks around at the guerillas and says that she sees doubt in all their faces.  News arrives that a Japanese soldier is approaching.  To prove her loyalty, Kwan Mei goes outside to speak with the soldier and is able to kill him.  Now the men see her a svery trustworthy.  She explains that soon the troop train will be arriving.  She tells her fellow guerillas that they must blow up the railroad bridges and tracks.  

Blondie pulls a gun on Gruber and tells him to do what she says or she will tell the Japanese about his deal with the Chinese guerillas.  She tells him to give her the keys.  He grabs the keys and they go set Rodney free.  Gruber starts giving Lavara a hard time and Rodney socks him.  Rodney and Lavara start to leave while Gruber calls for the Japanese guards.  Lavara is wounded by one of the Japanese soldiers.  Rodney carries her to a car.  He drives her away from the soldiers.  They pick up the Brooklyn flier.

The lieutenant tells the General that Gruber helped Rodney escape and the General gives the order to shoot him.   The General then confronts Kwan Mei.  While they talk, a loud explosion is heard.  The General asks what was that loud noise.  It is the Flying Tigers blowing up his troop train.  She then reveals herself and her role to the General.   She then shoots him twice in the stomach area.  Amazingly, the General continues to talk to her.  He seems pleased to learn that she is one of the foremost women in China.  But that does not stop him from giving the order to take her to the courtyard and shoot her.  He tells the lieutenant to hurry, since he does not have much time.  The lieutenant arranges it and then the General shoots and kills the lieutenant. 

Kwan Mei faces the firing squad.  She says:  "You cannot kill me.  You cannot kill China.  Not even a million deaths could crush the soul of China."  The firing squad fires, killing her.  The General collapses and dies. 

 

This is a very cheap DVD in black and white.  The story is o.k.  It honors those Chinese who served as resistance fighters against the Japanese Occupation of China.  It also honors the pilots who flew the Flying Tigers to inflict damage on the Japanese war machine.  Anna May Wong as Kwan Mei was very good and helps upgrade the film.  Harold Huber as General Kaimura is kind of funny.  He is not Asian and he just seemed out of place in the movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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