Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and cynical nature soon clash with the “rice-bowl” system which runs the ship and the uneasy symbiosis between Chinese and foreigner on the river. Hostility towards the gunboat’s presence reaches a climax when the boat must crash through a river-boom and rescue missionaries upriver at China Light Mission. –IMDb
One of the most successful directors of the 1960s, when he became an efficient maker of epic-length pictures, Robert Wise is one of Hollywood’s few popularly recognized filmmakers. He joined RKO in the 1930s as a cutter and eventually became one of the studio’s top editors, working in this capacity on classics such as The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), Citizen Kane (1941), and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). He became a director with help from producer Val Lewton, who assigned Wise to finish Curse of the Cat People (1944), a B-movie that had fallen behind schedule, and the resulting picture proved extremely haunting and enduring. Wise later directed The Body Snatcher (1945) for Lewton, but after the producer left RKO, he found himself locked into B-movies. His 1948 psychological Western Blood on The Moon, starring Robert Mitchum, and the acclaimed boxing drama The Set-Up (1949) were the only two important pictures that Wise got to do during his last four years at the studio. Wise… read more
Just watched this picture again and it is still TERRIFIC! If you watch it be sure to get the biggest screen you can (and the loudest sound)... you won't be sorry! As a matter of fact I put a bunch of other films shot in Panavision on hold at the library. Gonna have me a Panavision Festival!
Steve McQueen. And that ain't all, there's China too. Though it's actually Taiwan for the most part. But... Steve McQueen! To really see and understand what this movie is about you gotta view both the "theatrical" version and the "Roadshow" version (with about 15 minutes of story replaced). The cinematography of first version is in the film's original anamorphic Panavision and features some of the most stunning work in this medium ever! Be it a night-dark alley or an expansive countryside the work is nothing short of amazing. So why bother with the other version? It seems most of what was taken out (and now restored) relates to the growing relationship of the two main characters. Without this footage you're left with wooden, two-dimensional characters. What a shame. If some genius ever gets around to reassembling this film and re-releasing it to theaters (ala Lawrence of Arabia) many eyes will be opened to this excellent film.