10 September 2004 | Ron Oliver
Chaney's Double Triumph
The terrible trial of MR WU begins with his daughter's first love.
Lon Chaney once again gives scope to his prodigious talent, this time portraying a wealthy Mandarin who is compelled to commit the ultimate crime to avenge his family honor. Chaney inhabits the role, making every glance & gesture perfect for his portrayal of the character. Even while performing despicable acts, Chaney makes the viewer experience his private pain in an almost visceral way. Chaney also portrays ancient Grandfather Wu in the film's opening scenes, exhibiting an astonishing make-up transformation that is practically preternatural.
Much of the screen time is given over to Chaney's younger costars. French actress Renée Adorée provides a beautifully poignant portrayal of Wu's lovely, tragic daughter. Englishman Ralph Forbes, one of the most under-appreciated actors of his generation, gives a stalwart performance as her handsome Western lover. The tender romance of their scenes provides the film with its softer, more sentimental moments.
Louise Dresser plays Forbes' patrician mother, a woman somewhat isolated by her social status who is suddenly, violently, brought into confrontation with Wu's implacable vengeance. Holmes Herbert does well with his short role as her bigoted husband. Delicate Anna May Wong portrays Miss Adorée's faithful servant girl.
The silent film is given excellent production values by MGM, with the beautiful sets being especially noteworthy.