WHERE EAST IS EAST is an enjoyable if fairly contrived adventure saga: Chaney is a scarred trapper of wild animals, and the very first scene shows him capturing a tiger for use in a circus. Chaney adores his young daughter (Lupe Velez) and she certainly returns his affections indeed, relentlessly so, resulting in a somewhat overbearing performance! Lloyd Hughes is her naïve boyfriend, whose father conveniently owns a circus.
Gradually, we learn that Velez's mother had left her and Chaney when still a baby. He later meets up with her on a boat, and we realize that she is nothing but a vamp who has already set her eyes on a new patsy Lloyd Hughes! Estelle Taylor's performance rivals Chaney's here (not to mention Velez for sex appeal) though her character is irritatingly one-note, and is unfortunately saddled with some godawful lines of cornball romanticism! Taylor is accompanied by an enigmatic servant-woman who, for some unknown reason, constantly betrays her mistresses' moves to Chaney: she reminded me of Judith Anderson in Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940), and I cracked up a couple of times watching her creep up on Chaney, give him the lowdown on Taylor's seduction of Hughes, and vanish immediately afterwards without giving Chaney barely a chance to register what she just said!
Tod Browning's hand is not much in evidence throughout the film and, while Chaney is quite good in what he has to do, the material on offer is somewhat below-par here. If anything, from his performances in this film and THE UNKNOWN (1927), we almost feel certain there's nobody who can illustrate a character's utter disgust and contempt (without bothering to cover it up in the face of his enemies!) like Chaney does!! The finale is a typical Browning/Chaney eccentricity, however: when Taylor is certain to take away her daughter's boyfriend for good, Chaney lets loose an ape and which also, conveniently, hates Taylor's guts (!) from one of the cages in his yard. It climbs up to Taylor's room and kills her in some vicious manner we can only imagine as Browning typically shies away from showing us anything but, perhaps, understandably so in this case. Chaney almost regrets having done this, and is himself wounded struggling with the gorilla.
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