The Crimson Moviegoer
"Thunder in the East" Not a Roaring Success, in Spite of Charles Boyer and Meric Oberon
Oriental self-sacrifice played to the tune of splitting shells and roaring torpedoes, is the essence of "Thunder in the East", a picture based on Claude Farere's "The Battle" and set in the Russo-Japanese War. Merle Oberon achieves a slightly more Levantine slant to her eyebrows than Charles Boyer, but both of them succeed eminently in depicting the grim subservience to authority husband for one and country for the other that is the essence of this film. Their performances in this production, we are told, gave them their introduction to Hollywood.
Japanese nobility is made to consist in sacrificing one's wife to the caresses of a foreigner, in order to rifle that outsider's secret papers. This almost smacks of anti-Oriental propaganda, it is so completely alien to our more prosaic conceptions of heroism, that the Occidental spectator remains rather impassive to the heart-rending close, in which the naval commander who sold his wife for the secrets of the British rule of the waves is made to stab himself most ceremoniously and mortally in spite of his glorious victory. If it comes to frank appraisal, it must be admitted that all this extravagant melodrama falls a little flat.
Even the much-touted shots of the battle on the sea are not what they might be. Russian ships may sink when hit, but the Japanese ships, where the camera as are set up, only get a little smoky. There is little of the twisted steel and none of the mangled corpses that give the novel its grim horror.
The Japanese pair receive very little support from the English attache who is infatuated with the exotic beauty of his foreign colleague's wife. In depicting the British simplicity and ingenuousness that is meant to contrast so strongly with the subtle Japanese craftiness, he outdoes himself and becomes mainly stupid. Charles Boyer and Merle Oberon go a long way in making the picture look better than it is, but even they give room for regret, in being manifestly cramped by their unnatural roles.
Mickey Mouse, the Big Bad Wolf, the Horse-Goof, and Donald Duck have a most sensational polo game with Chico Marx, Charles Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy. Fox Movietone News appears again with its many neat categories, and at 12:30 every day there is to be heard Tachaikowsky's Symphony No. 6 in B Minor ("Symphony Pathetique").