DVD Review: Confessions of an Opium Eater

There are times during a film when you ponder why it doesn’t have a larger cult audience? Why don’t film historians mention the title with an excited tone? Why wasn’t it a staple of Creature Double Feature? Confessions of an Opium Eater might just not get it’s proper respect since it happened when Vincent Price was in the midst of his Edgar Allen Poe movies with Roger Corman. The theme of narcotics and human trafficking might have been a bit too much for TV Horror hosts that ran Price’s Poe movies. Confessions of an Opium Eater deserves the same respect as House of Usher.

While based on Thomas De Quincy’s autobiographical Confessions of an Opium Eater, the movie is not a faithful adaptation. The book took place around 1800 in London. The movie has Price playing Gilbert De Quincey wandering around San Francisco during an undefined time. Time doesn’t matter in this film with a sweet haze that coats the Chinatown location. Price arrives to the area during a nasty Tong war involving kidnapped women and opium. He’s out to rescue the women trapped inside bamboo cages before the slave auction commences. A slow motion fight in an opium den between Price and hatchet wielding henchmen is played in silences and distorted audio. The movie reflects a fevered dream with Price floating through the action. The opening involving transferring the kidnapped women between boats plays as if it was a modern dance piece. The movie straddles the world of drive-in exploitation and art house in each frame.

There’s so many details that make this such a compelling movie. Angelo Rossitto makes a cameo appearance as a paperboy. He appeared in everything from the cult favorite Freaks to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Confessions brings those two worlds together. Director of Photography Joseph Biroc (It’s a Wonderful Life & Viva Las Vegas) captures the sweaty and dreamy weirdness in black and white. Director Albert Zugsmith produced Touch of Evil for Orson Welles. Confessions of an Opium Eater plays like Welles making a Vincent Price flick. This is a cult movie fan’s’ cult film. This is the most addictive film of Vincent Price’s career. Taste the weirdness.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The black and white transfer is rather clean with few specks on the screen. The sweat on a few sailors is obvious. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The silent sections don’t have any crackle issues.

There are no bonus features.

Confessions of an Opium Eater is a brilliant and bizarre journey into San Francisco’s Chinatown starring Vincent Price. The movie plays like an opium induced dream. Truly worth getting for those who appreciate Price’s Poe movie series. While there’s a warning that the discs might not play on computer disc drives, Confessions played properly on my laptop.

Warner Archive Collection presents Confessions of an Opium Eater. Directed by: Albert Zugsmith. Screenplay by: Robert Hill. Starring: Vincent Price, Linda Ho and Richard Loo. Running Time: 85 minutes. Released: September 30, 2012. Available at Amazon.com
85 minutes.

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