China – Blu-ray Review

3.5 Stars Alan Ladd WWII adventure debuts on Blu

Best known today for playing the eponymous role in George Stevens’ classic western Shane (1953), Alan Ladd’s path to stardom took a winding road. First appearing in an unbilled part in Once in a Lifetime (1932), his big screen career largely went nowhere until he met agent Sue Carol – who would later become his wife in 1942 – and the notable parts soon followed; he attracted notice in small parts in films like Rulers of the Sea (1939), Hitler – Beast of Berlin (also 1939), The Black Cat (1941), an uncredited part in Citizen Kane (1941) and Joan of Paris (1942) before getting his big breakthrough in This Gun for Hire (also 1942). Riding on the wave of his newfound fame with Paramount, the studio quickly put him in several films to capitalize on the status, of which China was among the bunch. Originally released on MOD DVD by Universal, Kino has licensed the movie for its Blu-ray debut.

China (1943)
Released: 21 Apr 1943
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 79 min
Director: John Farrow
Genre: Drama, War
Cast: Loretta Young, Alan Ladd, William Bendix
Writer(s): Frank Butler, John Stuart Dudley
Plot: During the Japanese invasion of China, a cynical, macho profiteer meets a compassionate, beautiful schoolteacher.
IMDB rating: 6.6
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 19 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 01/04/2022
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 3.5/5

In war-torn 1941 China, David Jones (Alan Ladd) is a neutral and cynical gasoline salesman peddling his services to the highest bidder. However, his neutrality is shaken when he and his buddy Johnny Sparrow (William Bendix) encounter American schoolteacher Carolyn Grant (Loretta Young) and her class of students en route to Shanghai. David reluctantly agrees to take them aboard yet not to Chungtu (where Carolyn and her students were heading), but his growing attraction to Carolyn and tragedy befalling one of her students finally inspires him to take on the occupying Japanese.

Another of the patriotic propaganda films churned out during this time to drum up morale, China is decent for this type. Coming off of his greatest success with Wake Island (1942), director John Farrow shows off his technical mastery, especially in the tracking shots which were later praised in retrospective looks at his career. The film is also notable for having a minority-majority cast, especially during a time when whitewashing was common in movies involving Asian characters in the plot. However, the film’s main Achilles heel here is that the script – based off of an unproduced play by Archibald Forbes and adapted by Frank Butler – doesn’t give the main characters a lot of depth to them nor does it do full justice to an uncommonly filmed arena in the Pacific theater of WWII; the film’s brisk running time can only do so much in covering up that flaw. Despite that, China is still a decent entry in the canon of John Farrow, who does a solid job in depicting the action with technical skill while admirably – though not always successfully – handling the melodramatic aspects of the story.

Top-billed here, Loretta Young is decent as the American schoolteacher who inspires Jones to reconsider his neutrality; it would be the only politically themed movie she would take part in during WWII. In one of his last roles before his brief sojourn in the Army, Alan Ladd is OK as the oil salesman playing both sides until he’s forced to pick one; his appearance here is said to be one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones. Fresh off of his lone Oscar nomination for Wake Island, William Bendix gets a departure from the heavy roles he was playing during this time as the sidekick of Jones; he would also play sidekick to Ladd in three more films: The Blue Dahlia (1946), Calcutta (1947) and The Deep Six (1958). Rounding out the cast here are Philip Ahn as Lin Cho, the first brother, Richard Loo as the second brother Lin Wei, Victor Sen Yung (best known for playing Jimmy Chan in 11 films between 1938 and 1942) as the third brother Lin Wei, Marianne Quon as the ill-fated student Tan Ying, Irene Tso as the orphaned baby “Donald Duck”, Beal Wong as the Chinese Captain Tao-Yuan-Kai, Tala Birell as Jones’ paramour in the town at the beginning of the film, Chester Gan as the Japanese general in the film’s climax and uncredited appearances by Benson Fong as a guerilla solider and Sammee Tong as an aide to the Japanese general.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio for this release. Film grain is faithfully represented along with fine details and gray scale; there are instances of scratches, tears, vertical lines, fading and dirt more noticeable in a few scenes, but nothing that’s too distracting. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and a decent albeit slight improvement over the Universal Vault Series MOD DVD release.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear, which is also extended to the sound mix and Victor Young’s score. There’s little to no issues like distortion, crackling, hissing or popping present, which means that this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by film historian Eddy Von Mueller – Recorded for this release, Von Mueller touches upon the film’s production history, cast and crew bios as well as the background on the China theater of conflict during both WWII and the concurrent civil war happening in the country during the time.

Theatrical Trailer (2:09)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – O.S.S., Calcutta, The Stranger, The Accused, Because of You, Wake Island, Night Has a Thousand Eyes & Alias Nick Beal

Overall: 3.5/5

Despite mixed reviews from the critics, China still managed to turn a profit at the box office and did little to nothing to damage the prospects of its leading cast or its director. Kino continues to do a solid job here with a decent HD transfer and an informative commentary track as a special feature. Recommended and worth upgrading from the MOD DVD. China: Alan Ladd, Loretta Young, William Bendix, John Farrow: Movies & TV

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Senior HTF Member
Jun 23, 2006
Real Name
Robert M. Grippo
Miss Young did alright in her career for many years as a free agent before other stars followed suit


Senior HTF Member
Jun 23, 2006
Real Name
Robert M. Grippo
The same with Miss Stanwyck.
Yes and these two Screen Legends made a heck of a lot better choices than the guys that were in the same position in their careers. And a few stayed under the Studio System" like Robert Taylor.
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