Flame of Love (1930) Archive Review

Directors: Richard Eichberg, Jean Kemm

Writers: Monckton Hoffe, Pierre Maudru, Ludwig Wolff

Stars: Anna May Wong, Marcel Vibert, Robert Ancelin

RATING: 3 Stars

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A Chinese cabaret dancer is determined to do whatever she can to save her brother from death, when he is sentenced to be executed for trying to save her from the attentions of a lecherous Duke.

The plot of this film is fairly simple, and is carried out pretty basically, neither of which are a negative on their own. But the lack of flair, and the short runtime means there is little to no development of characters, and things happen very quickly with little or no explanation. I enjoyed the film while I was watching it, but I doubt it will leave a lasting impression past dinner time and in a month I will probably have forgotten all about it.

There are a few musical numbers that, taking onto consideration the rather dramatic and somber state of the storyline, don’t really fit in with the feel of the film. They are enjoyable enough, nothing really special, I can’t remember them now, writing this half an hour later, but someone should have mentioned to the film makers that just because a film can be a musical, doesn’t mean it HAS to be. This film didn’t need the uplifting musical numbers at all, and that’s coming from a huge fan of musicals.

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This is Anna May Wong’s first talkie, and you can tell. Her acting, especially towards the tragic ending, leans very much towards the Silent Movie style. That isn’t to say that her acting is bad, she is great in this film, the stand out star for sure. But her style does tend to lean to the overdramatic which, as I said works well for the tragic ending of the film, but can be a little much in other places.

On the subject of the tragic ending, I am not entirely sure I understand why it was necessary. It seemed like her brother was safe, and her beau was more than happy to put the past behind them, so her actions seemed a little melodramatic, and while it makes for an effective and emotional ending, doesn’t make a great amount of sense it terms of the plot.

Flame of Love is a Public domain film that can be found online pretty easily, watch it here:

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