The World of Suzie Wong
Leave your niggling, knee-jerk political correctness at the door and enjoy 1960's The World of Suzie Wong for what it is a charming multi-cultural romance that was surprisingly daring for its time. William Holden plays Robert Lomax, an American architect and aspiring painter visiting Hong Kong. In a memorable encounter onboard a ferry, he meets Mee Ling (Nancy Kwan), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy tycoon. To his surprise, he runs into her again after he checks into his hotel in Hong Kong's red-light district Mee Ling, it turns out, is actually a prostitute, and a very popular one at that. Despite his distaste for her lifestyle, Lomax takes her on as model for his paintings and, despite his courtship of a lovely Brit (Sylvia Sims) and Mee Ling's involvement with an adoring playboy (Michael Wilding), he grows to love her. Suzie Wong is a gorgeous movie, shot in Technicolor on location in teeming circa-1960 Hong Kong. Not especially well-remembered today, the picture had an enormous impact on its release (the film's immense popularity was responsible for the sale of countless Chinese cheongsams, the high-collared silk garments which became known as "Suzie Wong dresses") and was later criticized as being racist for its depiction of the East/West, white American/Chinese prostitute romance. Kwan is excellent as the sexy-yet-innocent Mee Ling, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for the role. But it's the understated Holden who really does an amazing job here, as Lomax's relationship with Suzie swings from lust to anger to jealousy and, finally, to genuine passion and acceptance. The direction by Richard Quine (Bell, Book, and Candle, Paris When It Sizzles) is deeply soapy, but gloriously so, making Suzie Wong an immensely satisfying, classic tear-jerker. Paramount presents the movie as a bare-bones, bargain DVD, an indication of how overlooked the film has become over time. But the anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is excellent while the movie does show its age, the source-print is very clean and, as tends to be the case with Technicolor films, primary colors pop off the screen. The monaural Dolby 2.0 audio is acceptable, but unexceptional. As Suzie gets the bargain-bin treatment here, there are no extras considering that this popular film was so controversial on its release with its depiction of interracial romance and prostitution, and later so sharply criticized for contributing to stereotypes about Asian women, something on the disc addressing this would have been a nice bonus. Keep-case.