After the runaway success of Outside the Law, director Tod Browning reteamed with star Priscilla Dean on Drifting, another hard-boiled crime picture flavored with Orientalism. Set in a remote Chinese village, and staged on an epic scale, Dean stars as Cassie Cook, an opium trafficker caught between an undercover government agent (Matt Moore) and a fellow smuggler (Wallace Beery). Dean may have been the star, but it is Anna May Wong (age eighteen and on the brink of stardom), who steals the show during the film’s fiery climax.
An early attempt by Browning to infuse the crime melodrama with elements of the uncanny (spurring the evolution of the American horror film), White Tiger involves a band of jewel thieves who employ a chess-playing automaton to gain entry into the homes of the wealthy. But their elaborate plans are haunted by omens, and they seem doomed to an inescapable fate. This disc also contains the only surviving footage of Browning and Dean’s 1919 The Exquisite Thief, one of the key films in establishing Dean’s persona as the glamorous jewel thief.
Audio commentary for Drifting by film historian Anthony Slide
Musical score by Anton Sanko
Audio commentary for White Tiger by film historian Bret Wood
Musical score by Andrew Earle Simpson
Fragment of the “lost” Tod Browning/Priscilla Dean film The Exquisite Thief