Zhi bian wai shi 殖邊外史
Written and directed by: Wang Yuanlong 王元龍
Cinematography: Zhou Shimu 周詩穆
Cast: Xie Yunqing 謝雲卿, Li Minghui 黎明暉, Wang Cilong 王次龍, Wang Yuanlong 王元龍, Zhou Wenzhu 周文珠, Wang Zhengxin 王徵信, Yang Jingwo 楊靜我, Bao Yuanming 包元銘, Wang Fuqing 汪福慶, Wang Jinming 王錦明
Studio: Great China Lilium Pictures (大中華百合影片公司)
Year of release: 1926
Silent film with Chinese intertitles
Running time: 80 mins (full film); 38 mins (extant portion)
English subtitles translated by Frank S. Zhou
An Untold Tale of the Borderlands, a partially-extant silent film, focuses on the lives of people in rural China during the early twentieth century. Wang Guisheng (played by Wang Yuanlong) is an orphan who grew up at his uncle’s, working as a farmhand. Since childhood, he has been close with his female cousin, Li Ah Zhen (played by Li Minghui), and they expect to marry. But when her mother dies of illness and overwork, Ah Zhen’s father re-marries, and the evil stepmother connives to marry Ah Zhen off to the stepmother’s nephew. Then a government representative comes to the village recruiting peasants to establish a new settlement on the borderlands, she persuades the despondent Guisheng to sign up. Guisheng leaves his love behind, only to find hardship on the frontier. Ah Zhen, who has fallen ill, is set upon by her groom on her wedding night. The next morning his stabbed corpse is found in the bridal chamber and a body in a bridal gown is found down a well…
Wang Yuanlong wrote, directed, and starred in this rural moral drama, casting his younger brother Wang Cilong in a supporting role, and giving the female lead role to Li Minghui (the daughter of famous composer and bandleader Li Jinhui 黎錦輝), who one year later–in 1927–became a national star for her hit song “Drizzle” 毛毛雨. Watch for the special effect showing the ghost of Ah Zhen’s mother coming back to deliver a warning to her before her wedding. Also note that–as was common practice at the time–the surname of many a character match that of the actor who plays them. Frank S. Zhou’s translation makes this film available in English for the first time.
Compare the double-exposure cinematography with other types of special effects in early Chinese films.
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