Drifting

In this silent melodrama (1923), an American drug smuggler in Shanghai (Priscilla Dean) dreams of getting out of crime and returning home to the States; meanwhile her supplier comes to suspect that the American mining engineer who just arrived in his village is plotting to shut down the local opium trade. Tod Browning directed, and though the film isn’t as sensationalistic as his better-known horror films (Dracula, Freaks), it still offers flashes of his perverse imagination (in one scene policemen blackmail Dean into giving them the clothes off her back). There are compelling supporting performances from Wallace Beery (as Dean’s hot-headed business partner) and Anna May Wong (as the opium grower’s lustful daughter); in fact their characters are more interesting than the heroine, who gets bogged down in a sappy romance with the engineer.