Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Edith Wherry. Scen.: June Mathis, Albert Capellani. F.: Tony Gaudio. Int.: Alla Nazimova (Mahlee/Blanche Sackville), Frank Currier (Philip Sackville), Noah Beery (Sam Wang) Yukio Ao Yama, Edward J. Connelly, Darrell Foss. Prod.: Metro Pictures Corporation. 35mm. L.: 1731 m. D.: 84’ a 18 f/s. Bn.
As stage actress and director, Alla Nazimova was a great promoter of modern, realistic European theatre in the USA: her performances as Nora, Hedda Gabler and other characters in plays by Ibsen, Schnitzler and Chekhov were unrivalled. In 1918 she signed a contract with Metro, with top star terms: $13,000 a week, her own choice of scripts and directors, no restriction on her theatrical activity (Vittorio Martinelli, Le dive del silenzio, 2001, p. 196). Martinelli considers the three films Nazimova made with Albert Capellani to be her best. In Eye for an Eye (1918) she plays Hassouna, the daughter of a desert sheikh, in Out of the Fog (1919) a girl who is brought up by her uncle in a lighthouse and isolated from all human contact.
In Red Lantern she takes the dual role of the half-Chinese Mahlee and her white sister Blanche Sackville. Red Lantern takes place in China in 1900-1901, during the Boxer Rebellion, led by Chinese militias and supported by the Chinese government, against the American, European and Japanese colonial powers. It ended with the defeat of China. Mahlee falls in love with the young American, Templeton, who prefers her white sister, Blanche. The film forcefully expresses society’s unfeeling attitude to Mahlee and the obvious contempt with which her white friends and relatives reject her. She goes over to the other side, to the Chinese, where she is exploited by the rebels: she appears as the incarnation of the goddess of the Red Lantern and incites the Chinese to rise up against the foreigners. The rebellion fails, the man she has loved dies, and she takes her own life.