Sog.: by the homonym novel of Edith Wherry; Scen.: June Mathis e Albert Capellani; F.: Tony Gaudio; Int.: Alla Nazimova (Mahlee/Blanche Sckville), Frank Currier (Philip Sackville), Noah Beery (Sam Wang) Yukio Ao Yama, Edward J. Connelly, Darrell Foss; Prod.: MGM. L.: 1731 m. D.: 84’ a 18 f/s.
Capellani shot about 25 films in the USA between 1915 and 1922, including three with Alla Nazimova. 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, and in Red Lantern the dual role of the half-Chinese Mahlee and her white sister Blanche Sackville. As stage actress and director, Alla Nazimova was a great promoter of modern, realistic European theatre in the USA: she was unrivalled as the outstanding Nora, Hedda Gabler and other female characters in plays by Ibsen, Schnitzler and Chekhov. In 1918 she signed a contract with Metro, with top star terms: 13,000 dollars 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 films she made with Capellani to be Nazimova’s best. 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. The half-Chinese Mahlee (Nazimova) falls in love with the young American, Templeton, who prefers her white sister, Blanche (Nazimova); the film expresses forcefully the unfeeling attitude to Mahlee and 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.
The film was restored by the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique in 1996 from what appears to be the only surviving print, from Gosfilmofond’s collections. The English titles were reconstructed thanks to a title list
provided by the Cinema and Television Library at the University of Southern California.