Blood Alley Starring: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Henry Nakamura Director: William A. Wellman The film: 'Powder your nose, Baby - we're coming into Hong Kong!', bellows ship's captain John Wayne to his by-now rather tiresome imaginary friend, and as a poorly modelled Victoria Harbour finally comes into sight, many viewers will be almost as relieved as the 180 souls he has just rescued from a village in Fujian province. Blood Alley was one of many anti-communist vehicles Wayne produced and starred in during the 1950s and 60s, and while nowhere near as shameless a flag-waver as the likes of Jet Pilot (1957) and Big Jim McLain (1952), the message is driven home as forcefully as the flat- bottomed paddle steamer that he helms down the Formosa Strait to freedom. The villagers of Chiku Shan, who supplied this vessel, have managed to break Wayne out of prison in nearby Amoy (now Xiamen) in order to avail themselves of his seafaring skills and knowledge of the China coast. Fearful of the fledgling communist government, they expect to find a better life in Hong Kong. Wayne - slightly the worse for his incarceration, abstract female head-dweller and all - eventually agrees, and with Lauren Bacall as the requisite missionary's daughter, they get under way on a voyage whose suspense, along with some excellent camerawork and high production values, just about saves the day. (The entire movie was filmed in California, but the sets are realistic enough and the exterior shots in particular are surprisingly evocative of the region they attempt to depict.) Blood Alley suffers from the usual genre problems of its day - western actors playing a couple of the main Chinese roles, overplayed pidgin English - but as a look at how Hong Kong was viewed in the 1950s, as a sort of political promised land, it's an interesting time capsule with significant curiosity value. It also presents an unusually large gathering of Asian-American actors, with prolific players such as James Hong (Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, Soldier of Fortune), Chester Gan (Passage from Hong Kong, Escape from Hong Kong) and the ever-charismatic Victor Sen Young (Target Hong Kong, China) on the credits list, plus more than 100 unnamed extras. Lurking among them in heavy makeup is Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita, War and Peace) in an early screen appearance, which, despite a complete lack of dialogue and almost no close-ups, won her a Golden Globe for most promising newcomer. The extras: Re-released this year to mark John Wayne's centenary, this DVD from Warner is identical to the one released two years ago. There's a selection of unexplained newsreels featuring Wayne accepting awards and making an oddly familiar 'Crusade for Freedom' speech. These are followed by a pair of seven-minute excerpts from the 'Warner Bros. Presents' TV series, featuring Wayne chatting with presenter Gig Young about Blood Alley and how he got into movies. Finally there are trailers for Blood Alley and six other Wayne titles. The widescreen-enhanced transfer is excessively grainy in a couple of places, especially around the dissolves, but is more than satisfactory overall, as is the Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack.