Song at Midnight (1937)
aka Ye ban ge sheng
Article 5545 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Weibang Ma-Xu
Featuring Menghe Gu, Ping Hu, Shan Jin
What it is: China’s first horror movie
A group of traveling actors come to town and set up shop in a dilapidated space. The lead actor is coached by a mysterious hooded figure who hides in the building. This hooded figure has a tragic story…
IMDB describes the movie as China’s first horror movie, and perhaps it is; I’m not aware at this time of any other candidates for that title. Yes, it is modeled off of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA to some extent, but it also has some remarkable similarities to CYRANO DE BERGERAC in some of its plot elements. The movie gets off to a rocky, confusing start, and the plot as such doesn’t really begin until about twenty minutes into the movie, but it’s worth being patient, because it’s pretty good once it gets going. The mysterious figure is much more sympathetic than Eric in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA; he really doesn’t terrorize anyone, and he’s much more the victim than the villain. In fact, his primary goal in life is to help his former girlfriend recover from the madness she has fallen into when she believed he was dead. It’s well-directed and exciting, and the ending recalls that of the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN. I really liked this one.