Friday, May 25, 2012

209. The Lady from Shanghai (1948)

Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: Orson Welles
Written By: Orson Welles, from the novel If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King
Main Cast: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders, Ted de Corsia
Click here to view the trailer


"Once, off the hump of Brazil I saw the ocean so darkened with blood it was black and the sun fainting away over the lip of the sky.We'd put in at Fortaleza, and a few of us had lines out for a bit of idle fishing. It was me had the first strike. A shark it was. Then there was another, and another shark again, 'till all about, the sea was made of sharks and more sharks still, and no water at all. My shark had torn himself from the hook, and the scent, or maybe the stain it was, and him bleeding his life away drove the rest of them mad. Then the beasts to to eating each other.In their frenzy, they ate at themselves.You could feel the lust of murder like a wind stinging your eyes, and you could smell the death, reeking up out of the sea. I never saw anything worse... until this little picnic tonight.And you know, there wasn't one of them sharks in the whole crazy pack that survived."

We continue on, in my week long, six film salute to the great Orson Welles, as I knock off yet another one of his films, "The Lady from Shanghai" - his 1948 offering starring himself and his then wife, Rita Hayworth.

Our main character is Mike "Black Irish" O'Hara (Welles), who also narrates the film. At the beginning of the picture, Mike meets the blonde bombshell Elsa (Hayworth), as she rides a horse drawn cab through New York City. He offers her a cigarette and even though she doesn't smoke, she accepts it. The two hit it off, Mike more smitten with her, than she with him. As their conversation continues, Mike finds out that Elsa is married. In fact, she's married to the very wealthy, disabled, criminal defense attorney Arthur Bannister (Sloane). At the end of the evening Elsa offers mike a job on her and her husband's yacht, he declines. The next day Arthur Bannister comes calling on Mike and presses him further about accepting the job, citing that his wife seemed to take to him and that he must join them as they had back to San Francisco via the Panama Canal aboard Bannister's vessel. Mike reluctantly agrees and off they go, sailing the seas. Aboard the vessel, the three are joined by various other crew members and also by George Grisby (Anders), Bannister's law partner. Grisby is an odd duck, always laughing or, at least, smiling about something. As the journey commences, Mike and Elsa become closer, sexual tension fills the air, as Mrs. Bannister prances around deck wearing a skimpy, black bathing suit and Mike silently lusts after her. As their journey comes to an end, Grisby approaches Mike with a proposition. He offers Mike $5,000 to "kill" him, only Mike won't be killing him, Grisby simply plans to disappear to a deserted island and live out the remainder of his days. Grisby cites that as long as Mike admits to the murder of Grisby, then Grisby can legally be declared dead, however, Mike can't legally be arrested unless a body is found. But is it all a frame up job on Mike?


Well, as much as I hate to admit it, I WILL admit that "The Lady from Shanghai" is a trifle confusing. It's not too bad, but you definitely need to pay strict attention or you're going to be lost, especially when Grisby starts detailing his master plan and later, when we head into the courtroom. The plot itself isn't stunning or anything and actually is a little too complex for it's own worth. It's not such a good film that it needs to be this detailed and when all's said and done, you get the feeling that it just wasn't worth your time to pay this much attention. There didn't need to be THAT many twists and turns to tell THIS story. Ultimately, it was good but not great.

Of course, Welles is on point with the utterly fantastic camera work, showing off signature masterpiece shots, such as a shot of Rita Hayworth through the eye of a pair of binoculars. Or how about the scene that follows Mike and Elsa into an aquarium, as they meet in secret and confess their love for one another. And, of course, anyone who sees this film, whether they love it or hate, has to be impressed with the finale, which takes place in a "crazy house" at an amusement park, with the main characters shooting it out inside a hall of mirrors. It looks like a masterpiece, that's for sure!

For "The Lady from Shanghai" Welles instructed Hayworth to chop off her signature, long, brown locks and instead, here she sports a short, blonde look. In my opinion, Welles knew what he was doing, as she looked stunning, sexy and villainous all at the same time. She also impressed me with her skills here too and totally redeemed herself from that mess that was "Gilda". Welles, on the other hand, wasn't as good here, mostly because he was sporting a mess of an Irish accent that actually tended to take away from his acting abilities. I just couldn't focus on the guys abilities, when I was too busy paying attention to the atrocity of an accent that was escaping his lips.

RATING: 6.5/10  It was good and honestly, I can see this one growing on me. However, I've seen some really blow away film noir's this 100 already, so this one had some tough acts to follow. Next up: "The Third Man".


May 25, 2012  12:50am

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