Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Welles and Hayworth in the famous funhouse finale

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947). Director: Orson Welles.

"Is this what you people do in the evenings? Sit around toasting marshmallows and calling each other names?"

Michael O'Hara (Orson Welles) is hired by Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) and her husband Arthur (Everett Sloane) to help run their boat, but he winds up smack dab in the middle of a convoluted murder plot -- but who's trying to kill whom? It would be criminal to give away any of the twists and turns for those who may never have seen the film; suffice it to say this is a smooth suspense thriller with flavorful characters and fine performances from a stellar cast; arguably Hayworth as the femme fatale has never been better or better-cast.Glenn Anders is also notable as Bannister's weird business partner and Ted de Corsia scores as the sinister Broome. The fascinating picture leads up to a highly memorable sequence in an amusement park with the exciting climax taking place in a mirror maze. One could argue that Welles isn't quite on Hitchcock's level and some scenes -- such as a courtroom scene -- are perhaps a little too busy, but Lady from Shanghai is nonetheless audacious and compelling. Welles, directing himself, is outstanding in the lead role. You can't look at the plot -- or some of the events -- with close scrutiny [O'Hara not being recognized by a policeman at one point!] -- the movie has its absurd moments -- but it all moves too fast for you to care. Beautifully photographed by Charles Lawton Jr. and some uncredited associates. William Castle was one of the producers of this classic.

Verdict: Film Noir par excellance! ***1/2.

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