3/16/15

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI - REVIEW


Released back in 1947, The Lady From Shanghai was a moody film noir directed by and starring Orson Welles about how a femme fatale (played by a blonde Rita Hayworth) lures an Irish seaman into sailing with her and her wealthy husband on a yacht. Eventually, a murder is committed and Welles' protagonist is framed for it and is even made to confess to it on paper.

Based on Sherwood King's novel "If I Die Before I Wake", The Lady From Shanghai was not a huge hit upon its release and pretty much mystified its producers. Since then, it has received more critical acclaim, mostly due to Orson Welles' technical creativity in full force during the film's admittedly impressive and memorable funhouse climax. The use of mirrors, elaborate sets and projection making for a brilliant, much ripped-off stand-out sequence. This is what most remember from this movie, that and Rita Hayworth, whose one song in the middle of the movie may not have been Welles' own idea but which works perfectly, cementing her character as a sneaky, sexy, dangerous femme fatale to watch out for. Everett Sloane, who plays Hayworth's slimy husband, is also worthy of mention as he makes one good dodgy lawyer.

Unfortunately, the film is also extremely flawed.

Orson Welles narrates the entire thing in a goofy Irish accent, which doesn't help legitimise his character or the dark mood the film is trying to establish. Plus the interesting parts of the story don't kick in until the last twenty minutes. Until then, we're mostly hanging out on a boat with a bunch of people we don't really understand or particularly care about for a long time. The pace of the film is slow, which begs the question: why didn't the murder take place within the first twenty minutes? It certainly would have played a big part in keeping us awake throughout! It feels like the studio and Welles had two completely different films in mind and, in the end, we got a completely uneven mish-mash of both. One second it's a sluggish sea-set romance, the next it's a courtroom drama, the next Orson Welles is sliding down giant slides... who knows what this one was actually meant to be.

While I would not recommend you make time especially to check out The Lady From Shanghai, it's worth seeing its second half, at least, for its inventive visuals and Rita Hayworth attempting to speak Chinese.

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