The Lady from Shanghai Film Details
Overview: Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O’Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.
Tagline: I told you… you know nothing about wickedness
Review: After CITIZEN KANE in 1941, Hollywood executives turned their cob-webbed backs on the great Orson Welles. With the exception of KANE, Welles lost all creative control on MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, JOURNEY INTO FEAR, and many other films to come. Welles was an innovative and creative genius, the most unconventional of filmmakers when Hollywood was in need of a few more. THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI is yet another example of the misunderstood view of Welles’ films at the time, a movie that seems a bit choppy and non-fluent. It has a conventional 1940’s premise told in a most unconventional way, and I am sure some scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. It is now legend that Columbia mogul Harry Cohn stood up during its initial screening and asked what it was about. In hindsight, many old grumps that ran the studios back then had not one clue as to the cinematic techniques and master story-telling of Orson Welles and THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI is only nearly great because of their intrusion. Beside being arguably the greatest director of all-time, Welles was also quite a performer as an actor. At 25, we all know what he did as “Charles Foster Kane”, perhaps the most famous character in film history. Here, he inhabits a rare character of dim wit and not much intelligence, something unfamiliar to those familiar with Welles other great work. Instead of a slick, wise tongue, he speaks with a rough, Irish twang. Rita Hayworth (his unhappily married wife at the time) plays an unhappily married wife of a lawyer who puts Welles in a spell and is able to draw him into a job that will take him to the limits of deception and disillusionment. He is a large lug who may have even murdered a man, but the real mystery lies in the relationship between Hayworth (with stunning blonde hair) and crippled hubby Everett Sloane (Mr. Bernstein from CITIZEN KANE). A creepy partner of Sloane’s is along for the sail around the country to set off a number of peculiar events that has Welles’ “Michael O’Hara” head spinning. Welles narrates the picture as O’Hara, but things are still unclear throughout. See for yourself and realize that it takes at least 2 viewings to fully know exactly what’s up. An uncharacteristically strange courtroom sequence centers around “O’Hara”, with Sloane defending him. It is an oddly comedic scene with some quirky courtroom methods, including Sloane cross-examining himself. I didn’t really laugh here because the film stalls at this point after a first portion that never gets to take off anyway. Up to this point, the cinematography is great, some scenes are shot with craft and skill (aquarium love scene), but there is no distinct line drawing the elements and us, the audience, in. Reportedly, the court scene was re-shot against Welles’ requests (10 closeups of Hayworth were ordered) and a makeshift song sung by the starlet was thrown in at Cohn’s insistence. A gaudy score infuriated Welles, who once again, was left out of the editing process. Thank Welles himself for saving the film entirely with a tour-de-force ending that will always be treasured. The so-called “Hall of Mirrors” scene brings buffs back time and time again, rightfully so. It must be seen to be believed and it does a good job of wrapping up some confusing ideas presented. The crash of the mirrors represents “O’Hara’s” disillusionment and the “crazy house” itself is a masterpiece of art and set decoration. It seems more like a state of mind than an actual place and is indeed “crazy”, twisted and turned like a Dali painting. This is a great ending to a flawed picture that if left alone would probably have made the AFI’s Top 100. Then again, 3 or 4 more of Orson Welles films may have made all collective “best of” lists if he had been left alone to create his own magic. NOTE: Look for the Mercury Players that are so prominent in Welles pictures. They pop up all over. RATING: 8 of 10
Language: English, Cantonese
Duration: 87 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
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