Next up from the Dietrich And Von Sternberg set is the 1932 film Shanghai Express.
In this movie, Marlene Dietrich plays the prostitute Shanghai Lily. She gets on the train to Shanghai, along with a number of other passengers, including her old boyfriend, Captain Donald Harvey (Clive Brook). It is a time of civil war in China, so the Chinese military stops the train to check everybody’s passports. They find one of the higher-ups in the rebel army and arrest him. However, they miss his superior, Mr. Chang (Warner Oland),who is also on the train. He wires ahead to have the rebels stop the train so they can take a hostage. They end up taking Captain Harvey as the hostage. The Chinese government agrees to the exchange, but Mr. Chang is reluctant to hand Captain Harvey over after he stops Mr. Chang from trying to rape Shanghai Lily.
This movie is the fourth of the seven movies that Marlene Dietrich and director Josef Von Sternberg made together,and it seems to be considered the peak of their collaboration. I will agree, it is a wonderful movie, and the best one of the bunch that I have seen so far. As far as I can see, it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, and I can easily understand that. This movie was wonderfully photographed, especially Marlene Dietrich. I know the image of just her hands when her character was praying is certainly one of this movie’s most vivid images. And all of the characters work well for me, too. To look at the trivia, I was reading about how the minister character had to be softened for the movie because of the censors. I admit, in this case, I think it works, as it gives his character a bit of an arc, too, where he improves his opinions. As a whole, I like this movie, and would recommend it to anybody interested!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection, and is one hour, twenty-three minutes in length.
My Rating: 9/10
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