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| 23 May 2016 | Reply

Shock Entertainment, 4 May, 2016
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, Warner Oland
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
7 ½ /10

Shanghai Express DVD

Made in 1932, Shanghai Express won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, as well as being nominated for Best Director and Best Picture, but it’s the smouldering presence of Marlene Dietrich who steals the show.

It’s all aboard the Shanghai Express from Peking for an unlikely group of grumpy well-to-do’s: an over-prim dowager, a loud American businessman, a disgraced French soldier, an uptight minister, a self-righteous German who is later proven to be an opium smuggler, a Chinese trader and Clive Brook as British army doctor Captain Harvey, who is shocked to discover his former lover Dietrich aboard the train.

Five years since their affair ended, Dietrich has transformed herself into the notorious Shanghai Lily, a loose woman who has hopped from one rich man to another throughout China.

When the Chinese trader Chang (Warner Oland) proves to be a big player in the Chinese civil war raging across the country he tortures some of the passengers and holds Harvey to ransom as he is en route to perform a life-saving operation for the regional governor.

Lily steps up to the plate and sacrifices her freedom to save Harvey, something the lascivious Chang does not say no to. But can Harvey believe Lily still cares and can she put her wanton ways behind her for another shot with the only man she ever loved?

Featuring a reputed 1000 extras, the film is splendidly realised and apparently provoked some political tension of its own when the Chinese Government demanded it be withdrawn. Whilst Dietrich smirks her way sensually through the film as if laughing at some joke we’re not privy to, Brook is sour and stiff as Harvey, overplaying the jilted lover card, but the rest of the performances are spot on and the scenery looks magnificent as the train traverses the country.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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