The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948) *** ½

Orson Welles (sporting a playful Irish brogue) is a seafaring man who gets roped into a murder plot by a sultry lady (Rita Hayworth) and her crippled lawyer husband (Everett Sloane). Of course, Welles’ infatuation with Hayworth clouds his judgment and he agrees. Pretty soon, he finds himself arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. To add insult to injury, he is railroaded into court by Sloane. Before a verdict can be reached, Orson makes a desperate escape and tries to clear his name.

Apparently, there was a lot of behind the scenes meddling with The Lady from Shanghai. The film was ultimately taken away from director Orson Welles (he’s only credited with screenplay and “Production”) and re-edited by the studios. As a result, the plot is kinda murky and some of the pacing is a bit herky-jerky.

Thankfully, the plot doesn’t really take precedent here. The Lady from Shanghai is more about the interaction between Welles’ down and out character and the bizarre love triangle he finds himself in. Like any good film noir, the plot twists are secondary to the mood and atmosphere. And because it was an Orson Welles production, the film looks terrific. There are some shots in a darkened aquarium that are pretty damned sweet and the “Hall of Mirrors” sequence is justifiably famous.

Despite the studio meddling, the film remains rather fascinating. I watched this a few days ago and put off writing about it because I really wanted The Lady from Shanghai to marinate in my mind a bit. If I was to describe the flick in a word, that word would be “effortless”. Welles oozes charm and charisma here and he does so without breaking a sweat. I don’t think he’s looked handsomer on film. And the way he constructed his shots seem natural; and even the most complicated shots never seem showy. Of course, Rita Hayworth looks effortlessly beautiful. Just the shots of her silently smoldering in front of the camera are a joy to watch.

Maybe someday we’ll get to see Orson Welles’ original vision of the film. Maybe not. Until that day, The Lady from Shanghai remains a tantalizing and rewarding notch in the master showman’s belt.

Tags: l, thriller
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