The Shanghai Story


Action / Crime / Drama

IMDb Rating 5.8 10 148

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Victor Sen Yung as Sun Lee
Ruth Roman as Rita King
Edmond O'Brien as Dr. Dan Maynard
Richard Jaeckel as 'Knuckles' Greer

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by MartinHafer 4 / 10

The writing is a let-down.

When the story begins, China has just fallen to the Communists in 1949. Oddly, although you would THINK all foreign nationals in China would be scared and on their best behaviors so as to not upset the new regime, the westerners in this film are all angry and stupid. After being moved by the new regime to wait at a hotel, they scream at their captors, make threats and pretty much seem like obnoxious idiots. This is odd since it's supposed to be a propagnda picture that is anti-communist. I found myself wanting to see a few of these idiots get shot...and so the film really did not do its intended job! Fortunately, the obnoxious behaviors diminished as the film progressed.

The Chinese communists in this film are almost uniformly stupid, paranoid and evil. One is even apparently not above using extortion to try force one of the prisoners to put out for him. And, though the course of the film, these Chinese become more violent and nasty.

The odd person out in all this is Rita King (Ruth Roman). Unlike the other westerners, she is free to come and go from the hotel...presumably because she's putting out for one of the higher Chinese officials. Because of this, the other internees avoid and dislike her. But through the course of the story, she turns out to have a heart of gold and tries her best to help these prisoners.

If you are looking for realism, this isn't a great film for you. Although the Chinese communists were a bloodthirsty lot, the western folks in the film are almost like cartoon characters and often lack realism. Making threats against your captors...that certainly seems odd and stupidly out of place, for example.

Overall, a rather obvious propaganda film which could have been better had the writing been better. I think the Chinese were portrayed reasonably well...but the rest seemed like caricatures instead of real people.

Reviewed by boblipton 6 / 10

Frank Lloyd's Penultimate Film

The Communists have taken over, and under the New China, about fifty westerners are detained at the New Waldorf Hotel. Among them is top-billed Ruth Roman, who was friendly to members of the old regime, and is equally so to embers of the new. The story, however, centers on Edmond O'Brien, a doctor who wants to get out.

The story is half P. O. W. Movie, with a strong debt to CASABLANCA; the new ruling elite is as rapacious as Claude Rains' Louis Renault, but lack the warmth and humanity of Conrad Veidt's Heinrich Strasser. None of the characters is much more than a stereotype, varying in mood according to the dictates of the story. On the other hand, Jack Marta's Dutch Angles and diffuse, foggy lighting, gives the movie a fine, depressing film noir feeling, and every aspect of the production under the control of director Frank Lloyd is first rate. It's a pity this was made at the height of Cold War fever and the script played directly into that with a fervor that makes one think the war is very hot indeed.

Reviewed by mark.waltz 6 / 10

Takin' on the cold war the American way!

Less than ten years after the end of World War II, Tokyo becomes the good guy and Shanghai the villain in this cold war drama which has more than just a few similarities with "Grand Hotel". All the archetypes of that classic play and movie are there, including a pompous businessman who falsely believes his double dealing with the Chinese will get him freed and a frail older man who may be dying. It starts with a group of total strangers arriving at a lavish hotel used by China's "New Order" as one of their headquarters. There, everybody is lined up and warned that any attempts to interfere with the "New Order" will result in their immediate torture and execution. An attempt on the businessman's life by a Chinese rebel outside the "New Order" leads to violence and further threats on the American prisoners' safety.

Playing a combination of Marlene Dietrich and Ava Gardner, the very sexy Ruth Roman is a mystery to the American people arrested and placed in the hotel where she has been living for years. But is she really the loose woman she appears to be, or is she secretly trying to salvage what virtue she has left? She has the leader of the Chinese "New Order" under her thumb, and uses this to save evil Chinese General Philip Ahn from taking advantage of a pretty young woman recently married to one of the prisoners. Influential American Edmund O'Brien is obviously entranced by the seductive Roman at once, and no sooner are they alone, they are verbally sparing which leads to the inevitable kiss.

When hotel prisoners are brought together to reveal which one of them is a spy, the revelation of who it is becomes anti-climactic, but of course, Roman is made to look like a squealer, even though she insists she's innocent. Will O'Brien manage to get word to the resistance in an effort to save these American lives? Action-packed and fraught with tension, "The Shanghai Story" is better than expected, coming from Republic Studios, and fortunately not starring Vera Hruba Ralston, the studio's over-exposed leading lady who normally got all the "A" list films there if not decent reviews. That part went to the sparkling Ruth who really stands out. Taking a speech from practically every World War II drama where an innocent man spoke up to the Nazi's, there's a scene straight out of that mold, pretty much copied verbatim from the 1943 Errol Flynn anti-Nazi drama "Edge of Darkness", even down to the character being a minister. Some of the torture perpetrated by the Chinese is truly scary, and the irony of the resistance trying to get in contact with Tokyo is a very interesting twist considering the year this was made. O'Brien is excellent in the hero role, and the supporting players (including Frank Ferguson and Whit Bissell) are excellent as well.

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