Shanghai Express (1932)

Josef von Sternberg directs Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook and Anna May Wong in this romantic thriller where a train carriage full of Westerners gets caught by a Chinese warlord.

Pre- Hays Code… so a bit naughtier and franker and salacious and adult than most B&W Hollywood films. This has a cracking plot (based loosely on a true story) that shifts with each act and increases the peril, drama and tragedy as it moves forward. There are some amazing shots of studio replicated China and the lighting is sublime. Dietrich sizzles as the bad girl with a better heart than her “respectable” compatriots. Warner Oland is a hissable villain as the hiding in plain sight dictator… modern eyes will have to get past the yellow face – and casual racism of the era. The only fault is Clive Brook’s stiff upper lip male lead really is not worth Shanghai Lily’s efforts, sacrifice or time. Too wooden and dim. Nice neat underplayed ending too… she buys him a watch but makes sure he’ll ultimately never know what the price she paid was… to keep him alive… ON THE SHANGHAI EXPRESS!


Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here

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