Shanghai Express (1932)
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I was worried about Shanghai Express' structure. In Act 1 we meet the characters, most prominently a pair of disreputable women. In Act 2, the train is stopped, but the action plot kicks in... and then kicks out. What does that leave for the third act? Resolving the tragic love story that was at the heart of the film all along. Somehow, it works, mostly thanks to one of Marlene Dietrich's better performances (her lover is a little dull, however), and some beautiful cinematography (the shot of Dietrich trembling in the dark is justly famous). The film achieves some exoticism early on, even if its China has an unusually large cast of white characters. No surprise to me, while there's no doubt whose vehicle this is, it made me want to explore Anna May Wong's filmography - I'm aboard and I'm showing my ticket to the conductor.
Beautiful cinematography. It's not hard to see why von Sternberg and Dietrich collaborated so many times.
Great acting, especially from Dietrich and Anna May Wong, with whom I wasn't familiar up to now, but that I will check out thoroughly.
The story, however? Meh. It seems like two half plots stitched together that don't really make a whole.
By the time The End came up, I was kinda sad to be leaving China and Hui Fei and Shanghai Lilly but kinda relieved it was over.
Marlene Dietrich is just great, for me her performance is what makes this movie good.
I really disliked Harvey and his acting was very poor in my opinion, during all the film he always had the same expression on his face.
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In 9 official lists
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This movie ranks #5 in Academy Award - Best Cinematography
This movie ranks #28 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #67 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #104 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
This movie ranks #120 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #447 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #805 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #859 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #1145 in The Criterion Collection