• Lady From Shanghai, The

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: March 17th, 2105.
    Director: Orson Welles
    Cast: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane
    Year: 1947
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Orson Welles in 1947, The Lady From Shanghai was famously a victim of massive studio interference, the film taken out of Welles’ hands and edited without his involvement. The reason was likely because he decided to make leading lady Rita Hayworth a shorthaired blonde in the picture. This would prove to be a move that earned him the wrath of producer Harry Cohn. However, even without Welles’ hand involved in the final cut of the movie, the picture still has his stamp all over it. It’s not his best nor obviously his most personal film but there is still a lot to like, sometimes even love, about this film.

    The story begins in New York City where an Irishman named Michael O’Hara (Welles) becomes instantly smitten with a blonde woman (Hayworth) riding in a carriage. They talk, he offers her a cigarette and then later winds up saving her from an attempted mugging. Later that night they walk to her car and discuss a famous criminal lawyer named Bannister – she gets in her car and drives away, telling the attendant to ‘bill it to my husband.’

    The next day in the seaman’s hall, O’Hara is approached by a handicapped man who offers him a job working on his yacht. O’Hara is no fool and he quickly figures out that this is Arthur Bannister himself (Everett Sloane) and that his wife, Elsa, was obviously the woman he met the night prior. O’Hara takes the position but soon finds that everyone on the boat, including Bannister’s business partner George Grisby (Glenn Anders), is a misanthrope, a drunk, a nihilist or combination of the three. Money can’t buy happiness it seems and Arthur is only too happy to flaunt the dirt he has on the people that he uses to get his way. As they round Mexico and head towards San Francisco, O’Hara decides he’s going to quit but around this same time, Grisby offers him $5,000.00 in cash to help him fake his own death. This would give Michael the money he needs to run off with Elsa, but once the yacht is docked and Grisby’s plan is set into motion it becomes obvious to all involved that there is much more to this than O’Hara bargained for.

    The story might run in a few too many directions for its own good and the studio interference may occasionally seem obvious (the best example being the scene in which the beautiful leading lady sings a sad song on the yacht - this really stands out in a strange way) but despite all this, The Lady From Shanghai proves top notch cinematic entertainment. Welles’ sense of style, pacing and symbolism is all over the film from the narration (which he provides) to the camera angles to the film’s infamous finale shot inside a hall of mirrors. The movie takes a little while to get going and the opening sequence in the park where ‘heroic Welles’ (starting to get just a little chubby at this point in his career) saves the damsel in distress seems like a big old cliché but stick with it. It all pays off in in the last half hour in a big, big way.

    Once the murder plot goes off, things go from very well acted and moderately interesting to very well acted and visually stunning. Welles really runs with things as the movie builds towards a finish. This is highlighted by a scene in which O’Hara and Elsa meet in an aquarium – it’s no accident here that the two characters are literally surrounded by sharks. From here, Welles turns a courtroom scene into a fantastic brawl which spills out into a scene where he runs through the Chinatown of San Francisco. This segues into the infamous finale where we wind up at the abandoned amusement park and then the infamous house of mirrors scene where the big reveal takes place. It’s a series of amazing transitions and it’s easy get lost in the camerawork, the compositions and the flawless execution of it all.

    Performance wise, Welles plays his role here well. He’s not as dashing as he is in other roles but he handles both the film’s darker, more traditionally noirish aspects just as well as he does the dramatic and romantic side of the part. Hayworth does amazing work here, playing the dumb sap for all he’s worth and crafting with Elsa Bannister a wonderfully traditional femme fatale character. She’s gorgeous in the film, short blonde hair or not, and her performance is arguably one of the best of her career. Everett Sloane is fantastic as the hard-drinking and fairly heartless lawyer who has never lost a case. When he does things like make the entire crew on his boat head inland through treacherous waters simply because he wants to have a picnic we can see in his eyes how the character is supposed to get off on ordering people around. He’s a control freak and Sloane’s strange appearance and very stoic line delivery play this part perfectly. Glenn Anders as the bug-eyed, paranoid Grisby is also fantastic here – really all involved do excellent work in front of the camera.


    The Lady From Shanghai arrives on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.37.1. Detail and clarity are pretty strong here, but expect some minor print damage to show up from time to time. Grain can get a bit heavy in the shots with optical effects but that’s to be expected to a certain extent. The disc has a pretty decent bit rate and there are no compression issues that stood out, nor are there any problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Black levels are solid and contrast is typically quite good if occasionally a little inconsistent (probably an issue with the elements as past editions have shown the same fluctuations). Overall though, this is a really solid transfer and the movie looks really nice in high definition on this disc.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional subtitles provided in English only. There are no problems here, the audio is nicely balanced and features clean, clear dialogue and a fairly robust score. Hiss and distortion are never a problem and there’s enough range and depth here that most should definitely notice an upgrade over previous lossy Dolby Digital Mono tracks from the DVD releases over the years.

    Outside of a static menu offering chapter selection there are no extras on this disc.

    The Final Word:

    The Lady From Shanghai isn’t Welles best movie but it is a damn fine film with some great performances and a genuinely fantastic ending . The Blu-ray release from Mill Creek is devoid of any extras but the movie looks and sounds very good here. Fans who don’t already have the previous Blu-ray release will definitely want to seek this one out.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on this disc. I love this film and couldn't afford the previous Blu-ray. Nice review, Ian
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Great review. I've never seen this and didn't even know it was out on BD from Mill Creek. I smell an Amazon order coming on...
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      I've been obsessed with this film on more than one occasion.At one point, the last lines were on my outgoing answering machine message for about a year I think. I'll be grabbing one of these for sure.