The Lady from Shanghai

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This movie, made in 1946, raised one big question in my mind: exactly what drugs were these people on? Was it too early for LSD? Could prodigous amounts of reefer have caused them to think that they were making a coherent movie? Were Hollywood folks doing peyote back then? Magic mushrooms?

The basic plot doesn't sound that peculiar for what is claimed to be a film noir: Orson Welles plays Mike, a drifter who finds himself strolling in Central Park. On an impulse, he pitches woo to a passing lady in a hansom cab: it's Rita Hayworth, so what red-blooded male wouldn't? Shortly afterward, he rescues her from ruffians, and she offers him a job as a worker on her husband's luxury yacht, which they're planning on sailing down the coast, through the Panama Canal, and up to San Francisco. Against his better judgment, Mike accepts, and meets up with Rita's husband (a rich crippled lawyer, played by Everett Sloane) and her husband's partner, Bannister. Soon a murder plot is afoot, but who's exactly pulling the strings?

Just about everything else in the movie is bizarre, though. (Especially Bannister. Geez, what a weirdo!) But fundamental questions kept popping into my head (besides the first one mentioned above): Why did he say that? How did he know that? Why did he do that? What just happened there? Even in retrospect, I'm not coming up with any answers.

On the other hand, there's a lot of interesting stuff going on in interesting places. The filmmakers might not have had a firm idea of where their plot was going, or their characters' motivations, but they managed to shoot the whole mess inventively.

Fascinating trivia: that's Errol Flynn's actual yacht, and also his actual dog.

Last Modified 2012-10-02 2:06 PM EDT