The Lady From Shanghai (1947): “Then the beasts took to eating each other”

The Lady From Shanghai (1948)“Do you know…
once, off the hump of Brazil…
I saw the ocean so darkened with blood it was black…
…and the sun fainting away over the lip of the sky.
We´d put in at Fortaleza…
and a few of us had lines out for a bit of idle fishing.
It was me had the first strike.
A shark it was.
Then there was another.
And another shark again.
Till all about, the sea was made of sharks…
and more sharks still.
And no water at all.
My shark had torn himself from the hook…
and the scent or maybe the stain it was, and him bleeding his life away…
drove the rest of them mad.

Then the beasts took to eating each other.
In their frenzy…
they ate at themselves.
You could feel the lust of murder like a wind stinging your eyes.
And you could smell the death reeking up out of the sea.
I never saw anything worse…
until this little picnic tonight.
And you know…
there wasn´t one of them sharks in the whole crazy pack that survived.
l´ll be leaving you now.

George, that´s the first time..
anyone ever thought enough of you to call you a shark.
If you were a good lawyer, you´d be flattered.”

The Lady From Shanghai (1948)The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

A brilliant jigsaw of a film noir from Orsone Welles, with a femme-fatale to die for, and a script so sharp and witty, you relish every scene. You can watch it again and again, and find something new each time.

The long yacht voyage is used to both develop the characters and as a homage to Hayworth’s beauty and the eternal feminine in the flesh and in nature.

The Lady From Shanghai (1948)The Lady From Shanghai (1948)The Lady From Shanghai (1948)The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

The climactic confrontation and shootout at the end in an amusement park mirror-maze is breath-taking. The restored print available on the DVD is so sharp that it is hard to believe the picture was shot 6o years ago.

The Lady From Shanghai (1948)The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

To be savoured with patience and your full attention.

7 thoughts on “The Lady From Shanghai (1947): “Then the beasts took to eating each other””

  1. How to go Shark Fishing in 5 Easy Steps

    1. Get about 200 lbs. of bait (“Somebody’s Fool” bait works best)

    2. Put the bait on large meat hooks

    3. Drop the bait into the ocean – Caribbean, Mexico, and California work well

    4. Work the sharks into a feeding frenzy – attorney sharks, Shanghai sharks, two-bit sweating sharks

    5. Haul the sharks to an amusement park for a surrealistic samurai finale

    If you don’t get this flick, watch it at least 10 times. Take a rest, some aspirin, a couple shots of bourbon, and then watch it again. You’ll never tire of it, if you like sharks, triple double crosses, and frenzied malaise.


  2. One of the greats of the genre. Saw this a decade ago, and remembered it fondly. Watched it again yesterday, and man it is just a terrific Noir film. The courtroom scenes are bit wonky, and are sort of out of sync with the tone of rest of the film, but are thankfully brief. And that final fun house/hall of mirrors sequence is just insane, a singular achievement in all of film noir. And of course those immortal final lines of voiceover narration that is just quintessential Noir & gave me chills.


  3. I saw the recent 4K re-master of this film at the Northwest Film Center in Portland with a full audience. It’s surprising how much comedy is present in this film! (I’ve heard the same said of cinema presentations of The Wizard of Oz.) Yes, in some cases the audience would laugh at outdated conventions, but mainly we laughed at truly funny lines, situations, and characters. That said, when the stakes were high, we were silently glued to the screen.

    Unlike many darker, grittier films noir, The Lady From Shanghai delivers a richness that goes well beyond the genre. I generally prefer my wines dry, but I love rich complexity as well.

    As to the 4K master, the technology easily exceeded the resolution of the available film. The film grain came through clearly and naturally. It was great seeing circular and oblong grain, rather than the typically digital square dots or excessive noise reduction. Had they added film gate jitter and a smattering of dust, it would have looked like we were watching an original print in 1948.


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