Many passengers on the Shanghai Express are more concerned that the notorious Shanghai Lil is on board than the fact that a civil war is going on that may make the trip take more than three... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Anna May Wong
The story takes place in Milwaukee during the early 1900s with a bank clerk named August Schiller who is happy with both his job and his family. He is tasked with transporting $1,000 in ... See full summary »
Two American soldiers are captured by the Germans on the Western Front during World War One and escape a POW camp only to stumble into further life-threatening adventures when they come across an Arabian king's daughter while on the lam.
'Nobody helps me -- I help them!' boasts open-handed gangster Bull Weed, handing over what will prove to be the best investment in his high-spending career: a thousand dollars that will put the literate 'Rolls Royce' of vagrants back on his feet. Living it up in the Twenties with the aid of cool but smouldering moll Feathers, the Bull lords it over the law and his rivals alike -- specifically big Buck Mulligan, whose floral-tributes business echoes that of a certain real-life Chicago gangster... Yet Feathers, prize possession and object of envy, proves his weak point; and in the end, Bull Weed will indeed come to need help from others, and more than he has ever needed it before. But can Rolls Royce and Feathers still give it to him? And will the Bull accept? Written by
Ben Hecht's original story won an Oscar the first year of the Academy's existence and it deserved it. The film should have garnered additional noms for Von Sternberg's direction, screenplay and cinematography. All are top of the line.
The story has been copied many times - gang leader rehabilitates down and out highly intelligent former lawyer (who is on the skids) and latter becomes brains of his operation, falls for his girl, but both are too noble to betray their friend. However, the friend gets wind and gets jealous resulting in an ultimate showdown.
The superlative, tight direction of Von Sternberg and the very atmospheric cinematography (heavy use of revealing close-ups and soft focus) along with the adult script make this one of the best gangster films you'll ever see.
It has always puzzled me why another gangster film that year, THE RACKET, earned an Oscar nom for best film while a true original like UNDERWORLD did not get nominated for the top honor.
This is one very worth seeking out - an excellent late silent.
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