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
A decorated, aristocratic Czarist General is reduced to penury after the collapse of Imperial Russia. An old adversary, now a successful director hires the general to re-enact the revolution which deposed him. Written by
W. Louis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EMIL JANNINGS -- World's finest dramatic actor in a brilliant successor to "The Way of all Flesh" -- and "Variety." You'll be amazed with Janning's tremendous role of the mighty general!...with men...women...a whole nation at his feet! Through flaming love...adoration...hate! To...! The most terrific climax the screen has ever known!
Based on the life of General Lodijensky, a former general in the Russian army of Czar Nicholas, who fled Russia after the 1917 Communist revolution and wound up in Hollywood, where he worked for a while as a movie extra. See more »
[Demanding Natalie from a revolutionary]
That woman belongs with me. She goes with the coat!
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Marvelous drama about a former Russian General (Emil Jannings) who after the war fled the country and ended up in America where ten years later he's working as an extra in Hollywood. A director (William Powell) is making a movie about that Russian war when he comes across a picture of the former General and recognizes him as the man who threw him in prison years earlier. This here certainly turned out to be something truly special and a lot of the credit has to go to director von Sternberg but we also have Jannings turning in a magnificent performance, which ended up winning him an Oscar. The story also won a Oscar and it's easy to see why because the screenplay pretty much contains ever bit of emotion you could possibly want. There's some nice laughs, a pretty good love story, some political drama and some incredibly tense scenes. What shocked me so much is that it seems like von Sternberg wanted the first twenty-minutes or so to gain sympathy for our main character as we see him obviously destroyed by life and working for peanuts as an extra. When then get the grand flashback to when he was pretty much the ruler of Russia and how his encounter with a woman (Evelyn Brent) pretty much changes the rest of his life. The story is part tragedy but it also works incredibly well as a character study because one can't help but love this guy and feel sorry for the pain he goes through. The "Rosebud" from CITIZEN KANE is perhaps the greatest secret in film history but I think Jannings' nervous head shake has to be the second one. Early on we're told that this head shake is due to some accident and when it's finally revealed what that accident was it comes as a great shock and is an incredibly powerful sequence. The final thirty-minutes of the movie is like an out of control train, which is funny because the majority of the footage takes place on-board a train. As the revolution begins the film starts to pick up energy and drama and it just keeps growing and growing as the thing moves along. It's clear von Sternberg planned it this way because he just keeps pounding the viewer with one twist after another and the suspense just keeps building until that final secret is revealed. The aftermath as the story picks back up in Hollywood is yet another powerful turn and will certainly leave an impact on the viewers. Jannings is marvelous in the main role as he really is playing two characters and he does a terrific job with both of them. I was very moved by his performance as the broken down extra because he tells us everything we need to know the first time we see his face. The eyes can be a very powerful thing for an actor and Jannings tells us so much with the look on his face. The power and emotion in his eyes isn't something they can teach at an acting school and the veteran certainly knows how to use his. Powell's role isn't nearly as flashy but he too is quite good. Brent is even more impressive here than she was in the director's previous film UNDERWORLD. Her character goes through a lot of changes as well and I thought the actress nailed each one of the emotions and manages to have us want to see her dead one second only to then change our opinions on her a split second later. THE LAST COMMAND is certainly one of the most powerful movies from this era with a final thirty-minutes that rank among the best I've ever seen.
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