A young woman, Poppy, out for excitement in Shanghai, enters a gambling house owned by "Mother" Gin Sling, a dragon-lady who worked herself up from poverty to buy the casino. Sir Guy ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg directed, photographed, provides the voice-over narration and wrote the screenplay (from a based-on-actual event novel by Michiro Maruyana translated by Younghill Kang) ... See full summary »
A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Morgan, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl, ... See full summary »
One up front negative: Victor McLaglen as a dashing, adventurous Russian officer is very badly miscast.
This is a World War I Mata Hari genre film with Marlene Dietrich recruited by the Austrian Secret Service to spy for them against the Russians. Like the other Von Sternberg/Dietrich collaborations this is all about visual texture and Marlene's incredible persona (which is very much due to her equally incredible talent). Both come together perfectly in the amazing masked ball scene full, full, full of confetti, long twisted streamers, costumed revelers, and uncurling paper party-horns that you blow through to make a high pitched little squeal.
In one remarkable scene Marlene is hypnotic just saying, "No." "Yes." "Noooo." and "Maybe." In another her dialog is a hilarious and inimatable series of "Meowwws." I don't remember her singing in this one but she plays the piano with abandon. Nevermind the plot, this is a film you watch because it is a great vehicle for one of film's greatest, if not the greatest, stars and because it is great cinema.
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