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Marlene Dietrich and Josef Von Sternberg at their most overlooked
The partnership of actress Marlene Dietrich and director Josef Von Sternberg was a justifiably famous one, and could even be seen as iconic (personally do consider it so). They did seven films together, starting with 1930's 'The Blue Angel' (perhaps the most historically significant) and ending with 1935's 'The Devil is a Woman', all of which ranging from good to outstanding.
'Dishonored', from 1931, is not their best collaboration, personally put 1932's 'Shanghai Express' and 1934's 'The Scarlet Empress' above it. Nor is it their weakest, to me the uneven but still good 'Blonde Venus' from 1932. Of their collaborations, of which this is their third, 'Dishonored' is perhaps their most overlooked, while it does have its drawbacks (well, two big ones) it's still a fine film with a lot to admire.
It is let down by two things. 'Dishonored' does contain some of the weakest writing of any of the Dietrich/Sternberg films, there is some witty spark here and there but other parts are distractingly sluggish and melodramatic with a cornball tone that can get annoying and repetitive too.
Am also of the opinion that Victor McLaglen is unconvincing, the role calls for a more restrained nature compared to his usual roles but McLaglen's performance is far from that, he's too bland for a love interest while mostly his performance feels very odd tonally, with the idiotic constant grin amongst other things McLaglen was like some over-enthusiastic overgrown child or something.
However, cannot fault Dietrich at all here. She is positively luminous in her erotic sensuality, and not only is she fun to watch she also gives a vulnerability that helps the character come over as compellingly real. Nor can one fault the terrific performance of Warner Orland, or Sternberg's as ever accomplished direction that boasts many striking images visually and a way of telling the story that the film remains engaging throughout, script flaws aside.
One can always count on a Sternberg film to be visually beautiful, and 'Dishonored' does not disappoint. Not just the striking use of light and shadow lighting and the sumptuous settings and costuming but especially the cinematography, which is often enough to take the breath away. The music score is stirring yet not intrusive.
Cannot not mention the climactic execution either. A scene that stays with the viewer forever with its emotional impact and gut wrenching power, openly admit to crying here the most for any film in a while. The story is absorbing and goes at a cracking pace on the most part, with the odd bump when the dialogue gets stuck.
In conclusion, a fine overlooked film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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