Young Princess Sophia of Germany is taken to Russia to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter, son of the Empress. The domineering Empress hopes to improve the royal blood line. Sophia doesn't... See full summary »
Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone. The backdrop is SternbergÍs surreal and fantastic Carnaval in Spain. In ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Edward Everett Horton
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 days. The British Army doctor, Donald Harvey, knew Lil before she became a famous "coaster." A fellow passenger defines a coaster as "a woman who lives by her wits along the China coast." When Chinese guerillas stop the train, Dr. Harvey is selected as the hostage. Lil saves him, but can she make him believe that she really hasn't changed from the woman he loved five years before? Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It was von Sternberg's intention that the style of the film should reflect the rhythm of a train journey. This explains the film's tight pace and the rather staccato quality of the dialog. See more »
The film is set in northern China (Peking to Shanghai). The government and warlord soldiers are speaking Taishanese, which is a southern Chinese dialect not generally spoken in northern China. The northern dialects of Mandarin Chinese (a Beijing dialect) and/or Shanghainese would be spoken instead. See more »
Please refrain from further bashing of Clive Brook
Certainly one of the greatest films yet made (even I still have hope there will be more!), not least for the beautifully restrained performance of Clive Brook. Apparently the depiction of nobility and restraint is lost on modern audiences. Not a surprise, since these qualities seem to be almost entirely lost to modern society! OK, off the soapbox. This is one of the most moving stories ever depicted on film (compare, too, with Nicholas Ray's "In a Lonely Place," which tells a similar tale of misunderstandings that destroy a deep love -- without the happy ending that is so welcome in "Shanghai Express.") All the supporting players brilliantly portray their variously flawed characters, and the direction is simply breathtaking. Note, for instance, the multi-layered dissolves in the opening sequence. A stunning film -- I think it the best of the seven magnificent Sternberg-Dietrich collaborations. (This is the fourth, and, perhaps significantly, it was made after Sternberg took a break from Dietrich with his "American Tragedy." Did Sternberg realize how much he missed having her... and was he inspired beyond all measure? So it would seem. This and the succeeding three films, "Blonde Venus," "The Scarlet Empress," and "The Devil is a Woman" make anything else from the period -- from any period -- pale by comparison.)
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