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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I usually don't include a synopsis of the story in my comments. But I
see that I am the first comment on this film.
An American young woman schoolteacher in rural China is entrusted with half of an amulet by her wounded brother. This amulet has to be delivered to the US in order to allow money to be delivered, changing the direction of the war.
A Russian spymaster is after her, in fact he shot down her brother. Once in Shanghai, she ties up with two men. She marries one as a ploy to get out of the country. Most of the male characters here are Irish-American.
Meanwhile, the local Japanese occupier strongman is also after the amulet. So there are lots of gunfights and near escapes, including a speedboat under a trap door. All this is in the context of lots of war footage: bombings and burning buildings.
The second gent turns out to be an agent who arranges for a happy ending by working a trick with the amulet's hiding place.
All in all, it is rather ordinary fare.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
If you just want to relax and not be challenged by a movie, but not be
bored either, this one is for you. Cheaply made and a little slow at
times, it nonetheless is quite entertaining. James Dunn and Ralph
Morgan are performers who hold your attention. Linda Gray is leaden as
an actress, but she is gorgeous in an offbeat way. Robert Barat is good
as usual. The plot is entertaining enough, although the mcguffin is not
necessarily worth all the to-do.
This was released in 1938. A scene of a city being bombed while our heros try to escape seems lifted from some other movie. It was probably pasted in to give this movie some excitement. However, it also reflected the anxiety people felt in those days about aerial bombardment. As Ralph Morgan says "This is what the next war will look like." And it did.
"Shadows Over Shanghai" is a very strange film, as its plot and timing
is quite odd. It's set during the Japanese invasion of China and takes
a somewhat neutral stance on this aggressive and morally bankrupt war.
The film begins with a Irene Roma (Lynda Grey) waiting for her brother to fly home to the school she runs in China. However, at the last minute, another plane flies by and shoots him down--right in front of the horrified Irene! Fortunately, the brother is not dead and he entrusts a necklace to her--making her promise to get it to San Francisco. She runs from the school and drives to town on her mission--pursued by the evil Saragoza (Robert Barrat). She soon meets up with a nice-guy reporter, Johnny (James Dunn) and he and a new friend (Ralph Morgan*) help Irene escape from not just Sargoza but Japanese agents as well.
This is a very strange film. It appears as if the writers WANTED to do a film that condemned the Japanese for their bloody attacks on China. But, they hedged their bets and never quite took a strong stand--mostly because the US was officially neutral and because, sadly, Americans generally didn't care about what was happening in Asia. Regardless, it's entertaining and worth seeing--even if the end is a bit dissatisfying.
*Ralph was never nearly as famous as his brother, Frank (the Wizard in "The Wizard of Oz"). I never understood this, as Ralph was a really fine actor and deserves to be remembered. And, interestingly, he really does look an awful lot like Frank, though his acting seemed less bombastic and much more subtle.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SHADOWS OVER SHANGHAI is a fast-moving little thriller in which various
parties are trying to get their hands on a valuable amulet. The setting
is China which adds some exoticism to the locations and supporting cast
members. The amulet begins in a plane which is shot down by a ruthless
Russian agent who then tries to retrieve it from a bunch of assorted
British, Russian, and American characters who have no idea what they're
Much of the running time sees the principal characters trying to escape on a Japanese ship whose captain may or may not have honourable intentions. One stand-out scene has them attempting to survive the bombing of a city. The cast is a mixed bunch but the performances are generally professional and there are some funny moments. Certainly the film never outstays its running time.
This must have been a good 'B' picture back in the day, and might have
challenged the main feature as far as entertainment value is concerned.
It held my interest throughout and got off the screen in a neat 65
minutes. It was produced by Grand National Pictures, a short-lived arm
of Warner Bros.Studios in the 30's.
"Shadows Over Shanghai" stars James Dunne, whose best was yet to come in "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" (1944), and who was in the midst of a career crisis due to alcohol problems. Hence, a starring role in an obscure new studio. The film is built around him, a good-natured Irish reporter with a magnetic personality. He latches on to a girl who is in over her head in top-secret espionage between China, Russia and the US. There are equal measures of suspense, humor and escapism and enough excitement to go around (but which did not impress my colleagues above).
This picture is worth your time and is better than many films rated higher. There is good acting support from Ralph Morgan (not the Wizard - his brother) and from Robert Barrat in a villainous role. Also, WWII movie fans will recognize Richard Loo, who played Japanese bad guys in scores of war pictures. Talk about movie villains!
In this Grand National cheapie no one got any closer to Shanghai than
Los Angeles's Chinatown. James Dunn late of the Fox Studios starred as
once again an fast talking Irish American, a kind of Pat O'Brien light
working in Shanghai as a news photographer. A chance meeting on the
street with Linda Gray the daughter of a missionary gets him involved
in all of her troubles which are considerable.
Gray's got troubles all right. She's been entrusted with half an amulet which if presented to the owner of the other half in San Francisco will net her a small fortune that will be used to buy weapons for the Kuomintang government to fight its enemies foreign and domestic. Assisting her is a mutual friend of both Ralph Morgan who suggests that since she was born in China and has no American passport that she and Dunn marry and gain citizenship that way with the automatic exit. It doesn't prove that simple.
For an action hero Dunn doesn't get all that much action, in fact he's reduced to a lot of wisecracks. Morgan does the heavy lifting and he's clever at outwitting Soviet agent Robert Barrat who wants the amulet for nefarious Communist purposes and Japanese top agent Paul Sutton.
Shadow Over Shanghai made with a Gone With The Breeze budget is still reasonably entertaining relying considerably on James Dunn's charming Irish ways.
Irene, a woman living in China watches as her brother is shot down by
an unknown airman. The brother survives but is too weak to continue
with his mission which involves taking part of an amulet to San
Fransisco to get money for the Chinese war effort against the Japanese.
She is warned about the man who shot the brother, a Soviet military man
who wants the money for his own. She is also told to look up a certain
person in Shanghai if she gets into trouble. Once in Shanghai she runs
a fowl of of the villain and escapes thanks to a wounded newspaper
photographer, named McGinty, heading home to America. Linking up with
her brothers friend the trio tries to get out of the city before the
Japanese completely over run it and before the bad guys get them.
Considerably duller than the description makes out (I forgot the villains name and Ralph Morgans as well and I'm not impressed enough to look it up). This is a low budget film that takes into account the then current event of the Japanese Invasion of Shanghai. Despite the use of stock news footage this is a mostly stage bound espionage yarn that substitutes talk for action. Yes its well written, but it lacks any real action until the final reel or two to keep it interesting. The lack of action becomes numbing and I did have to fight to keep awake.
This isn't to say its a bad film, its not,its just a bit too talky for its own good. Lets face it you have to give the film points since the film kept me watching to the end because I had to see how it came out.
Would I recommend it? Well I wouldn't go out of my way to see it but if I found it on I would let it run out its running time. There are worse films and there are better, but in a pinch, on the Late Late Late Movie it would be fine.
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