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Gambling Hell (1942)

Macao, l'enfer du jeu (original title)


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Credited cast:
Ying Tchaï
Mireille Balin ...
Werner von Krall (as Eric von Stroheim)
Louise Carletti ...
Jim Gérald ...
Un matelot
Marie Lorain ...
Mademoiselle Marguenon
Alexandre Mihalesco ...
Yassouda (as Mihalesco)
Etienne Decroux ...
Un autre matelot (as Decroux)
Tsugundo Maki ...
Le secrétaire de Ying Tchaï (as Maki)
Georges Lannes ...
Le capitaine
Roland Toutain ...
Pierre Milley
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Pierre Renoir ...
Werner von Krall (1942 version only)


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Adventure | Drama


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Release Date:

30 August 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gambling Hell  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filmed in 1939 as "Macao, l'enfer du jeu" with Erich von Stroheim but released in 1942 as "L'enfer du jeu" WITHOUT von Stroheim. His films were banned in all German-occupied countries, so Delannoy, the director, could not release the film. Instead of shelving it, all scenes with von Stroheim were reshot with Pierre Renoir. The von Stroheim version was rereleased in 1945. See more »

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User Reviews

Macao - graveyard of hearts
7 February 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Around the same time von Sternberg was making The Shanghai Gesture, Delannoy was making Macao – enfer de jeu (gambler's hell). The two bear more than a passing resemblance, Orientalist concoctions where central ruthless characters are tasked by affection for their only children and a gambling hall predominates. At the highs in this movie, Delannoy outdoes von Sternberg at his own game, particularly with the ludicrous arrival of Mireille (played by Mireille Balin), so erotic, and world-sure. However, there's something of the Rubens where the master paints the face and hands, leaving the rest down to his studio. Delannoy's heart definitely wasn't in the action scenes, and he's palpably unable to create suspense or a lurid atmosphere. Roland Toutain (journalist Pierre Milley) looks positively bored at one point when he hides behind a door, bottle raised to strike. For all that, the film is glorious.

There's a sort of devil-may-care attitude from the main characters where they treat death as if he were a very impudent child. The chaste central love story between Erich von Stroheim's adventurer, and Mireille, decades his junior, adventurer in her own way, manages to pull my heart strings. There's a sensitivity in Erich von Stroheim's face that prickles my skin, Mireille is no less convincing. It was mentioned to me once that great actors are the ones who carry on acting even when it's not their line, reacting to the dialogue of the others. Mireille Balin manages a rare look, she listens as if she cares what she's hearing. In a jaded world, where it appears people succumb only to charm rather than sensitivity and enthusiasm, I found it quite affecting. There's a visible pang when she's watches him lose at baccarat. It's a bad era to be a man I think, and it's nice to see someone care about a man's misfortune.

There's a little flurry of contrasts in one segment of the film, where Delannoy ticks some production box about creating the degenerate atmosphere, two examples are Ying Tchaï staring lovingly at a portrait of his daughter whilst ordering the sinking of fishing vessels that haven't paid their protection money, and Almaido (Henri Guisol) telling those fresh off the boat that Macao is a city of joy, whilst kicking a vagrant out of his way. To me this came off as more a general existential commentary, rather than an evocation of a fleshpot. There's so much sunlight in the film, and the casino is positively airy, nothing like the termite mound of The Shanghai Gesture.

There's quite a few moments in Macao that will haunt me forever, the introduction of Mireille, and when she's taking off quite the most magnificent dress I've ever seen, to a similarly magnificent Georges Auric score. Just those two on there own and von Stroheim's sublime acting make it eternal (Sessue Hayakawa plays a blinder as well, but is upstaged), his line, "I'm less lucky than you, I've always been my only friend." heartbreaking. I couldn't care less that Delannoy basically gave a two-fingered salute to the script idea and makes something a good deal more sensitive. It's why I've renamed the film in my review title, Macao – graveyard of hearts.

As a footnote, Delannoy was high up on the hit-list of the New Wave critics, and his war-time film l'Eternel Retour, filmed under the Occupation was described with much innuendo as, "a pleasure for the Nazis". Because of this he remains a director unfairly overlooked.

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