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Though not the greatest film by a long shot, the earnestness in bringing to the foreground the nasty underbelly of the black market in post-war Asia is a major redeeming value of "Intrigue." That innocent people starved while criminals prospered is a fact, and still occurs, unfortunately.
The story is told through the plot line of an American ex-military pilot in Shanghai. Brad Dunham (George Raft) along with three other flyers during World War II were court martialed and kicked out, accused of black market activity. The unjust shame has taken its toll, and Brad's three friends have died, including one by suicide. Brad himself now hangs out in Shanghai and has adapted to his infamy by turning to trade of which he was accused - smuggling. Meanwhile, his journalist pal Marc Andrews (Tom Tully) and the sister (Helena Carter) of one of the dead pilots are seeking to find the truth.
Andrews' bigger story, of course, is the depth of damage done by the black market in China. Little does he know that Brad has joined forces with the dishy boss (June Havoc) of the main smuggling ring. Meanwhile Brad becomes exposed to that dark side by visiting children at an orphanage and seeing the homeless, starving people in the streets. Brad's better side does not have to fight very hard to gain the upper hand, but the challenge is to make right out his wrongs.
The direction is rarely inspired. Though there are a few nice bits of dialogue, the writing has an unfortunate trend toward the precious. Raft's relationship with either woman is not all that interesting. (There seems more reality in his male relationships and his interaction with the children.) It would have been a big improvement had the music in general been more honest to the setting. And yes, there is some stereotype in the Chinese-ness, but it is not the insulting subservience we see so much of in the Hollywood of the day. Plus we are briefly blessed by the presence of Peter Chong as a courageous editor.
Tully has the most passionate role as the voice of justice and social responsibility, and he's very good. It's a rather idealized picture of a journalist, but that's what people really want to see, not some boozing sellout. Raft, too, when free from the film noir elements, is earnest in the real theme of the picture. It's those film noir elements that seem to stiffen him and make the action implausible.
Still, the main subject of the film gives it human importance.
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