33 user 23 critic

Shanghai Surprise (1986)

Shanghai, 1938: A missionary/Madonna hires a man/S.Penn to help her find 1100 lbs. opium lost, as wounded need the morphine. Chemistry?


Jim Goddard


John Kohn (screenplay), Robert Bentley (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

On Disc

at Amazon

1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Sean Penn ... Glendon Wasey
Madonna ... Gloria Tatlock
Paul Freeman ... Walter Faraday
Richard Griffiths ... Willie Tuttle
Philip Sayer Philip Sayer ... Justin Kronk
Clyde Kusatsu ... Joe Go
Kay Tong Lim Kay Tong Lim ... Mei Gan
Sonserai Lee Sonserai Lee ... China Doll
Victor Wong ... Ho Chong
Professor Toru Tanaka ... Yamagani San
Michael Aldridge ... Mr. Burns
Sarah Lam ... China Doll's Maid
George She George She ... Wu Ch'En She
Won Gam Bor Won Gam Bor ... Rickshaw King
To Chee Kan To Chee Kan ... China Doll's Boatman


Glendon Wasey is a fortune hunter looking for a fast track out of China. Gloria Tatlock is a missionary nurse seeking the curing powers of opium for her patients. Fate sets them on a hectic, exotic, and even romantic quest for stolen drugs. But they are up against every thug and smuggler in Shangai. Written by Mehmet Karaca <mkaraca@ibm.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A romantic adventure for the dangerous at heart.


PG-13 | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Handmade Films Website





Release Date:

29 August 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Aventuras en Shanghai See more »

Filming Locations:

Hong Kong, China See more »


Box Office


$17,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$719,885, 1 September 1986, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Apparently, after principal photography wrapped, executive producer George Harrison allegedly said of lead stars Madonna and Sean Penn: "Penn is a pain the ass . . . [whilst] she has to realize that you can be a fabulous person and be humble as well". See more »


During the bathhouse scene Justin tells Glendon that the Chinese use tomato juice to remove the stench of skunks. Of course there are no skunks in China. Skunks live only in North America. See more »


[first title card]
Title Card: Shanghai 1937
Title Card: The Year of the Japanese Occupation
See more »


Featured in Cinemadonna: Dick Tracy (2014) See more »


Music by George Harrison & Jeff Lynne
Arranged by John Du Prez
Performed by The Gaslight Orchestra
Courtesy of Dark Horse Records & Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

25 years later: it's mellowed with age
31 July 2011 | by Eric-1226See all my reviews

The thought struck me recently that this movie was unfavorably received by critics and audiences alike at the time of its release (1986) because of the celebrity status of the two leading stars - Madonna and Sean Penn. But, if you watch the movie today, some twenty five years later, and if you are able to put the hype and the celebrity status of those two stars out of your mind, then, the movie doesn't seem so bad. In fact, it's actually a pretty good escapist adventure romp along the lines of an Indiana Jones movie.

I watched this movie for the first time just recently, as I was scared away from viewing it all those many years prior, simply because of all the negative hype surrounding it - the hype that said it was a real stinker. But I actually found it to be a pretty engrossing story, with a nicely done cinematography that oozed a colorful, exotic, sometimes even enchanting Oriental atmosphere that was hard to dismiss. Some of the shots, as filmed, were... beautiful! So don't let 1980's critics scare you away: this movie is worth a shot, and if you can mentally distill the two leads down to just being a guy and a girl from 1930's America thrust into an adventure escapade set in a faraway exotic locale, then you just might enjoy this movie for what it was meant to be: pure escapist entertainment.

Not perfect, but then again, NOT the stinker it has been made out to be.

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