1948, TSPDT Rank #403
This post contains material written for the Internet Film Club.
If The Stranger was Welles' "conventional" take on film noir, then The Lady from Shanghai is his decidedly "unconventional" take on it. And the results are stunning. The plot doesn't make much sense, and those attempting to get a "good story" here will be confused and disappointed. What it is is a fractured near-masterpiece, a raving fever dream. It's strikingly filmed, with a sweaty, imposing, and somehow strangely beautiful feel to it. Rita Hayworth is ravishing here - she lights up the screen like a cigarette and lets it smolder slowly. The ending climactic hall of mirrors sequence completely outranks even the great final scene of The Stranger as a sheer explosion of furiously edited violence. It is a fitting conclusion to all that comes before. I think I heard that Lady from Shanghai was originally quite a bit longer, and was ordered to be cut down by the studio. This would make quite a bit of sense, because the film never really comes together as a whole, just as a series of somewhat related sequences, filled with crackling dialogue. It could have worked as a longer film, but it works well this way too. And I haven't seen Mr. Arkadin yet, but I think The Lady from Shanghai may be our purest glance at a "Wellesian film noir".