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Shanghai Express (1932)

 

She's pretty, but too much Glamour, not enough character.
She's pretty, but too much Glamour, not enough character.

Genre: Adventure Drama Romance

Starring: Marlene Dietrich (Stage Fright; Destry Rides Again), Clive Brook (Cavalcade)

Directed By: Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel; The Scarlet Empress)

Overview: During a train trip to Shanghai, civil unrest halts the train, and the passengers are put through a rigorous search by a Chinese General.

Performance:

Common melodrama of the worst kind. Such fakes as to be completely the fault of the era and the direction. It's sad that talkies started like this, or does it uplift the silent era even more?
Rating: 4

Cinematography:

The look? Her outfits are tacky, though given the age, I suppose it's haute-couture. The camera angles were uninspired, and though the soft lighting for Marlene became quite popular, D.W. Griffith was doing it 15 years before. Zero inspiration here, and not much to look at besides Marlene.
Rating: 6

Script:

And you thought the acting was fake? You know those bad 80s movies that are just full of corny lines and witty (but stupid) quips? Exactly. This is the kind of dialogue you would expect written by some brat showing off how they can come up with comebacks, and not even good ones, completely contrived. Good job Marlene, you've become a two-dimensional caricature.
Rating: 3

Plot:

This is the story of a woman who goes around posing and always exhaling her smoke ever so slowly. Oh, she's in love with the doctor, but she gave him up to be a dirty manipulatrice. This moron of a doctor has no sense of empathy. He asks her flat out why she rejects him. She answers in front of her captive, dejected and obviously under duress that she doesn't love him. She stays behind with the General to rescue her love, and he gets all jealous and forlorn, because she does not profess her love to him, while under captivity, under threat of having him blinded if she doesn't lie. A plot hole you could driver a train through... and they do...
Rating: 3

Mood:

What is it with this era and angry malicious Chinese generals? It smacks a touch of racism, but no worries, this is completely overshadowed by a cast of idiots who prefer their witty repartée to their survival instinct and a lead who would rather parade around like a drag-queen model rather than exist. On top of that, super BORING. Fake, fake, fake! Points for having an actual Chinese guy as the Chinese guy, and not some white guy with eyebrow lifts.
Rating: 3

The only character with a brain in this whole film is the Chinese one. Thank God SOMEONE's got balls.
The only character with a brain in this whole film is the Chinese one. Thank God SOMEONE's got balls.

Overall Rating: 38% (Allow Me to Express How I Feel Shanghaied)
Aftertaste:

This is where trannies get their inspiration. I hate it. They can do better. She's not suave, she's not cool, she's stupid. Marlene Dietrich. When I started watching, I was thinking, "Wow, I'm seeing a woman who is WOMAN. An inspiration and a heroine to her gender!" Then it goes on, and on and on, and I wonder what happened to make this poor woman such a sad little object of baseless sexuality. Oh well, baby steps for liberation I guess. At least it's a movie with a female lead. Wanna see a condescending objectification while trying to be empowering? Ugh!

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You forgot about the character played by Anna May Wong, who saved Diedrich's from her lousy fate. I found Wong's character to be a more empowering character for women, because she truly was independent throughout the film. I think you're being far too harsh on Diedrich's character, and I loved the dialog that you consider two-dimensional: it's a good old-school script with great sexual tension. Criticizing the clothes was rather odd: they seemed befitting of a larger-than-life woman like "Shanghai Lily"

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