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The Lady from Shanghai

The Lady from Shanghai (1948)



Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 43
Fresh: 37 | Rotten: 6

Energetic and inventive, The Lady from Shanghai overcomes its script deficiencies with some of Orson Welles' brilliantly conceived set pieces.


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 2

Energetic and inventive, The Lady from Shanghai overcomes its script deficiencies with some of Orson Welles' brilliantly conceived set pieces.



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 8,319

My Rating

Movie Info

The Lady From Shanghai, a complex, involving puzzle-within-a-puzzle mystery story, is a showcase for Orson Welles, showing his singular talents and sensibilities as few other films have. The story is superficially simple: a seaman Michael O'Hara (Welles) is hired as a crew member on the yacht of the wealthy Banister (Everett Sloane). His beautiful but mysterious wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) has met O'Hara earlier, when he saved her from a mugging. What ensues is a complicated and bizarre pattern of


Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics

Orson Welles

Oct 3, 2000

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All Critics (43) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (6) | DVD (12)

A magnificent mess of switchbacks and revelations, climaxing with one of cinema's most outrageously inventive sequences.

July 23, 2014 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The climax, a shootout in a funhouse hall of mirrors, is one of the bravura sequences in all film, a triumph of hey-look-at-me form over just-the-facts content.

February 20, 2014 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Be warned: This is a film that collects obsessives.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For all the violations it suffered, The Lady From Shanghai seems strangely coherent in its extant form -- or rather, coherently incoherent, and in a way that seems quite deliberate.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Welles and Hayworth were married at the time; he gives her closeups of unmatched rapture even while allegorizing his own fate as a free spirit caught in the trap of Hollywood's delusional pleasure dome.

January 27, 2014 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Script is wordy and full of holes which need the plug of taut story telling and more forthright action.

February 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The storyline is almost incidental to the disorientating inventiveness of The Lady from Shanghai.

July 25, 2014 Full Review Source: Electric Sheep
Electric Sheep

The film is as tangled and ingenious as any of Welles's conjuring tricks. The shoot-out in the hall of mirrors is the most famous sequence, but there are other moments just as memorable.

July 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Independent

It has an irresistible energy.

July 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Guardian

The plot's pleasingly convoluted, the performances amusingly varied, the mood sinisterly sustained. But the set-pieces are the work of a genius.

July 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Time proves this to be insanely ambitious and batty in the best sense.

July 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

The hall-of-mirrors shootout finale is a canonic classic.

July 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Welles' dazzling direction more than makes up for any lack of viewer understanding.

July 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

It derives its tension from its almost pointed meaninglessness, which would appear to be a subterfuge for a personal expression that's never quite achieved.

January 26, 2014 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Given Welles's reputation as an embattled genius and the fact that much of Shanghai is superb, this is a film you really want to like. And one might, were Welles's performance not so wretched.

February 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Film4 | Comment (1)

Though the plot is impossible to follow, there are many glimpses of Welles' signature atmosphere-making.

February 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

... looms as the pivotal work of Welles's career, one of the greatest glories of the American cinema, and undoubtedly the trashiest masterpiece in motion picture history.

February 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Parallax View
Parallax View

One of Orson Welles' best films, this highlight of 1940s film noir stars Rita Hayworth at her most desirable. French director Francois Truffaut said it best: The raison d'etre for this work is "cinema itself"--the climactic mirror sequence is a stunner

February 14, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Audience Reviews for The Lady from Shanghai

Orson Welles stars in and directs this tale of sharks in the water, cannibalizing one another in a bloody frenzy. Actually, the sharks are human in nature and Michael (Welles) or "Black Irish" as he is also known, is stuck observing them in all their horrific glory. When Michael defends a beautiful blonde (Rita Hayworth) from being mugged in the park, she gets her wealthy husband, famed lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane) to hire him to work on their yacht. While Bannister at first glance appears to be a bit of a milquetoast, as things progress, we see he's more conniving than he appears. "You're quite a tough guy" he says of Black Irish, who's pretty good with his fists, but as we find out, Bannister's bank role makes him a "tough guy" too. Things are very convenient for Michael on this yacht, the husband seemingly turns a blind eye to the flirtations of his wife with the new ships hand. When Bannister's partner arrives to join the vacationers, he propositions Michael with some sort of "foolproof" insurance scam that seems anything but. Director Orson Welles develops a taught little noir here, but it's nothing extraordinary to get worked up about. Everett Sloane gives a great performance, but the whole thing doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
May 16, 2012
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

Even thoug hthis film came out several decades before it, I can't help but compare this movie to Fargo to an extent. This might be a more pure film noir than that one, but they both are very similar in their dealings with an average guy caught up in a scheme that can't possibly go in any direction but a bad one. They're both complex twisty turny mystery films made by great directors with great sense of style and visuals, but for me, as solid of a film as this is, I think that Fargo is my winner.

This is still a top notch film though. It's not as legendary or brilliant as Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil, but this is definitely the bronze medal winner among those two, and, considering those two films, being in 3rd isn't too shabby at all.

Michael O'Hara is a guy with a tainted background and has experience with nautical related thigns, He goes to work for a guy and his wife, and, not only does he fall for the lady, he gets caught up in a shady murder plot involving the husband. Plot twists abound, and this was easier to follow than most similar type of films, but I feel like the script could have been more clear and polished.

And, being Welles, this film looks fantastic and has some brilliant images and cinematography, with the absolute highlight being the surreal climactic shooutout in a hall of mirrors maze at an amusement park. That sequence alone is the main elling point for why this movie should be seen. However, for the scene to have the most impact you do need to watch the rest of it.

Doing that last bit isn't a problem, but if you've seen Welles before ,you know that you really have to be in the right mindset to enjoy his work, since he, like LKubrick, was one of those brilliant, but very polarizing filmmakers who might have been perhaps a bit too headtrong in their vision.

The performances are fine though, and it cracks me up that this film caused controversy since Welles convinced Rita Hayworth to not only cut her fiery red hair short, but to dye it blonde as well.

All in all, a decent, though not perfect film noir mystery thriller.
May 6, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

.This is an excellent Orson Wells film with a beautiful Rita Hayworth, actress of the by gone era will never be matched by the female movie starts of today. They are just candles in the wind. This movie has so many twist and turns which will keep you guessing throughout the film, Orson plays the rich mans aid who falls in love with the rich mans wife, is she in love with him or leading him to a death trap, only you watching the film will the answer be found. Nothing short of 5 stars. 4-5-12
April 11, 2012
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

Welles can do no wrong!
August 1, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Michael O'Hara: One who follows his nature, keeps his original nature in the end.
    – Submitted by Kate S (3 years ago)
View all quotes (1)

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