Shanghai Express #MovieReview

Film 294 in the ‘1001 films to see before you die’ challenge is 1932’s “Shanghai Express”. Directed by Josef von Sternberg and based on Harry Hervey’s novel of the same name, this romantic adventure drama is about a woman who rediscovers a former lover during a dangerous train ride to Shanghai. Well… This film was rubbish. And for a film that’s only 78 minutes long, it really started to drag halfway through. If there’s one thing I will remember about the film it’s the amount of racism and sexism. Especially by Dr Carmichael. First he refuses to share a cabin with a Chinese woman then calls Lilly the equivalent of a gold digger. Also, is Dietrich’s character name Lilly or Madeline? I only ask because this film liked to flip flop between the two. Speaking of Dietrich, I wasn’t overly impressed with her in this film. She was just there wearing outfits with far too many feathers on them. Also, I had no idea what was going on during the ‘Mr Chan takes everyone hostage so he can get one of his soldiers back’ scene. Nothing made sense throughout and no one explained why this was happening. Overall, I thought this film was boring and wouldn’t recommend it. When this film was released, Mordaunt Hall from The New York Times had this to say about the film, ‘It is an exciting ride they take in Shanghai Express… by all odds the best picture Josef von Sternberg has directed”. Fun Fact of the Film – China initially banned the film and demanded its withdrawal from worldwide circulation. If you have seen this film then let me know what you thought of it in the comments. Here is what I had to say while watching 1932’s “Shanghai Express”.
Film – Shanghai Express
Year – 1932
Director – Josef von Sternberg
Written by – Jules Furthman, Harry Hervey
Staring – Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong
IMDb Rating – 7.5/10
My Rating – 3/10
Length – 78 min  (1h 18min)
Genre – Adventure, Drama, Romance


They have American Dollars in China back in the early 30’s?

What train station allows cars to drive onto the platform?

It wouldn’t be a Dietrich film if she wasn’t covered in feathers

This man is racist – He refuses to share a cabin with a Chinese woman

She lied! She said she had no pets in her basket!

And it didn’t take long for security to take her dog away

Hello stranger! I’m a betting man

Don’t you hate it when the person in same cabin as you won’t let you open a window?

What train company allows trains to drive through crowded streets

NATIONAL RAIL ANNOUNCEMENT – The 12:45 service to Shanghai has been delayed due to a cow on the tracks.

Two ex-lovers reunite after 5 years away

11 minutes in and I now know Dietrich’s name – It’s Shanghai Lilly… or Madeline


What cabin allows people to play record players on full blast in first class?

Wait… They have Yorkshire Puddings in Shanghai?!? I have more of a reason to go now

This old woman has done nothing but cause trouble

Not only is this man racist but he also hates women

Hello Carmichael… racist sexist bastard

Now he’s accusing Lilly of being a gold digger – So that’s who Kanye West was singing about

Time for dinner

Turns out everyone needs to get off for security and passport checks

Why is everyone in this film racist

So… You can get away with having bribes instead of passports in China?

So… They took everyone off so they could arrest one person

And we’re off again

This is a very long telegraph that made no sense

Excuse me while I force myself on you for the night

Again more racism

How fury is that coat?

28 minutes in and I don’t really know a whole lot about the plot apart from we’re on a train to Shanghai

The two ex-lovers take forever to kiss and decide to love each other again

How the hell did she get a telegraph on a moving train?

Time for a quick break to refuel on coal and water

Erm… Why are soldiers shooting at the train? And why does Mr Chan seem to be behind this attack?

And now these rebels are asking questions and reveal that Mr Chan is behind all of this

Wait… Mr Chan has a $20,000 bounty on him?!

Now Mr Chan has ordered the German who complains about everything to be branded

Now it’s Lilly’s turn…. to help translate for a Frenchman

Is there any reason for Mr Chan doing all of this? They haven’t given me one yet

Now they tell us. Turns out the man arrested earlier was Mr Chan’s officer and wants a ransom to get him released – Bit of a long winded way to get a ransom

So… They’ve made the Doctor stay behind while everyone else goes back on the train

Even the British Legion have no idea what’s happening

Wait… Why is Lilly staying behind? And why is she being treated with royalty?

And the Dr has just punched Mr Chan for touching Lilly

Well… If I can’t have one woman… I’ll try my luck with another one

It’s 6am and another train is arriving with the prisoner who’s now been released

Eventually everyone boards and leaves on the train to Shanghai…. Finally! Took long enough

And now for more racism and sexism

Carmichael confronts Lilly about praying

FINALLY!!! We’re in Shanghai!

Erm… Why is everyone saying bye to Lilly?

That headgear she’s wearing – It looks like a swimming cap taped together with feathers

Fancy one last kiss? Ok then



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