Macao, Josef von Sternberg (1952)

See, why can’t they do this anymore? A brisk 81 minutes, and every single one of them worth watching. I had not known about this (thanks again, Robert Osborne). It’s a natural companion to von Sternberg’s Shanghai Gesture, which also features a wonderfully decadent Orientalist den-of-iniquity vibe, though clearly its inferior in both style and content. Good lord Jane Russell’s a terrible actor. But she’s got nice chemistry with Mitchum, and there are also ninjas and sampans and corruption and diamonds and knives which emerge from the darkness and flash in the moonlight and the giant spindly shadow of a tumbling basket of lottery numbers cast across the wall and Johnny Mercer songs and Gloria Grahame saying to Mitchum, as she frees him from his captors, by way of explanation, “When you leave town, be sure to take the canary.” Perfect.

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