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Produced in 1952
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
The noir credentials of Macao are as strong as they come - directed by Josef von Sternberg (it was to be his last Hollywood film), it stars two actors forever associated with the genre (Robert Mitchum and Gloria Grahame), and Jane Russell as a femme who may or may not be fatale. Add the exotic setting filled with shady characters and Harry J. Wild's black and white cinematography, capturing every shadow, and it's a wonder the film is not far better known.
Producer Howard Hughes fired von Sternberg late in the film's production, claiming that the plot was not tight enough - indeed, many of the most memorable scenes from the film are there not to enhance the plot, but to delight the audience. The plot is admittedly slightly sprawling, following an on-the-run petty criminal (Mitchum), a nightclub singer (Russell) and an undercover cop (William Bendix) who find themselves in a world of diamond-smuggling and murder in the Chinese region of Macao. Nicholas Ray was brought in to tidy the film up (probably to the film's benefit), yet the scenes that are unmistakably by von Sternberg - no one else films sultry exotica in the same way - add real punch to the movie.
Hughes' obsession with Jane Russell is well documented, and she is allowed to play to her considerable strengths here. Although she had noir pedigree (she had starred, again with Mitchum, in His Kind of Woman), she was best known as a musical comedian, an asset which, perhaps surprisingly, adds much to the fun. She spits out her witty retorts with relish (when offered her salary two months in advance she replies, 'This is one time I won't say no') and has a couple of show-stopping songs. Mitchum adds a lighter touch to his customary grizzled anti-hero, while Grahame, in a key supporting role, excels, lurking seductively in the shadows. At times the film bears the emblems of a superior James Bond film – tense casino scenes, sassy women, a criminal mastermind, scenes of action and adventure and, best of all, a tongue-in-cheek style that never forgets the fun. Sunday afternoons were made for Macao.
Alex Davidson on 28th March 2012
Author of 232 reviews
'A sultry chanteuse, a hunk on the lam and a fortune in stolen gems.'
Mitchum plays a penniless American on the run who pitches up in Macao, where he is mistaken for cop William Bendix by an underworld boss Brad Dexter. Meanwhile the real detective uses Mitchum as a decoy to lure Dexter out of the safety of the colony. Mitchum and Russell have a fine chemistry as the leads in this melodramatic thriller, which was heavily re-shot by an uncredited Nicholas Ray.
Publisher: Odeon Entertainment
Length: 81 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 26th March 2012
Cat No: ODNF299
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