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The Lady From Shanghai – Blu-ray Review

What is the typical film noir? It’s not necessarily a genre, it’s more of a style. After watching a few movies like Gun Crazy, Out of the Past or even this film, that should become immediately apparent. Although they do share similar pulp elements, there’s also something unique about each movie that sets them apart …

Review Overview

Packaging Quality - 9
Audio Quality - 9
Image Quality - 8
Artwork Quality - 8

8.5

Summary : This release may even be better than any other previous version of the film, although it isn't quite perfect.

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9

What is the typical film noir? It’s not necessarily a genre, it’s more of a style. After watching a few movies like Gun Crazy, Out of the Past or even this film, that should become immediately apparent. Although they do share similar pulp elements, there’s also something unique about each movie that sets them apart from the average private detective tale.

In the case of The Lady From Shanghai, the story is unique in that it features a main character who does not represent the law in any way and ends up travelling on a yacht at the behest of a woman in red. He isn’t interested in money or even the carnal pleasures that our typical schmuck cares about – he only wants to win the girl.

That’s what makes this film noir so great: it breaks away from convention in all the right ways and even manages to sneak in a few powerful jabs at the establishment. The pulp has always had an interesting relationship with its wealthy characters, portraying them as people who only want to play with the lives of the common man, but there’s something particularly magnificent about the way that all works out in this film.

Maybe I'll live so long that I'll forget her. Maybe I'll die trying.

Maybe I’ll live so long that I’ll forget her. Maybe I’ll die trying.

Perhaps it’s just the way that Orson Welles plays with a camera like it was the toy he asked for and received on Christmas day, or maybe it’s just the fact that he portrays a schmoe who doesn’t follow or pretend to understand the rules set for him.

Whatever the case may be, this film is made unique both by its differences from the average noir and the loving respect that it pays to the visual style. At the same time that we are being told a story that doesn’t entirely fit the role of typical pulp, we also see some of the most fantastic examples of the dark and mysterious artistic vision that have ever graced the silver screen.

Whether we’re looking at the cracked and broken remains of two men as reflected by the light shining through a busted windshield, or the trip through a funhouse which immediately brings to mind certain scenes from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, it’s clear that both Welles and his cinematographer knew exactly what they were doing.

To put it as bluntly as possible, this classic film is an absolute must see. If you’re a fan of film noir and you haven’t yet seen The Lady From Shanghai, you owe it to yourself to pick this up immediately. Although it has been available previously on DVD (and apparently on blu-ray from TCM), one has to wonder why you would bother with weaker earlier prints when this blu-ray is so much nicer.

You could feel the lust of murder like a wind stinging your eyes, and you could smell the death reeking up out of the sea.

You could feel the lust of murder like a wind stinging your eyes, and you could smell the death reeking up out of the sea.

Granted, there does appear to be some DNR applied throughout and it isn’t quite as nice as Mill Creek’s release of The Wild One, but it’s still the best that this movie has ever looked (and possibly will ever look) on home video. This may not be the criterion level release that the film deserves, but it is at least a much more respectful release than we might have received had Sony simply held onto the rights.

In addition to the more than serviceable transfer, this blu-ray also includes excellent artwork on both the cover and the back, with an image from one of the most notable moments in the film displayed across the inner jacket. Aside from a small ad for Mill Creek’s website on the disc, this is an absolutely beautiful release of The Lady From Shanghai on blu-ray. It may be missing a few special features, but that’s sadly to be expected at this point.

Even without the extras that many have become accustomed to from other studios, this blu-ray is something that any film buff would be proud to own. At an MSRP of roughly $15 (and already being sold for much less via pre-order), the movie is more than affordable for most viewers. Considering just how beautiful the film is and how notable and important it is to film history, these prices are an absolute steal.

If you’re a film noir aficionado, do yourself a favor and put this on your wish list immediately. The Lady From Shanghai is a film that deserves to be seen in the most pristine quality possible. Even if you’re not a fan of the noir movement, the incredible camera work and cinematography on display here is worth more than a few looks, and the transfer provided on this blu-ray will make repeated viewings an absolute treat.

About Stoudman

Who is Stoudman? Well, his real name is Justin Wren. Justin has been writing reviews and articles about film, television and video games for several years. While majoring in English at Portland State University, he minored in film studies. With an extensive understanding of film history and production, Justin often includes at least a bit of film theory in his reviews. Justin got his start writing for MovieCynics.com, but has since gone on to produce articles for TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles.com and TVStoreOnline.com. He is the owner of G33k-e.com and presides over the editing of all content produced for the site in addition to producing his own content.

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