West of Shanghai (1937)

Passed   |    |  Adventure, Drama, War

West of Shanghai (1937) Poster

Karloff is the Chinese warlord Fang, who holds a group of oilmen and missionaries hostage in a remote Chinese outpost.


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10 May 2020 | silvershadows-09863
| West of Shanghai
A group of Americans are traveling to rural China, where Jill Hallet (Gordon Oliver) plans to tap an oil reserve. One man, (Douglas Wood) has invested in the business and wants to see a return on his investment. Another man (Ricardo Cortez) plans on buying his way into the venture. The area is very volatile, as a rebel bandit, Fang (Boris Karloff), is creating a wave of terror. Even the Chinese military have sent a General to exterminate the bandit. But Fang has anticipated the Chinese military's plan and one of his men murders the General.

The Americans arrive at Hallet's remote village. Fang and his soldiers arrive shortly after and take over the village. We soon learn the Hallet helped out Fang years before. It was an action not forgotten by Fang, who considers Hallet a friend. This buys everyone time, as Fang blatantly romances a missionary (Beverly Roberts).

I saw the trailer before I watched the film and I thought it was going to be a dull movie. I was wrong. Warner Bros. in the 1930's was rarely boring. This is a very low budget film for Warner Bros., yet it maintains the polish and craftsmanship of their more expensive films. The script is just average. There are a couple of plot devices that I thought were weakly played out. Hallet has two women in love with him, but we get none of the backstory on either romance. One of the women is a missionary, who just happens to be married to Ricardo Cortez's character.

To enjoy this film all you have to do is sit back and enjoy Karloff's work. He was a vastly underrated actor. He could easily command a scene and he could bring a film up a notch all on his own. The screenwriter did a nice job on the Fang character. I was expecting a cardboard, manic, ruthless madman. Instead he wrote quite a character. A man who dispatches violence with barely a thought, but also a man with his own, well defined, code of ethics.

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