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  • Attention All Fans Of Boris Karloff: if you have not yet watched this delightful Boris performance, you are missing a real treat! Sporting an effective Asian makeup, Karloff portrays robber General Wu Yen Fang, a dangerous tyrant in northern China with an endearing sense of humor. Fang seizes command and holds several visiting Americans prisoners, and it's a real pleasure watching the colorful general toying with them. Among the cast members is Ricardo Cortez, but the one to watch and who steals the show is Karloff himself. I would easily rank this role among his best ever; he played Asian parts a few times in his career, but this is the only time he's ever sold me completely on such a character, speaking in broken English and managing to disguise most of his own British accent here. Some of the most humorous scenes involve Fang's charming communication through his always-present trusty interpreter, trying to understand and shoot back some common Americanisms. In no time, Karloff makes us actually like and feel for this murderous criminal. At the time this movie was made, the production of the usual horror movies which Boris Karloff was so well known for were temporarily halted. I think that WEST OF SHANGHAI proves beyond a shadow of any doubt that Boris had no problem holding his own in non-scary character parts and would have gone on to succeed in other dramatic roles, had the ban on horror movies not ultimately been lifted. *** out of ****
  • Have seen this film on Turner for the first time....Karloff and a delightful script marks my contention that Mr. Karloff is an underrated actor...he is whimsical as well as threatening as the officious Chinese General and has prompted me to search and buy this wonderful film. Oh,such a sad season of the Politically-correct..they'd never let Dear Boris film this today and more is the pity! The rest of the cast is pedestrian,but "Dear Boris" is worth the price of admission! His noble ending is worth the wait,but delight in his early exchange with his captors..I have a feeling that Mr. Karloff had a fun time in some of this making of the film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Fans of Boris Karloff should enjoy this B feature not because it is a great example of 1930's horror, but because it isn't. Made at a time when Hollywood had set a self-imposed moratorium on monster movies, "West of Shanghai" proves that Karloff could survive as a character star, delivering a well-conceived interpretation of a likable but mercenary Chinese warlord. He is a joy to watch, engaging his American captives in sardonic broken English, doling out his own brand of makeshift justice, and, at least in his own mind, exercising nobility as he faces execution. The rest of the cast is standard, except for Ricardo Cortez, who registers very well (as he did in Karloff's "The Walking Dead") as an attractive, well-polished heel. Director John Farrow sets a crisp pace and doesn't allow the film to drag. "West of Shanghai" may not be one of the best Karloff films, but his presence certainly makes it more than noteworthy.
  • With me it has become a bit of a clich√© to say that Boris Karloff is reason enough to see anything, even if the film is not that good(ie. The Invisible Menace). But I do genuinely mean that, he is a very magnetic actor who has the ability to show more than one side to his character in any film and do it well. He is great here as Fang, his accent is not the best but you forgive that immediately when he does sympathetic, humour and threatening with such aplomb with no overdoing or underplaying. His make-up and use of broken English is also very effective and just adds to the performance and character. Ricardo Cortez is appealing and works very well with him, but the rest of the cast do the job solidly enough but with not the command that Karloff shows and with not the perfectly pitched chemistry he and Cortez share(that with Richard Loo's Cheng is good too). It is a good-looking film, and has some funny dialogue exchanges, for example "What are they going to do with him"/"they're going to bury him", that make up for the moments where it does get a little too talky. The story moves crisply and maintains interest with a somewhat movingly dignified ending. I did wish that the length was longer though, 64 minutes does seem too short to me, but the film doesn't rush through or feel like the story is too thin to sustain the duration(the latter being a major problem with The Invisible Menace). To conclude, an enjoyable film and Karloff is great, a longer length, a stronger supporting cast and a little less talk(sometimes that is) would've made it even better perhaps though. 7/10 Bethany Cox
  • Excellent movie directed by John Farrow,(Mia Farrow's father) and involves American promoters Myron Galt(Douglas Wood) and Gordon Creed(Ricardo Cortez) who arrive in a village where bandit's are infested throughout the country side of northern China. They plan to foreclose on a valuable oil concession owned by Jim Hallet(Gordon Oliver). However, Creed finds his estranged wife, Jane (Beverly Roberts), a medical missionary, is falling in love with Hallet. He will not give her a divorce, in the meantime an army of bandits looking for money and possessions are lead by their renegade general,Wu Yen Fang(Boris Karloff), he takes over the entire city and uses the Christian Mission as a headquarters. Americans and missionaries find themselves prisoners of Boris Karloff and he does a good job of terrorizing them. West of Shanghai in 1923 was a silent film and also a talkie version in 1930. Walter Houston repeated the role of the Mexican bandit. This is a very slow B movie. Karloff is starred, and does the best that he can to portray a Chinese bandit using the methods of American racketeers. Boris Karloff's acting and makeup is great which made this picture into a classic.
  • One of Director John Farrow's First Assignments is a Talk-Fest with many Amusing Takes on a Chinese Warlord, "I am Fang!", Boris Karloff repeatedly Recites to Everyone. He is Ruthless and Omnipresent. But He is not without some Fairness, "Doctor good, He help China poor."

    Karloff Dominates the Preceding bringing Humor, Pathos, and Charm to a Brutal Tyrant. The Film is completely Centered Around Him and it would have Failed if Not for Karloff's Commanding Performance. Everything else, the Action and the Americans are Lackluster to Say the least.

    Ricardo Cortez is simply Static. It has a Twist Ending that is Sad but Satisfying considering what Came Before. Above Average for Boris Karloff Having Fun with the Villainous Anti-Hero.
  • Boris Karloff is a renegade Chinese warlord, with his mind set on military success and sex. Ricardo Cortez begins the film as the "romantic lead", but Karloff's character ends up being the more sympathetic of the two. This is a B movie that knows it, and it pretty much succeeds in everything it does attempt. Interesting parallel towards the end between Gordon Oliver's barely-missed execution and Karloff's more final one. Karloff's makeup does not convince, but his performance does; he brings humor and strength to the character.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A pleasant surprise, "West of Shanghai" is a Warner Brothers B movie that benefits entirely from the performance of Boris Karloff. Unlike his rival Bela Lugosi, who gave his all in even the most wretched films, Karloff is known for walking through movies that he probably deemed beneath him. For every "Frankenstein" or "The Body Snatcher" there are countless examples of him collecting a paycheck while performing monotonously or, even worse, overracting terribly. Thankfully this is not the case here. Perhaps realizing the absurdity of both the film and his role, Karloff has an absolute blast enacting Chinese warlord Wu Yen Fang. Complete with matted down black hair and slanted eyes, he is an absolute hoot in a performance that will make politically correct watchdogs wince.

    The film itself moves very slowly despite the 64 minute running time. Karloff doesn't appear until almost 21 minutes in but once he does the story picks up dramatically. He alternately amuses, terrifies, extorts, and bewilders the cast around him. The supporting performances are pretty bland which probably enhances Karloff's lively turn. The only actor of note in a substantial role is Ricardo Cortez, famously cast as Sam Spade in the 1931 version of "The Maltese Falcon," who finds himself on the wrong end of Fang's justice.

    The only reason the film is watchable today is Karloff. He has so many hilarious bits that I scarcely know where to begin. While attempting to seduce the heroine, trading barbs with another saucy ingenue, extorting money from an oil company bigwig in a routine worthy of Abbott and Costello, or praising himself by announcing "I am Fang!" whenever someone questions his audaciousness, Boris is just delightful. His final comment to sidekick Richard Loo before they are executed will have anyone rolling on the floor with laughter. If anyone is frustrated by Karloff's colorless turns in so many mediocre horror films of the 30's and 40's this is the film to watch.
  • I thought this was a well done movie. A group of Americans become in control of Fang, but while Fang is a killer(he decides who is good or bad), he befriends one of them because of a past experience. You become to like Boris Karloff character,General Fang. The chemistry between General Fang and Mr. Cheng is great and funny at times also. Ricardo Cortez does a good job fighting off Fang as Gordon Creed. Actually the fighting is usually with words and not action. Karloff does a great job of making this so-so movie better. I will give this film a 7.5 out of 10.
  • utgard1416 December 2015
    Enjoyable programmer from Warner Bros. about some Americans going to a Chinese village to negotiate oil drilling rights from another American and finding themselves "guests" of a ruthless Chinese warlord named Fang (Boris Karloff). Fang's not all bad, though. One of the oilmen (Gordon Oliver) saved Fang's life before he rose to power and the warlord tries to help him out, in love and business. It's a routine adventure flick from the period when 'the mysterious Orient' was all the rage. Certain elements, such as the yellowface makeup, will offend some today. So gird your loins if you're a sensitive type. Karloff is the primary reason to see this. He's always fun to watch and here he manages to imbue a somewhat villainous character with sympathy and humor. Ricardo Cortez plays the real villain of the piece, a total slimeball. For his part, Gordon Oliver is the hero, albeit a banal one. Beverly Roberts plays Cortez's estranged wife who's in love with Oliver now. Sheila Bromley plays the only other female part and gets several funny lines. Vladimir Sokoloff appears all-too-briefly as a rival to Karloff. The rest of the cast includes Chester Gan, Richard Loo, and Gordon Hart. It's nothing special but a good way to kill an hour. Definitely more fun for Karloff fans than anyone else.
  • sore_throat12 June 2002
    This somewhat obscure film is helped by a quick running time and the presence of Karloff. On the downside it is overly talky and the few battle scenes it has are generic.

    The script is decent though, and my interest in the film was undoubtedly bolstered a bit because I find contemporary Chinese history to be intriguing (not that this is a textbook reproduction of the period. :)

    6/10. I wouldn't recommended it, but at the same time I feel it is above average with everything considered.
  • richardchatten18 February 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    'West of Shanghai' was the third of four film versions of a play by Porter Emerson Browne (best remembered today for 'A Fool That There Was'), and was the only version not filmed under the play's original title of 'The Bad Man' or in the original Mexican setting. Successfully produced on Broadway in 1920, 'The Bad Man' had originally been a comedy, which explains the beguiling flashes of humour sprinkled throughout Ralph Spence's script; notably in the sassier quips by Lola Galt, and a vaudeville routine in which Fang divests Creed, then Galt, then Dr. Abernathy of $50,000, only for it to eventually end up in Fang's own wallet.

    Boris Karloff is obviously enjoying himself as Chinese warlord General Wu Yen Fang ("I am Fang!!"), despite the uncomfortable-looking makeup, which genuinely gave him blurred vision on the set. His opposite number General Chow Fu-Shan is played by Moscow-born Vladimir Sokoloff, while the authentically Chinese-American actor Richard Loo is the only one not required to adopt an accent as Fang's US-raised right-hand man Mr. Cheng. The script does a sort of reverse 'Psycho' by setting up Ricardo Cortez as Gordon Creed as the film's hero, only to switch allegiance to the boring Jim Hallet (played by Gordon Oliver) and casually have Creed killed off, enabling Hallet to ride off with Creed's estranged wife Jane (as if anyone cared). Sheila Bromley is so sassy as Lola Galt and Beverly Roberts such a pudding as Jane Creed the film's switch of emphasis from the former to the latter, and Fang's unlikely preference for Jane to Lola ("Hair like straw, eye like fog; have wide mouth of fish") suggests that the script was insufficiently revised to accommodate the casting.

    Photography by L. William O'Connell and direction by John Farrow are both up to their usual standard.
  • drjgardner19 December 2015
    Boris Karloff plays another of his Asian roles in this film (e.g., Fun Manchu, "Charlie Chan at the Opera", "Mr. Wong, Detective"), but this time he is in full gear. This is his campiest performance yet, not merely to the broken English but to facial makeup and appliances that must have been used by Marlon Brando decades later in "Viva Zapata". His dialogue is a hoot, especially the caustic interactions between Kang and Mrs. Creed (Beverly Roberts). It is literally so bad that it's good. Look for the ever present Richard Loo who plays Kang's aide. Loo was Master Sun (the Weapons Master) in the TV series "Kung Fu" and appeared in more than 100 films.
  • bensonmum225 November 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    A group of Americans head to a remote part of China to obtain lucrative oil rights. When a warlord named General Wu Yen Fang invades the village they are staying in, it's no longer just a fight for oil - it's now a fight for life.

    I'm really surprised to read all the positive, glowing reviews for West of Shanghai. I'm sure my comment and 4/10 rating will be voted down like a rock in water. Sure, there are a few things to enjoy (Boris Karloff's wonderful performance as General Fang, the always enjoyable Ricardo Cortez, and some nice double-crosses near the film's end) but there's not enough for me to rate the movie favorably. My chief problem - I found most of West of Shanghai fairly dull and lifeless. Up to the point where Karloff comes in, the movie really drags. At just over an hour, the movie still manages 15 - 20 minutes of padding. The whole first act on the train is completely unnecessary. The murdered General has nothing to do with the rest of the film. And the big battle near the films climax is so poorly filmed, it's hard to tell what's going on. Not very exciting. Director John Farrow would go on to have an excellent career, but you'd have never have predicted it based on this early effort.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    From Fang to, sorry, Wong, Boris Karloff tries to underact in this Chinese set political thriller where rebel general Karloff holds a group of Americans hostage. Karloff ends up turning into a character from a George Arliss film as he interferes in a romantic triangle while dealing with his political agenda. Ricardo Cortez, separated from wife Beverly Roberts, must deal with the fact that Karloff seemingly is willing to kill him so Roberts can marry Gordon Oliver. With each declaration of "I am Fang", Karloff's subtlety goes out the window, becoming more aggravating than John Malkovich's repeating of "Beyond my Control" in "Dangerous Liasons". With only minimal focus on the Chinese military's efforts to put an end to Karloff's reign of terror, this is an extremely dull programmer, only coming to life through some wisecracks from supporting characters Sheila Bromley and the minimal action and tension towards the end. The mixture of obvious non Asian actors and real Asians is laughably absurd. Still, production design is good, and in spite of the torrid script, decently directed.