31 January 2013 | malcolm-68
Confusion Rather Than Confucius Reigns
"Peking Express" is not so much a direct remake of "Shanghai Express" as a reworking of the same theme updated to the Chinese Communist era. Just about every Hollywood based, Chinese actor makes an appearance. In particular Benson Fong plays a prominent role. In real life he was a gourmet and ran a Beverly Hills restaurant so the cast and crew probably ate well during the shoot! Corinne Calvert invites unfavourable comparisons with Marlene Dietrich in the original. Calvert is more like a slut than a courtesan. She used to whinge that none of her Hollywood films showed off her formidable acting talent. (Your secret is safe with us, love!)Joseph Cotten's role is not the same as Clive Brooks's in the original. Cotten is fine in the scenes involving arguments, thought and romance, but unconvincing when mowing down bandits with a machine gun. Since he plays a doctor presumably he forgot or ignored his oath when forced into violence. Cotten and Calvert are a mismatch. This would have been a better film if Cotten's role had been split into two and a more virile, physical actor had done the shooting and romanced Calvert relegated to second lead leaving Cotten to debate and romance a more classy actress of the type he had previously appeared with. Much of the ideology discussed is dated and boring. Director William Dieterle to his credit keeps it moving at a reasonable pace, but keeping track of who is on what side leads to confusion. Another source of mystery is the running time. I clocked my print in at 81 minutes. Most of the reference books list 95 minutes, but the Motion Picture Almanac gives 90 which suggests some trimming/ editing went on before general release. This probably improved the film, but not a lot!