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Directed by Josef von Sternberg
USA 1932

 

I can't think of a better Hollywood movie train environment than on this Dietrich classic which chugs over the rails from Shanghai to Peking during the Chinese Civil War. Although pre-code (with only a few of the ear markers) very little obvious reference is made to Dietrich's character of ultra-exotic Shanghai Lily being a prostitute... but it is inferred that she has slept with more than her fair share of men. Clive Brook plays a military doctor and her ex-lover yet both remain smitten though excessive pride is the romance hurdle. As far as the film personalities go Brook doesn't carry his end very well, but it would be hard to match the ladies in this as Anne May Wong only needs a couple of close ups to command our hypnotized stares. She has some brief symmetry with Dietrich who, rather than acting, appears to be glancing skyward and posing much of the time - trouble is that she does this better than anyone on the silver screen... ever. Sternberg rightly banking his cinema muse's power avoids any chance of Anna May getting an entrenched foothold. Great support comes in the form of Warner Oland who plays the evil revolutionary leader who tries in on with both gals... but this is all Dietrich and Garmes' exquisite cinematography. This is film mood at its absolute pinnacle - a high-class exotic passenger ride in spacious train cars with thick velour seats - my imagination makes them maroon-ish red. A masterpiece.

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 2nd, 1932

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Comparison:

Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

   

Part of Criterion's Dietrich and von Sternberg in Hollywood [Blu-ray] with Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil Is a Woman:

  

 

Distribution Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL Criterion - Spine #933 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:21:45  1:22:33.990
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.83 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.33:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 31,618,188,864 bytes

Feature: 24,646,385,664 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.66 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), DUB: Russian (Dolby Digital 2.0)  LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles Russian (Cyrillic), None English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Film Prestige

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Dietrich screen test, award acceptance, trailers etc. in Russian voice-over only (13:59).

DVD Release Date: July 4th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 14

Release Information:
Studio:
Criterion

 

1.33:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 31,618,188,864 bytes

Feature: 24,646,385,664 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.66 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• New interview with Homay King (23:07)


Blu-ray Release Date:
July 3rd, 2018
Custom Blu-ray Case

Chapters 19

 

  

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: (June 2018) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray: This is the third disc of Criterion's Dietrich and von Sternberg in Hollywood Blu-ray that has Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, and The Devil Is a Woman. We will review all of them, shortly.

Shanghai Express is housed on a dual-layered disc with a maxed out bitrate. The film is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Criterion's 1080P transfer here is a huge upgrade over previous SD releases. Grain is prevalent throughout the feature, but this is to be expected with films of this age. Detail is largely improved over SD editions, as are contrast levels. Framing seems to be more accurate, with the image opened up on all 4 sides (see capture with Anna May Wong by the gramophone as a prime example).

Criterion have given us a linear PCM 1.0 mono audio track (24-bit). Though sound technology in 1932 films was in its infancy, the transfer here is faithful to the theatrical experience of the era. The flatness is representative of the original source material and are no fault of this transfer. Dialogue is clear and the various train sounds come through sounding strong. Though uncredited, the scorer is by W. Franke Harling. There are optional English subtitles on this Region 'A'-locked
Blu-ray.

NOTE: This appears to also be the cut version - with the removed dialogue right before "Why does he wear that uniform?"... more dialogue is also not there... like "I'll have him shot"... during the scene in which Warner Oland is interviewing the French Officer (Emile Chautard) with Dietrich translating for him from French to English. The French (and UK and other PAL versions) DVDs all use a print which has a crucial cut during that scene. The cut removes a couple of lines of dialogue in which Chautard confesses he is wearing his military decorations, actually not his as a ruse to impress his daughter, when in fact he had never actually earned them. The scene has been cut ever since Universal released a VHS and Laser (gatefold) of the title in 1995. (Thanks Gregory!)

Criterion have given us a brand new 23-minute interview with film scholar Homay King. King is the author of "Lost in Translation: Orientalism, Cinema, and the Enigmatic Signifier" and here he discusses director Josef von Sternberg's cinematic China and the role of star Anna May Wong in "Shanghai Express". This is the sole extra on this disc although the package has many including a
book featuring essays by critics Imogen Sara Smith, Gary Giddins, and Farran Smith Nehme.

Like most von Sternberg/Dietrich collaborations there is an explicit sense of exoticism and eroticism throughout the picture. Thoughtfully, Criterion's sole extra here deals with the aspect of Orientalism that appears throughout the film. Though somewhat offensive by today's standards, the film is an interesting relic of its time. The costumes and camerawork are just as impressive today as they were in 1932.

Colin Zavitz

***

Pass on this DVD and get one of the following:

Gary W. Tooze

Box Cover

REVIEWED HERE

 

Distribution Universal (6-disc) - Region 2,4,5 - PAL

Coming out at the end of November, 2006 is the Marlene Dietrich: Movie Collection - 18-disc - containing Angel, Blonde Venus, Desire, Destry Rides Again, The Devil Is A Woman, Dishonored, The Flames Of New Orleans, Follow The Boys, A Foreign Affair, Golden Earrings, Morocco, Pittsburgh, The Scarlet Empress, Seven Sinners, Shanghai Express, The Song Of Songs, The Spoilers and Touch Of Evil.

In Region 1 Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection (Morocco/ Blonde Venus/ The Devil Is a Woman/ Flame of New Orleans/ Golden Earrings) is REVIEWED HERE

           


DVD Menus


 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

Box Covers

   

Part of Criterion's Dietrich and von Sternberg in Hollywood [Blu-ray] with Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil Is a Woman:

  

 

Distribution Film Prestige - Region 0 - PAL Criterion - Spine #933 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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