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Macao
USA 1952
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Running time 80 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Macao is a typical Sternberg adventure romance (cf. The Shanghai Gesture, 1941, Shanghai Express, 1932, Morocco, 1930,) with gambling dens, fiendish Orientals and a foreign port given a considerable lift by a sultry Jane Russell and ultra-cool Robert Mitchum doing a Bogey and Bacall with a lot less restraint on the back of a decent screenplay by Stanley Crea Rubin and Bernard Schoenfeld along with various uncredited others.

Russell and Mitchum play Julie Benson and Nick Cochran, a couple of adventurers whose wanton ways see them drift into the port of Macao, located off the south coast of China, some 35 miles from Hong Kong a haven for gamblers and ne’er-do-wells of every stripe. Julie swipes Nick’s wallet and it’s the start of a beautiful friendship. Julie gets a job as a singer (which give her the opportunity to do a nice version of Johnny Mercer’s “One For The Road”) for crime boss Vince Halloran (Brad Dexter) whilst Nick falls in with traveling salesman Lawrence Trumble (William Bendix) who poses as a travelling salesman but is really an undercover NYC policeman there arrest Halloran.  

The film is quite ordinary B grade fare but Russell shines as a Gilda-like femme fatale, whilst Mitchum is impressively impassive as they spar their way through the 80 minutes it takes to get to the final clinch. Although credited as director, Sternberg Nick Ray was called in by the studio, RKO, to add some new scenes to the beginning and a new ending, which he wrote with Mitchum.

 

 

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