Macao

Written by Bernard C. Schoenfeld and Stanley Rubin. Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Two strangers meet on the way to Macao and their lives get entangled in a criminal mess…

Synopsis

As the passenger ship approaches Macao, Nick Cochran (Robert Mitchum) helps brunette beauty Julie Benson (Jane Russell) out of a scrape and she returns the favor by pick-pocketing his wallet leaving him with no cash. Once in Macao, Julie gets a job as a singer in the local night club run by Vincent Halloran (Brad Dexter). Nick Cochran is assumed to be an undercover cop by Vincent Halloran who is small time criminal but cannot travel past three miles from Macao or he’ll be arrested by International police. Meanwhile, Lawrence Trumble (William Bendix), a traveling salesman, has a large diamond he wants Nick to convince Vincent to buy with the promise of more diamonds. Vincent is suspicious of Nick and Julie’s relationship and also recognizes the diamond as one he sold off before. Julie and Nick have a love/hate thing going on–they’re in love then they aren’t. Julie wants to run back to America with Nick but he has one last thing to do before he can leave. Vincent’s strong men mistake Lawrence for Nick which gives Nick an advantage. Nick convinces Julie to out with Vincent on his yacht out while Nick hides on board. Nick and Vincent get into a fight and the International police are ready.

What I Liked

Jayne Russell is gorgeous. She’s a full-fledged woman with curves and she has great chemistry with the camera. She wears beautiful clothes and sings. Now, the songs aren’t great as the lyrics don’t often seem to make much sense but who cares, it’s Jayne Russell! I LOVE Robert Mitchum and he doesn’t disappoint here. He’s smooth but not intimating and he’s a great when Nick is being sweet with Julie on the water taxi. The locale is exotic and the chase scenes are ingenious as the characters are climbing up and over stacks of crates and various marina areas. The casino is sultry and the gambling’s fixed. By the way, Gloria Grahame plays Margie, Vincent’s bitter assistant. There’s something about black and white films which create another dimension with the location making it a character itself. Also, the love scenes from this era were steamy in their lack of explicitness and expertly staged keeping those close ups camera ready. No one is who they seem which is what make this story work in the long run.

What I Wished Was Better

Not much! Movies from this era are formulaic to showcase the talents of the stars so twists and turns of the plot don’t necessarily need to make sense as long as it moves forward and the love interests get together at the end.

Final Thoughts

Classic films, especially from the black and white era are vital to understanding the evolution in film as well as why black and white can be a powerful story telling style. These films are fun, the dialogue is perfection in the Film Noir genre, and Jayne Russell with Robert Mitchum–so good! Available on Amazon. Watch the trailer below:

Fun Facts: Gloria Grahame did not want to be in this movie but Howard Hughes wouldn’t let her out of her contract which is why she looks so bitter in every scene. This film lists Josef von Sternberg as the director but there are also three un-credited directors which include Mel Ferrer, Nicholas Ray, and Robert Stevenson.

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