The story behind “Lady from Shanghai” has been rehashed all over the place - the studio demands, Welles’ unhappiness (of course), his shattered marriage to the female lead, his accent, the disconnected segments that make up the film, and its overall weirdness. It’s a fantastic movie, in the old sense of the word. I could fill this page with a hundred screengrabs, but let’s just look at the end, the funhouse sequence. Supposedly it was much, much longer, hacked to bits by the studio. It’s quite a piece of work.
It's possible Orson was influenced by German Expressionism. I'm just saying it's possible.
Orson's career is usually cast as a tragic tale of his intellect & talent vs the cruel ignorant studios. So naturally, one is drawn to images like this:
It's the final scene, where our hero confronts the evil dame and her manipulative husband in that all-purpose symbolic setting, The Funhouse.he slides down a ramp into a world of surrealist abstractions:
Yeah, funhouses in the Forties looked just like that.
When we get to the House of Mirrors, the movie abandons any pretense to literal imagery, and the result is a disorienting, unnerving sequence unlike anything else in movies up to then. It's almost the 40s visual equivalent of "bullet-time" in "The Matrix."
A brilliant piece of work butchered by the thick thumbs of the studio? Yes and no. It lacks spine and momentum. But those are the same things that make it compelling; it's as humid as the tropics in which it's set, and has an air of lassitude and rot. The ending has been pawed over by critics for decades - here's Lana Turner, gut shot and repentant, with the object of her craven manipulation standing in the corner, pulling himself away from the woman he loved.
The sign says CLOSED. He walks through bars. Orson's goodbye to his wife, and to Hollywood.
Or so they say.