Out of the Past: The Films of Robert Mitchum

Macao

Josef von SternbergUSA81 minutes1952PGB&WEnglish

Sat
Feb 24
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    Josef von Sternberg came out of involuntary retirement to make Macao, and the tumultuous production resulted in a work so incoherent that producer Howard Hughes fired the director, turned to star Robert Mitchum to write some bridging sequences, and hired Nicholas Ray to finish the film. Given its vexed history, Macao remains a surprisingly stylish, compelling thriller. A trio of strangers arrives at the eponymous port (elaborately exoticized by Sternberg, with his usual visual opulence): an ex-serviceman on the run after being fingered for a crime he didn't commit (Mitchum), a sultry nightclub singer (Jane Russell), and a travelling salesman (William Bendix). In wait for them is a crime kingpin (Brad Dexter), who has been tipped off that one of the three is really an undercover cop charged with luring him out of his island retreat so he can be arrested. "What is so enjoyable, apart from Harry Wild's shimmering camerawork, is the tongue-in-cheek tone of the script and performances, best evidenced in the sparkling banter and innuendo between Mitchum and Russell" (Geoff Andrew, Time Out).