Macao (1952)

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Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Written by Bernard C. Schoenfeld and Stanley Rubin; story by Robert Creighton Williams
1952/USA
RKO Radio Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental

Margie: [to Nick Cochran] You’re up early for a loser.

You’d think the combination of Josef von Sternberg, Robert Mitchum, and Gloria Graham might produce a really classic film noir.  Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case.

Nick Cochran (Mitchum), Julie Benson (Jane Russell), and Lawrence C. Trumbell (William Bendix) meet on the boat from Hong Kong to Macao.  Trumbell is a salesman intent on gambling and Julie intends to get work as a singer.  Nick’s intentions are a bit of a mystery.  Julie introduces herself by lifting Nick’s wallet.  All three end up in the same hotel run by gangster Vince Halloran.

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Vince is tipped off by the local police that Nick is undoubtedly an American cop travelling incognito.  He offers to pay Nick’s way back to Hong Kong via the roulette table, presided over by Margie (Grahame). In the meantime, he hires Julie who he clearly had designs on. Nick and Julie mend their differences and in no time they are an item.  Nick is now not going anywhere.

Lawrence asks Nick to play middleman on a deal to sell a valuable diamond necklace to Vince.  The only catch is that Vince would have to travel to Hong Kong and he has an allergy to being in international waters.  Nick bites and ends up in a world of hurt.

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Despite its exotic setting, this came off as a tired retread of every other film noir ever made.  The story clearly bored Mitchum who sleepwalked through his part.  Or maybe I’ve now seen too many of these things.  The DVD did have a commentary which I haven’t listened to yet.  The history of making movies during the Hughes years at RKO is always worth a listen and his meddling may well have had an effect on the final product.

Trailer

4 thoughts on “Macao (1952)

  1. Hmm, came to this entry via one that people seem to link with Macao (same teaming of Mitchum & Russell, add Vincent Price)
    His Kind of Woman (1951)
    http://akas.imdb.com/title/tt0043643/
    I haven’t seen it (or Macao) but as it wasn’t mentioned here that I could see and was pretty favourably reviewed on IMDB (though some disliked it so a bit uneven) I thought I’d add it in here in case it’s an undiscovered good’un for you. I saw you thought Macao was a bit middling but this one looked a bit better to me from a distance and gets a slightly better IMDB score (7.1/6.7) so perhaps…..
    Really just a headsup.

    • I think I’ve seen His Kind of Woman because its part of a film noir set I own. If I remember correctly, Vincent Price is a delight in that film and takes it up a notch over Macao.

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