Macao (1952)

 Run Time: 80 min. | b/w
Directors: Josef von Sternberg, Nicholas Ray
Stars: w. Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, William Bendix, Gloria Grahame
 Genres: Adventure | Crime | Drama
Mitchum and Russell, what a pair; his laconic wit and her sardonic comebacks. And you know you’re in for a great ride from the moment he saves her from a lecherous goon—and she picks his pocket.


  1. Anonymous

    August 2, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Josef von Sternberg began Macao (and copped the directorial credit), but Nicholas Ray finished it. Nonetheless, it abounds with Sternberg’s branded flounces and fetishes. As in Shanghai Express and The Shanghai Gesture, he trowels on the Orientalism in thick impasto (Sternberg could have made the best Charlie Chan movie of them all).

    A nighttime chase through the Macao docks opens the movie (to be rhymed near its conclusion): A white-suited European is pursued by knife-throwing Chinese thugs; he falls in the water when one blade finds its mark. A badge filched from him pocket shows him to be a police detective.

    Into this world of Asian intrigue sails a boat from Hong Kong, just 35 miles up the coast. On it is the motley crew of salesman William Bendix, drifter Robert Mitchum and mysterious woman Jane Russell, who lifts Mitchum’s wallet. Sans passport, Mitchum comes to the attention of the Macao police chief (Thomas Gomez), who reports the suspicious stranger to gambling kingpin Brad Dexter. Dexter assumes Mitchum is a cop he knows to be on his way to extradite him back to Hong Kong….

    It’s a playfully plotted adventure story. Russell gets a gig singing at Dexter’s club in eye-popping gowns which actually aren’t any more provocative than the black-and-white daytime outfits she traipses around in, wielding a parasol. She fares better than Gloria Grahame, as Dexter’s moll, looking washed out and largely wasted (though she puts her distinctive spin on a couple of lines). Mitchum by this time has done this role – the lippy but laconic reluctant hero – so often he could do it in his sleep, which, given his hooded eyes, may be the truth of the matter.

    Macao is an utterly shallow film done with energy and style. The plotting remains perfunctory, but the play of shadows throughout remains transfixing – especially in the set-piece near the end, again on the dark waterfront, with ropes and nets casting their creepy spell. And the movie provides Russell with one of her few opportunities to flaunt her real, if narrow, talents: in addition to the statuesque figure that caught Howard Hughes’ eye, she had spunk and sass. That’s what Sternberg saw, and he fell for it. We do, too.

  2. Anonymous

    August 2, 2017 at 8:28 am

    It’s a routine but atmospheric potboiler, and worth a watch if not seen before. I’ve seen it a dozen times, but I’m a sucker for this kind of hard boiled dark nonsense. "Shanghai Express" was much better in all departments from Sternberg in the Golden Age, darker gloomier and more menacing, and is the yardstick I judge his other work from. Co-directed by Nicholas Ray (or was it finished?) "Macao" stands out for me from the real routine Hollywood films of the period, the ones that were meant to make a lot of money and did.

    Brad Dexter’s finest film role as the whispering crook, Mitchum sparkles (or rather, snoozes his way through) in his best comedic vein, Russell and Grahame are perfectly decorative, however it’s a pity Bendix couldn’t have stuck around to the end. Mitchum boarded Macao without a passport and was the only one not searched at Customs – and the slender thread the whole story hangs by is also perpetrated by Thomas Gomez there too.

    If you, like me liked "The big steal" or "His kind of woman" you’re sure to like this.

  3. Anonymous

    August 2, 2017 at 8:28 am

    A penniless adventurer (Mitchum) is mistaken for a police detective by the underworld boss (Dexter) of Macao. Meanwhile the real detective (Bendix) uses Mitchum as a decoy to lure Dexter out of the safety of the colony. Sexy Jane Russell is also on hand to give Mitchum more than his share of thrills.

    A bit of entertaining nonsense. A film which nevertheless is forgotten a few minutes after the end titles. Mitchum,Russell and Bendix all play with the right easygoing charm. Not a great movie but fun anyway.

  4. Anonymous

    August 2, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Bob Mitchum and Jane Russell make for a rugged romantic duo in this crime film set in the Far East, directed by Josef Von Sternberg. In this rather light, watered down noir Russell, as a streetwise nightclub singer matches Mitchum with world weary put down after put down.

    Director Von Sternberg, whose visual style of the 30's was the envy of Hollywood but had fallen on tough times and was nearing the end of his career, occasionally captures the magic that displayed Marlene Dietrich with such allure and mystery in films like Shanghai Express and Morrocco. The problem is that Dietrich and Russell are different animals. Russell has never looked more glamorous but she doesn't move like Dietrich and her singing scenes make her look a bit like Gilda on steroids. Still, there is a chemistry between her and Mitchum that keeps the film entertaining. The supporting cast offers a comically hammy turn by William Bendix and a somewhat strange, semi-comatose performance by Gloria Grahame.

    Von Sternberg borrows heavily from his last good film, The Shanghai Gesture in many scenes, but Macao's main strength rests squarely on the broad shoulders of its two stars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *