Rita Hayworth is Elsa, a young woman married to a crusty old lawyer. When Michael (Orson Welles) becomes infatuated with her, he gets a job aboard their yacht, but when the yacht’s steward offers him $5,000 to help him fake his own death he gets more than he bargained for.
The Lady from Shanghai does a lot with only four principle characters as it twists and turns through San Francisco; their various schemes interacting to keep things interesting throughout.
Hayworth is excellent as said lady, but Welles unfortunately doesn’t match her with an off-putting Irish accent which sounds more like Scotty from Star Trek than a genuine Irishman. A scene in which Hayworth speaks Chinese is more convincing. And on balance the characters are not up to the quality of the rest of the film.
It’s brilliantly directed by Welles, however, as it jumps between various exotic locations combined with seamless bluescreen work. The noirish set-up is reminiscent of Welles’ A Touch of Evil, particularly an excellent final sequence set inside an abandoned theme park.