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West of Shanghai

West of Shanghai movie poster, starring Boris Karloff, with Beverly Roberts and Ricardo CortezWest of Shanghai (1937) starring Boris Karloff,  Gordon Oliver, Beverly Roberts, Ricardo Cortez

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 West of Shanghai is an excellent movie, dealing with a cast of Western characters who travel to China for a variety of reasons. Once there, they are forced to deal with a warlord named General Fang, played by Boris Karloff. It is Karloff’s performance that makes an otherwise ordinary movie memorable.

Boris Karloff as General Wu Yen Fang, with his right-hand man Mr. Cheng to one side, and the man who accepted a bribe on the other
Boris Karloff as General Wu Yen Fang, with his right-hand man Mr. Cheng to one side, and the man who accepted a bribe on the other

In West of Shanghai,  General Wu Yen Fang is one of those movie villains what is memorable, enjoyable to watch. And makes the viewer grateful that they don’t have to deal with him. General Wang has his own warped sense of morality. It would be wrong to steal money, but not to force someone to give it to him. He’s willing to commit murder — as repayment for a double-cross. He feels that he owes his life to one of the Westerners, and treats him as his friend. Until he’s forced to put him in front of a firing squad.

Synopsis of  West of Shanghai

West of Shanghai deals with Gordon Creed (Ricardo Cortez), a Western businessman. He travels to a remote site in China, hoping to obtain the rights to a large oil reserve owned by wildcatter Jim Hallet (Gordon Oliver), who is in danger of losing the land in foreclosure. Creed’s estranged wife, Jane (Beverly Roberts) is working as a missionary there and has fallen in love with Hallet. When a warlord named General Wu Yen Fang (Boris Karloff) takes over the area, Gordon Creed tries to use him to cheat Hallet out of his land and escape from the warlord. Unfortunately for him, however, years ago Hallet saved the life of a young Chinese “coolie” (yes, the movie uses that term). The man later rose through the ranks to become Fang; and Fang now considers Hallet to be his friend.

Jane Creed holds a gun on General Fang (Boris Karloff)
Jane Creed holds a gun on General Fang (Boris Karloff)

West of Shanghai is very enjoyable, and well-acted by all involved. The love triangle is interesting, and Gordon Creed is truly despicable. He’s willing to do anything to obtain the oil field. Including sacrificing his own wife to Fang, cross Hallet, and try to double-cross Fang himself. Fang, for all of his cold-blooded murders, has a code of honor that he lives by. And others tend to die by it.

In addition to the wonderful job that Boris Karloff does as the delightfully despicable Fang, Richard Loo also deserves kudos as Fang’s right-hand man, the ever-reliable Mr. Cheng. In short,  West of Shanghai is a delight to watch and highly recommended.

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