Had he not passed away in 1985 -- shortly after appearing on-screen in an episode of Moonlighting, if I'm not mistaken-- Orson Welles would have turned 91 today. Though films like Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Amerbersons are obvious classics -- and despite my bizarre, old woman-style love for Joseph Cotten -- I tend to prefer Welles' less perfect efforts, particularly The Lady from Shanghai, Chimes at Midnight, and Touch of Evil.
In my first college film class, part of our final was watching and analyzing a 10-minutes sequence from the gorgeous, bizarre, studio-mangled The Lady From Shanghai. In preparation for the task, we watched the clip several times in class, prior to the three viewings we were given during the final. For some reason, though, instead of driving me away from the film, those repeated viewings made me its slave forever.
Though studio meddling means that we'll never know exactly what Welles had in mind for the film, it nevertheless remains a hypnotic example of his talent and creativity, albeit a wildly uneven one. Despite Welles' own distractingly horrible accent, the movie is enthralling, both visually and thematically, complete with blackmail, sexual manipulation, a double-crossing dame (the movie is no Gilda, but Rita Hayworth is still sexier in it than most mortals ever dream of being), and some of the most audacious images Welles would ever create. It's also an incredibly rich film, from the story to the screenplay (O'Hara's narration is particularly interesting) -- one of those that is truly enhanced with each viewing -- and I can think of no better way to celebrate the man's birth than to sit down and watch it again. And if you haven't seen the movie, do yourself a favor and stick it in your Netflix queue.