The Lady From Shanghai, a complex, involving puzzle-within-a-puzzle mystery story, is a showcase for Orson Welles, showing his singular talents and sensibilities as few other films have. The story is superficially simple: a seaman Michael O'Hara (Welles) is hired as a crew member on the yacht of the wealthy Banister (Everett Sloane).
His beautiful but mysterious wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) has met O'Hara earlier, when he saved her from a mugging. What ensues is a complicated and bizarre pattern of deception, fraud and murder, with O'Hara finding himself implicated in a murder, despite his innocence.
The film is best remembered for its final sequence when the plot comes to a literally smashing climax in the famous hall of mirrors sequence, with Elsa and Banister shooting it out amidst shards of shattering glass.
Orson Welles, who produced, directed, wrote and starred in the film, is sometimes self-indulgent in his use of visual tricks and techniques, which at times sacrifice plot for visual brilliance, but he pulls it together in the end to produce a stunning, difficult film.
Rita Hayworth gives one of her best performances as the deceptive, seductive temptress, hard-edged and cynical. The film confounds, unsettles and disorients the viewer, very much as Welles intended to do.
While not an easy film, it is well worth the attention required to follow it, and Welles offers no easy solutions or any false happy endings to his tour-de-force mystery.