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Shanghai Surprise

Shanghai Surprise
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jim Goddard
Produced by John Kohn
George Harrison
Written by Novel
Tony Kenrick
John Kohn
Robert Bentley
Music by George Harrison
Michael Kamen
Cinematography Ernest Vincze
Edited by Ralph Sheldon
HandMade Films, Vista Organisation
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (US), Warner Bros. (UK)
Release dates
29 August 1986
Running time
97 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $17 million
Box office $2,315,683 (USA)

Shanghai Surprise is a 1986 Cloud Nine along with the song "Someplace Else", also used in the film.

The soundtrack for Shanghai Surprise was never released as a record or CD, and was only briefly available as a promotional single featuring the title song "Shanghai Surprise" coupled with "Zig Zag".[1] Both of these songs have since been released as "additional tracks" on the 2004 release of the Cloud Nine CD. Another track, "The Hottest Gong in Town", was included on the EP Songs by George Harrison Volume 2. The screenplay was adapted by John Kohn and Robert Bentley from Tony Kenrick's 1978 novel Faraday's Flowers. The book was reprinted (under the film's title and with a film-centric cover) as a piece of tie-in merchandise for the film.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Marketing 3
  • Critical reception 4
  • Awards and nominations 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Glendon Wasey (Sean Penn) is a sleazy, down-on-his-luck con man struggling to sell glow-in-the-dark neckties in Shanghai. When he encounters the lovely Gloria Tatlock (Madonna), a missionary nurse who wants to obtain a supply of opium to ease the suffering of her patients, he decides to help her get hold of a stolen supply of the valuable drug. The only problem is that a lot of other people want to secure the stolen opium as well—gangsters, smugglers, thugs and a host of dangerous lowlifes.



The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in October, 1986, "The movie opened so poorly in its first wave of playdates (late August in the Northeast and Midwest) that MGM has made severe cuts in its marketing budget. One MGM exec was quoted in the trades as saying this was necessary because 'the interest in the film has been non-existent.'"[2]

Critical reception

The movie received overwhelming negative reviews. Bill Cosford of [3]

The Philadelphia Inquirer also gave it only 1 star: "Shanghai Surprise is so dismally scripted and directed that no one could redeem it... an atmospheric, handsomely shot and, sadly, utterly empty piece of work."[4] The Lexington Herald-Leader called it "a turkey": "This film is bad. The acting is terrible. The hackneyed screenplay traffics in stereotype and yuk-yuk jokes. And the point is non-existent."[5] The San Diego Union said, "In its campy nostalgia for old adventure films, Shanghai Surprise is cloddish. There's something rotten at the core about a movie that would recycle lines like "That's mighty white of you." Even sadder is the realization that some of the old cornball movies are still fresher, more alive, than this regurgitation."[6]

The [9]

Awards and nominations

Won: Worst Actress - Madonna
Nominated: Worst Picture
Nominated: Worst Director - Jim Goddard
Nominated: Worst Screenplay - John Kohn and Robert Bentley
Nominated: Worst Original Song - "Shanghai Surprise"
Nominated: Worst Actor - Sean Penn
Nominated: Worst Picture[10]


  1. ^ Booklet included with Cloud Nine CD, released 2004.
  2. ^ Ringel, Eleanor (21 October 1986). "Sean Penn, Madonna flop in Shanghai Surprise".  
  3. ^ Cosford, Bill (20 October 1986). "This Surprise is Bad News".  
  4. ^ Rickey, Carrie (19 September 1986). "Madonna Plays a Missionary, Sean Penn Sells Ties as They Pursue Opium and Each Other in Shanghai Surprise".  
  5. ^ Roberts, Michael (4 September 1986). "Shanghai's Surprise is that it's so bad".  
  6. ^ Elliott, David (22 September 1986). "Shanghai isn't worth the trip".  
  7. ^ Baltake, Joe (19 September 1986). "Laughing with the Penns in China".  
  8. ^ Voedisch, Lynn (1 September 1986). "Even Madonna can't save Shanghai".  
  9. ^ Conford, Michal (20 September 1986). "Shanghai Surprise Doesn't".  
  10. ^ "1986 9th Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards".  

Further reading

  • Parish, James Robert (2006). Fiasco — A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 359 pages.  

External links

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