Shanghai Surprise (1986) (part 9 of 11)
So, I guess the “Yehonala” name leads back to China Doll, because we’re right back there in her lair. Okay, I think earlier dialogue was supposed to suggest that China Doll is a little loco in the head, and actually believes herself to be this empress Yehonala. She was dressed exactly like the Yehonala figure Sean was admiring, and also, Fauxdrian Brody had a line where he said she “believes herself to be an empress”. So, of course it all fits together flawlessly. And if you can’t remember offhand dialogue delivered roughly twenty hours ago, well, that’s your problem, pal.
Sean asks China Doll what treasures were stolen from the tomb, but she refuses to tell him. She says she won’t be tempted to answer, despite the fact that he looks like “someone [she] once cared for”. Hold the phone. When was that little tidbit revealed? I hope they’re not trying to imply Sean looks like Walter Faraday, because he really doesn’t, at all.
But Sean scrunches up his forehead, and gives her the puppy dog eyes, and she’s sold. She says Mei Gan stole “Yehonala’s paintings, swords, scrolls… my porcelain dreams [?] … and my heavenly gardens!” Ooh, that’s rough. I think you’d want your heavenly gardens back as soon as possible. After all, what will you use to give men the Chair?
Finally, she says that Mei Gan stole “beautiful violets… stems– emeralds… the buds– rubies… the leaves– diamonds.” Say what? Lady, you are too deep for me. Sean blurts out, “Faraday’s Flowers!” But she corrects him: “Yehonala’s Flowers!” Okay, great. That just about clears everything up, then. Thanks.
I’m barely following any of this, but I’m guessing that “Faraday’s Flowers” are not really opium, but actually jewels. And further dialogue seems to imply Faraday was actually stealing these jewels back from Mei Gan, who stole them from China Doll’s family in the first place. But this is really not making any kind of sense. I mean, we saw the opium in the prologue. Tuttle opened up a crate and was like, whoa, this is opium! But then again, later scenes indicate that there’s both jewels and opium at stake here. It’s official: this is the most confusing movie ever.
Sean warns her to be careful, because Mei Gan will be after her. She says Mei Gain already paid her a visit a year ago. She then looks down at her hands, and there are some weird clicking noises heard. She then says, “He did this to me!” She holds out her hand, and her fingertips look all deformed. At first I thought he burned her, but later we find out he pulled out her fingernails. What? If it’s been a year, wouldn’t they have grown back already? And wouldn’t Sean have noticed missing fingernails during that one passionate night they spent together? Unless that weird clicking just now was supposed to be her taking off her fake nails, but who the hell knows? Anyway, upon the fingernail revelation, the scene ends. Quite shocking, no?
It’s morning, and Sean is standing out on a remote road. A taxi shows up and picks him up. Okay, how in the hell did the driver know to pick him up all the way out here?
So, they’re merrily driving along, when suddenly they slam headfirst into a confusing edit. The windshield abruptly shatters, which I have to assume was caused by a gunshot, or possibly explosive decompression. The car stops, and the driver immediately jumps out and runs off. Evidently, he doesn’t have a lot of sentimental attachment to the car.
As Sean sits there in the back seat, Mei Gan appears and slides in beside him, and a random police flunky takes the wheel. Not too concerned with the shattered windshield, they continue on. Mei Gan, true to his Bond Villain Compulsive Disorder, commends Sean on his resourcefulness. He congratulates Sean for “not only master[ing] the enigma of Chinese mythology”, but also for solving “the mystery of the Heavenly Gardens!” And I doubt I even need to say it, but that was one fantastic episode of Mister T.
Sean says he was only doing this for the opium, and now that he knows it’s just plain old boring jewels, he’s out of it. He says he’s headed back to Los Angeles this afternoon. Mei Gan suggests that Sean could be making the trip in a “burlap sack”. Well, that’s one way to avoid the paparazzi. Mei Gan demands that Sean get the Heavenly Gardens from China Doll, and return them to him.
Sean says he could get them himself, but Mei Gan says that “the lady is immune to my methods of persuasion!” Maybe he should have tried the puppy dog eyes.
Sean doesn’t think he’ll have much luck, either. But nevertheless, he agrees to give it a shot. Mei Gan sticks out his porcelain hand, telling Sean that he wants to shake on their deal. And “shaking the porcelain hand”, by the way, is my favorite euphemism for throwing up.
As soon as their hands meet, Mei Gan brings out his other hand and crushes Sean’s fingers. He lets go, and from the look on Sean’s face, that sure smarted, and might have been mildly annoying. Clearly, Mei Gan went to the Toe Stub and Sneer Torture Academy. On that awkward note, the scene ends.
And so, for no particular reason, Sean immediately goes back to the Helping Hands Mission. Mr. Burns is deeply disappointed that Faraday’s Flowers are “merely a bunch of jewels!” Which is supposed to be a joke. I think. But Madonna pleads with Mr. Burns, saying the jewels could buy them all the opium they need.
“We’re missionaries,” Burns chaffs, “We’re not in the business of fencing stolen property!” And yet, he had no issues with obtaining stolen opium in the first place. Madonna tries to play the “those suffering men” card, indicating guys in hospital beds that we just barely see through a window in the background. This movie pulls no punches in showing us the ugliness of war, I’ll give it that.
Burns argues that China Doll won’t just hand the jewels over, but Sean has an idea: He’s going to argue that she needs to give up the jewels, so that they can buy opium, and use it for the good of her country’s army! Hey, now why didn’t I think of that? For some reason, Sean wants Madonna specifically to make this plea, and he says China Doll has already agreed to meet with her. Not too sure when that happened. Maybe Sean just snuck the meeting into China Doll’s Day Planner when she wasn’t looking.
We immediately cut to both Sean and Madonna in China Doll’s lair. I wonder what China Doll will paint on Madonna’s chest?
Sean asks if China Doll gave any thought to his “offer”, and no, we didn’t see him actually make an offer to her, either. Forget handing out Cliff’s Notes. This movie’s screenplay is the Cliff’s Notes. China Doll asks why, if they want to help the Chinese army so much, her jewels should be used to buy opium, instead of guns.
Madonna then replies with this classic, very Zardoz-esque line, which is too horrible to be believed:
I seriously cannot believe she just said that. And as awful as the line looks on the page, it’s about eight billion times more awful when someone like Madonna delivers it.
And with that, China Doll simply nods to her servant girl to hand the jewels over. That’s all it takes, I guess. Some stupid homily about guns and opium, and you’re all set. Actually, I think the next time I want anything of value, I’m going to use that line. “Listen, boss-man, you’ve got to give me a raise, because guns cause pain, and opium eases pain!”
By the way, why is it that the actress playing China Doll, who seems barely familiar with the English language, can give a far more effective performance than Madonna?
So the servant girl takes a porcelain doll off a shelf. China Doll reveals she secretly replaced the glass parts of her dolls with priceless jewels. Let’s see if anyone notices! And this, it seems, is the location of her Heavenly Gardens. As her servant girl clips the jewels free, China tells Sean and Madonna that they won’t be “safe” until they “dispose” of them. And I can bet that this disposing will involve (a) pointless running around, (b) confusing plot revelations, and (c) Fauxdrian Brody. Let’s watch!