The Circles Of Hell

Maybe if I had watched this in another mood, on another day, or at another time it would have had a greater impact, but as it is, it’s underwhelming. The film begins in Shanghai where we are quickly brought to Mother Gin Sling’s Casino. It never closes and it’s arranged like the circles of hell with a roulette table in the center pit. It’s here that the worst, most decadent, and easily controlled people meet under the roof of the spiteful and vengeful Mother Gin Sling.

Mother Gin Sling (Ona Munson)

Around her are Victor Mature, Walter Huston, and Gene Tierney who move around the casino till we get to know their characters. Then Sternberg seemed to run out of ideas and the film turns into a bad reveal sequence where everyone’s dirty little secrets are all laid out.

The Sternberg look is here and Ona Munson has a Dietrich-like quality, but while the casino and what it represents visually and metaphorically is wonderful, the rest of the story is like an exotic soap opera. It’s not awful, but approach it with caution.