Taglines: A romantic adventure for the dangerous at heart.
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.
Shanghai Surprise is a 1986 British adventure comedy film starring then-newlyweds Sean Penn and Madonna, produced by George Harrison’s HandMade Films and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Harrison himself appeared as a night club singer, and also recorded several songs for the film’s soundtrack, including the song “Breath Away from Heaven”, which was re-recorded and released on his album 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”. 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.
Shanghai Surprise (1986)
Directed by: Jim Goddard
Starring: Sean Penn, Madonna, Paul Freeman, Richard Griffiths, Philip Sayer, Clyde Kusatsu, Kay Tong Lim, Sonserai Lee, Victor Wong, Sarah Lam
Screenplay by: John Kohn, Robert Bentley
Production Design by: Peter Mullins
Cinematography by: Ernest Vincze
Film Editing by: Ralph Sheldon
Costume Design by: Judy Moorcroft
Art Direction by: : David Minty, John Siddall
Music by: George Harrison, Michael Kamen
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release Date: August 29, 1986