Monday, January 19, 2009

The Last of the Lobby Cards


Here is the final set of lobby cards that I was able to scan in long ago. I think I may have mentioned this before but it is kind of a dreary tale. A few years back someone purchased the Music Palace, the last Chinatown movie theater, with the intent of tearing it down and putting up a hotel. The MP had been closed for a few years already so that wasn't unexpected. Much to his surprise the new owner discovered that the previous owners had skipped out of town quickly and left behind everything that couldn't be stuffed into their pockets. Hundreds of HK film prints, posters, trailers and lobby cards that had been accumulated over 20 years. We offered to do an inventory for them and then try and find a buyer.


So for a number of weekends in winter we (Subway Cinema) trudged in and rummaged through the dirty basement and dusty attic for anything we could find. For HK film fans it was like being in a candy store though a very cold one. In all we inventoried 320 film prints, 573 posters and 521 sets of lobby cards. Admittedly, the vast majority of these were of films that you never heard of and would never want to - forgettable titles like Miss Butterfly, Hong Kong Graffiti, Godmother of Mongkok, Amorous Lotus Pan and Burning Sensation. But amid this were loads of Golden Harvest films from Sammo, Yuen and Jackie - lots with Steven Chow, many Tsui Hark movies - a few Chow Yun Fat films and so on. The outcome of all this was that we found a buyer but the owner thought he was being low balled and that we were complicit in this and so he ended up moving all this stuff to a dentist's basement! We went down once to take a look and the floor was covered with about 4 inches of water. Last I heard they had moved them yet again to a warehouse where they just sit.


But while we were doing the inventory I smuggled out as many lobby cards as I could to scan and then regrettably I returned them. I still had hundreds I wanted to scan in but I never had the chance and I would have bought them myself but the small size of my apartment would have made living very crowded.


But I saved the best for last - at least to my thinking - the astonishing Tsui Hark wuxia film from 1995 The Blade. This film has never received the critical and fan recognition that I think it deserved - it is ferocious, mystical, philosophical and beautiful. It was Tsui Hark's answer to Wong Kar-wai's Ashes of Time but by 1995 the wuxia film was burnt out and no one paid much attention to this movie. Looking back, I think it was the last great wuxia film that came out of Hong Kong.


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