Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yvonne Yung Hung - Photos and Film Reviews

I have had a chance to scan in a few of the pictures that I picked up at the Photo Shop in Hong Kong, but I thought this time I would use them as a kick in the pants to watch some older musty Hong Kong films. I have loads of DVDs and VCDs of Hong Kong films never opened, never watched and literally gathering layers of dust. This is mainly middling fare of films made from the late 80’s/ to the mid 90’s when HK was producing a couple hundred movies a year. But of that large output, perhaps 20% were pretty good leaving a massive jumble of truly average films that few watched then and certainly no one is watching now.

In a way it is rather sad that there is so little talk on Asian film forums about the HK movies of yesteryear – they had their little bubble of interest and now not a lot of people seem interested any more. Sure, there will be discussions on the latest Johnny To film and a few other action movies that excite action fans – but there is zero interest in anything else. I mean when was the last time anyone ragged on Michael Wong? It feels like light years. Or talked about the Troublesome Night series or discovered a hidden jewel like Task Force. Or argued about the merits of The Young and Dangerous films. So I thought that this time when I put up some actor's photos on my site, I would first dredge through my collection and see if I could find some unseen films of that actor and watch one or two of them and write reviews. Yes, I understand that there is little if any interest in these films any more, but what the heck – I have them, I may as well watch them!

The first actress up is Yvonne Yung Hung. I have to admit that I have never really given her much thought even though she was a celebrity of sorts for a few years in the film industry around the mid-1990’s for her risqué roles. I had come across her in a few films – the best known being Chinese Torture Chamber Story (1994) and then in the quite awful The Romance of Vampires (1994). Upon looking at her filmography, I realized that I had also seen her in smaller roles in Lover of the Last Empress (1995), The Hero of Swallow (1996) and Walk In (1997) but I have no particular recollection of her in those films. From what I can gather off the Internet she has had quite an interesting life. She was born in Beijing in 1968 and studied dance (her flexibility proving valuable in certain sexually difficult positions later on that would put some of us into traction). At the age of twelve, she and her family managed to get to Hong Kong. Like all good girls she decided that entering beauty pageants was a viable road to fame and she did very well – runner-up in the Miss Asia Pacific contest, HK’s candidate for Miss World and the winner in 1989 of Miss Asia. Many HK actresses – Maggie Cheung, Michelle Reis, Christy Chung and Nina Li to name a few – have used success in beauty pageants as a springboard into show business and Yvonne tried doing the same. But films like Pizza Lover (1992) and Freedom Run Q (1992) didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Then in 1992 Amy Yip dropped out of the film business for the convenience of being a kept woman. This created a vast void in the Cat. III world of well-endowed actresses willing to show a lot of skin and perform acts of simulated sex with sweaty often unattractive men (with the likes of Kent Cheng and Elvis Tsui). Looking at her wilting career, Yvonne decided to try and step into the shoes and bodice of Amy and though not quite up to the Yipster’s proportions (few are), she certainly had cleavage to spare and the same sort of pookie innocent face that Amy Yip made good use of. She became sort of a Junior Amy Yip but by this time Cat. III films were becoming much more salacious and Yvonne had to go beyond anything Amy Yip had to do – namely show her points in their entirety – something Amy never did. The first film in which she threw down the gauntlet as well as her clothes was the 1993 Can’t Stop My Crazy Love for You in which she plays the obsessed target of total perv Simon Yam. It got her the attention she was hoping for and over night she became a sensation in the gossip magazines. After this she appeared in a mix of Cat. III films and regular fare, but there were really no films of any note (other than a cameo in Drunken Master II).

Where she found success was in of all places television where apparently her Cat. III image did her no harm. She is still acting in television and not too long ago had her first child. So seemingly all has turned out quite well for this actress. I discovered that I had six unseen films in which she appears and though the films themselves were only so-so, she is really quite watchable from a male perspective – not just her body parts though that doesn’t hurt – but she exudes a very cute personality in which her pout is almost as big as her breasts. No one would have accused her of being much of a thespian back then, but she is more than adequate for the under developed and under-dressed roles she took.

Here are a number of photos – most of them from a pictorial book that I found in the Photo Shop. It is surprisingly modest (disappointingly so I must confess!) – sexy but chaste and I have included a few other pictures of her that I found on the Internet that I wanted to give a good home to.

And here are reviews of these six films.

Freedom Run Q
Director: Allan Fung
Viewed on Mainland DVD

Freedom Run Q stars two of Hong Kong’s dweebiest male actors – Alfred Cheung and Lawrence Cheng – in a rather bland buddy cop comedy that comes to life only when Yvonne Yung Hung pops in to show her winning smile or during the very solid action scenes. The action choreography comes from Dion Lam who was also involved in the action work in some terrific films – Shanghai Shanghai, The Stone Age Warriors, The East is Red, Black Mask, Storm Riders and Red Cliff – the action here is basic but quite enjoyable. As to Yvonne, this was before she jumped bosom first into Cat. III films and she is remarkably cute and graceful, showing her dance training to good effect in her martial arts moves. If she had perhaps been mentored in the same way as Chingmy Yau by Wong Jing, she looks like she may have done well in many of those silly romantic or kung fu comedies that he produced – but the bright lights of Cat. III beckoned.

I have always found the films of Alfred Cheung and Lawrence Cheng a bit of a chore to sit through – often playing bespectacled yuppie nerds - and having the two of them together feels like a joke in itself – especially as tough (though not particularly competent) cops chasing after drug dealers. They meet cute as both go undercover and try to sting one another in a drug deal – Alfred in cringe worthy melting black face. After this they team up to find the source of Angel Dust that is coming into Hong Kong. They and their female supervisor (Elizabeth Lee) suspect a Mainland martial arts troupe from Yunan may be smuggling the drugs in. The Master of the troupe is played by the great veteran Lam Kau and one of his disciples is Yvonne, who is an expert in throwing knives and other sundry martial arts skills. She is planning to defect and meet up with her brother but she attempts to do so right in the middle of a drug deal that becomes a drug bust when Alfred and Lawrence charge in. She unknowingly ends up with the bag of drugs and both the cops and the bad guys are after her – all leading to a few well played out action scenes and some cute chop stick battles between her and her kung fu brother. This was fairly average stuff back then and didn’t exactly bring in hordes of ticket buyers. It is helped a bit by the presence of some other veteran actors – Bill Tung as Lawrence’s wealthy father and the wonderful Jeanette Lin Tsui as Alfred’s mother who just wants her boy to become a doctor.

There are also some pointed critical references to the impending Handover and I believe Alfred Cheung, who co-wrote the script, has been a staunch advocate of political freedom in Hong Kong.

My rating for this film: 5.5

Can’t Stop My Crazy Love for You
Director: Hon Wai-dat
Viewed on Ocean Shores DVD

Let me put this out front as creepy as it may make me sound. The sex scene between Simon Yam and Yvonne Yung Hung is one of the steamiest and erotic that I have come across in a Hong Kong film. Why creepy, you may ask? Well, because it begins as a rape, there is a dead cop on the floor next to the bed, Yam has killed her boyfriend and she has sworn revenge. But if you put these small facts aside (!) - and it seems the director has as he allows Yvonne’s character to appear to get very much into it, then it is a pretty hot scene and quite an introduction for actress Yvonne Yung Hung into Cat. III films. This is no tepid tiptoe entry into this sleazy world for the former Miss Asia, but a high double flip dive into the deep end. Her Cat. III career was only to last for a few years before she moved primarily into television, but it certainly created the boost to her celebrity that she was looking for.

To his co-workers Fred Suen (Simon Yam) appears to have it all – handsome, suave, well-dressed, single and a well-paid executive at a Security company. He is the sort of fellow who his male co-workers can talk to about their “dickie’s” and jokingly ask “how big are your mom’s tits”. But like so many of us, he has a hidden side to him – in this case quite a unique one. He likes to dress up as a woman – o.k. no big deal – he has a blow up doll at home – again no big deal – but in this case he sits it at the dining table and has lengthy conversations with it in which he pours out his longings and has it read the newspaper at breakfast. He tells his rubber friend that he has done as well as he can sexually during their 3-month relationship but it is not enough. So he takes up another hobby – peeping through a telescope at his obsession – newswoman Kitty Wong (Yvonne) who forgets to close the blinds when she undresses.

Years ago Simon Yam went through his psycho stage in films with movies such as Dr. Lamb, Full Contact and Run and Kill and he performs each of these roles with gleeful relish. Interestingly, the other two main actors who got stuck with a number of crazy roles back then were Anthony Wong and Francis Ng and all three have gone on to distinguished careers and are considered three of Hong Kong’s top actors. Maybe psycho roles are good training – it allows the actor to let it all out and to play with a role outside conventional boundaries. At any rate, Simon appears to be having loads of fun with his character here in a maniacal eye popping grinning performance.

Fred goes from peeper to stalker and beats up four guys, who give Kitty a hard time, but when he meets her in person he is tongue tied and socially inept – so he takes on the persona of Mr. Puppet and makes obscene phone calls to her. Things get nastier when he discovers that she has a boyfriend (Michael Wong) who has it all. The violence ratchets up – with at one point Kitty doing a Chow Yun Fat by hiding weapons all over the house for easy reach – and ending with the infamous line “You shot my dickie!” Other characters are played by Helena Law Lan as Kitty’s aunt and Vincent Wan as a cop. Reasonably good fun but primarily known for the unveiling of Yvonne.

My rating for this film: 6.5

My Pale Lover
Director: Chow Jan-wing
Viewed on DVD

This is an extremely harmless and rather pointless exercise primarily interested in displaying numerous women without their clothes on. Which in itself is not really a bad thing, I admit. A plot may have helped but that was clearly more trouble than the producers wanted to go to. Oddly, even though this was made shortly after Yvonne Yung Hung’s Cat. III coming out party in Can’t Stop My Crazy Love for You, she is about the only female in the film who doesn’t get too revealing – having only a rather sedate, uninspired and generally covered love making scene at the very end.

The film wastes no time in jumping into the sleaze as it opens with two topless women gyrating on stage in a small squalid bar causing the patrons to have nose bleeds in the fine tradition of Hong Kong comedies. The women (who are apparently Thai from their language) then proceed to another long quaint tradition – pulling razor blades out of hidden places and opening a beer bottles with body parts that would make watching football at home on a Sunday much more interesting. Nike (Chiu Wai) works in the bar as a bartender and is involved in a relationship with the bouncer Dick (Gung Fei) and the two of them have numerous sexual escapades involving masks, alley ways and slapping. Other folks working in the bar are doing much the same sort of thing – one amusing episode being when the owner thought he was having oral gratification from his girl (Ying Siu-liu) under the desk only to finally realize she was standing by the door and it was his pet dog doing the duties. At least that passes for amusing in this film.

Across town, Nike’s friend Rose (Yvonne) is a psychiatrist with a motley group of clients with sexual issues. One of them is an obsessed suitor who hates cats and attacks her stuffed Garfield toy. For some reason not quite explained, the two women switch jobs and lives – Rose begins serving drinks in the bar and Nike begins counseling men, often naked as is the nurse and a bunch of other folks. Rose moves in with Dick and romance blooms. That is the film in a big fat nutshell. Absolutely pointless but mildly entertaining – kind of like an old episode of Love American Style with loads of simulated sex and large bosoms.

My rating for this film: 4.5

Ancient Chinese Whorehouse
Director: Ivan Lai
Viewed on DVD

Not withstanding the title of Ancient Chinese Whorehouse, this is a fairly benign Cat. III period piece which doesn’t have much of a bite to it especially if compared to Yvonne Yung Hung’s more famous period film that she was in during the same year – Chinese Torture Chamber Story. The resume of director Ivan Lai is littered like a mangy junkyard with many forgettable films, but he did strike gold on occasion with the loony Blue Jean Monster and the unnervingly distasteful Daughter of Darkness. He was also behind the Diana Pang Dan film, The Imp. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring much of that same perversity to this film, which basically plays it for comedy until near the end.

Siu Ching’s (Ching Suet-aan) family is deeply in debt and so of course they rent their most valuable asset – their demure virgin daughter – to the proprietress of the local whorehouse. By contract, Ching is the property of this abode for five years and is informed by Yat (Dick Lau) that this equates to approximately 5,475 beddings over that period. Not exactly thrilled with the thought of becoming a human mattress, Ching tries to escape but is caught and brought before Madam Ng (Yvonne Yung Hung), who as far as brothel owners go (in movies anyway) is very kind to her staff – but business is business and so to encourage Ching to perform her duties she is put in a vat of squiggling eels who seem to be looking for . . . let us say a warmer climate to move into. This is all the incentive Ching needs to begin working with an auction set up for her virginity disposal.

Other members of this happy household are Sister Bamboo (Yuen King-tan) whose gigantic breasts have frightened off her customers for months and she is desperately in need of business. There is also Kong (the portly Kent Cheng) who is the genius behind all the various sexual devices that the clientele like so much. He also enjoys peeping in on Madam Ng when she is taking a bath. Plot points concern a foreign prostitute who works on a huge stuffed cock (the bird kind of course) and is taking away all of their business with a guarantee to make every man orgasm in a few minutes or money back. There is also a love affair that begins to bloom between Ching and Yat and finally a rapist (Elvis Tsui) begins stealing the girls and has to be stopped by a kung fu Madame Ng. The late Shing Fui-on appears as the Marshall looking for the rapist but is much more interested in looking at Madame Ng. There is a respectable amount of nudity – thankfully not from Yuen King-tan! – and Yvonne has two sex scenes – the one with Kent Cheng being kind of touching and gymnastically absurd at the same time.

My rating for this film: 5.5

The Power of Money
Director: Cheng Ming
Viewed on VCD – no Subtitles

It is odd that Yvonne Yung Hung appeared in this low budget straight to VCD film following her recent Cat. III success. Perhaps she had already made it before Can’t Stop My Crazy Love or had already signed up for it – or as things went back then – was persuaded by some triad wannabe film producer to show up for work. But it really has absolutely nothing much going for it until a fairly well-done scene at the very end with Yvonne trying to decide between money and love with a gun in her hand. She looks great in the film, but keeps her clothes firmly in place.

The film begins with a Mainland gang headed by Victor Hon-kwan robbing a place of business and making their get-away after a shoot-out with the cops. Their transport back to China falls through though and they have to hold up in a rundown shack and turn to local kingpin Cheng Chu Fung for help. Even without sub-titles it doesn’t take long to realize that Cheng is a bad boy – he enjoys lolling about on a couch and has his girlfriend/assistant crawl on the floor bringing him his shoes in her mouth. Always a sign of a bad upbringing in my book.

Two cops are after the gang and Cheng – Jackie Lui (who was to gain some fame years later as one of the bodyguards in The Mission) and Terence Fok. They are friends off-duty as well but between them comes Fok’s torch singing chanteuse, Eve (Yvonne). She and Fok argue about money matters – not enough of it naturally – and when she turns to Jackie for advice, Fok thinks the worst of his partner and this woman trouble leads to betrayal all-around – finally leading to Eve eying her wounded boyfriend and a suitcase of money and trying to quickly decide which one she wants more.

My rating for this film: 4.0

Spike Drink Gang
Director: Bosco Lam
Viewed on VCD

From reading a couple other reviews of this film it seems fairly clear that this VCD was badly censored, excising all the naughty nude bits – though all reviewers agree that Yvonne Yung Hung’s clothes stay intact throughout – so it’s impossible to judge this film fairly. But what it still has going for it is a distinct grungy street level feel and much of it is shot on various outside locations around Hong Kong. Otherwise though, it strikes one as truly klutzy directing with lots and lots of over acting. Director Bosco Lam did better work in Underground Banker and Chinese Torture Chamber Story.

Based I believe on a true crime case, a rather dim gang of four begin drugging those cardboard drinks in convenience stores by injecting a sleeping potion into them. They then follow the victim out of the store and rob them or rape them or kidnap them or the trifecta. In the film of course all the purchasers of the drink are well-endowed women and one can only guess at what the gang did if either a man bought the drink or an unattractive female. The first victim is our very own Yvonne – Mrs. Tsui – who falls asleep on a street in Sheung Wan and wakes up hours later to find herself on a bench on the boardwalk along the harbor in Tsimshatsui and has no idea if she was only robbed or molested as well. The cops are not initially interested but her husband Butcher Tsui (Elvis Tsui) certainly is as he goes nuts in worry that his wife was raped – not for her mind you – but because all the neighbors are making fun of him and he compares his wife’s chastity to a clean toilet bowl. So he tries tracking down the gang and of course gets the wrong fellow (Yu Kwok-lok), who he tortures by cutting off his massive chest hair and face hair with a broad sword.

Meanwhile, more of these robberies occur – finally with a young girl being kidnapped – and the cops (Chan Kwok-bong and Lee Siu Kei) decide to use Mrs. Tsui to find them. So they drug her again and have her retrace her wobbly steps to their lair. Heading this gang is Lo Meng of Venom fame and he is the only one here to put in a performance that even feels mildly real. Yvonne pouts throughout and Elvis gives one of his more over the top performances ever. Not really worth 90 minutes of your life, but again this version was censored. A Wong Jing Production.


Steve said...

"In a way it is rather sad that there is so little talk on Asian film forums about the HK movies of yesteryear [...]"

There would be more talk if you hadn't stopped participating in forums. :-) I see the most interest in 80's-90's HK films at Asian DVD Guide Forum but perhaps others know of more active forums.

I'm a big fan of early/mid 90's HK movies, but perhaps an even bigger fan of 60's-70's Shaw Brothers films, which certainly have active forum discussions at Kung Fu Cinema and AV Maniacs.

Brian said...

Ya, there is still talk regarding Shaw films but even that has died down considerably from a few years back with really only a few people still watching and commenting on them.

One factor that may enter into this is that when I went to get photo grabs of the films reviewed here from HK Flix, I think it said that nearly all of them were out of print. So a lot of these films from 10-20 years ago may be impossible to see now. Sad to think of a whole generation of people not being able to see Don't Stop My Crazy Love for You! Maybe I have a gold mine in my cupboards of out of print bad HK films!

Steve said...

Fortune Star/Joy Sales has released a lot of films that were previously OOP.

For good or ill, a lot of HK films, esp. action and Cat. III, are available online via torrents or by other means of file sharing.

Certainly we may be seeing a generational shift where HK movies of the 60's-90's just don't appeal to the IM generation raised on CGI- (and silicone-) enhanced movies with a more polished and contemporary look.

Tars Tarkas said...

FWIW we reviewed Task Force at TarsTarkas.NET and have been hitting early 90's HK cinema pretty regularly. Your site is one of the few places to find information on the films.

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