I continue to upload all my pictures of HK stars so that I can clean house and go away. You should know most of these actresses I would think except perhaps for Charine Chan who along with FennieYuen and May Lo acted in a number of teenage comedies in the 1980's and were termed the The Happy Troupe Girls. A word of warning - some of the Christy Chung photos are from that pictorial she modeled for a few years ago - no nudity (in the book yes, but not here I am afraid!) but certainly risque. I think the book was intended to give a boost to her flagging career but she seems to have vanished ever since. And every time I see picts of Cecilia Cheung I think how sad it is that her career went down in flames due to a stupid but private peccadillo. I was such a fan of hers when she first appeared on the scene. At the same time it is difficult to reconcile the girl next door image that she gave off with those incredibly skanky photos.
Last year I reviewed a couple of Hong Kong films that I categorized as “Under the Living Room Table”. These are tapes I picked up years ago pre the dvd age and which as best as I can tell never made it on to dvd for unknown reasons – perhaps copyright issues with a lot of production companies that are long out of business. Anyway, I hope to review a few more of these even though I believe the films are not available except through the “gray” market.
Beauty’s Evil Roses (a.k.a. Beauty Evil Rose) Director: Lam Wah-Chuen 1992 Country: Hong Kong
This film has long had a reputation as one of the more obscure but intriguing Cat III movies made in the days when HK still knew how to make fun sleazy entertainment! I am not actually sure why I put this off for so long as I enjoy a good sleaze fest as much as the next guy but I just never got around to it. But I finally dusted it off, turned down the volume (as I was staying at my parents and was correct in assuming there would be lots of moaning!) and watched it the other day. For much of its short 79 minute running time the film is nearly incomprehensible with it jumping around quickly from character to character and plot to plot but interspersed within are more than enough crazy sexual shenanigans and general weirdness to satisfy most connoisseurs of bad tasteless Cat. III films.
It begins as all good films do with a woman walking into a cop’s office and doing a strip tease to entice him and then turning him into a compliant zombie slave that will do the bidding of her mistress, the evil DaiJeh (Wong Wing-fong). DaiJeh ruthlessly runs a female cult of leather clad motorcycle riding sweeties who use sex as a weapon of destruction. What their aim is isn’t exactly clear but they certainly have it in for the male species and find happy fulfillment in one another in lengthy lesbian entanglements with painful sax muzak playing in the background. In her splashy red themed lair decorated tastefully with skulls, chains, candles, bondage ropes and a throne, DaiJeh dishes out both her anger and her favor on her underlings. Whipping here is both for punishment and pleasure. Behind her power is black magic (imported of course from Thailand) in which she can project an alien looking creature down the throats of others to control them.
Various good guys are out to stop her - A Kang (Chung Jan-wang) who is looking for his sister who has joined the cult, his girlfriend Mannie who wants a career in nude modeling (we wish her luck) and policeman Cheng (a young Alex Fong). They hire a Taoist priest to combat her black magic but clearly he isn’t from the same school as Lam Ching-ying's priest as he needs Mannie’s underwear to weave his spell and seems to enjoy curing topless female victims. In the end – this being a Hong Kong film – it all meanders into a chaotic kungfu shootout that seemed just right. Or as one of the cult cuties said to A Kang “Let me see how great your penis is”.
As a note of interest according to the HKMDB credits, the director Lam Wah-chuen has had a multifaceted career. His directing credits are few – this, Devil Girl 18 (how have I missed that one?) and a couple others but also 2002’s Runaway Pistol which I thought was very dark and very good. But as a cinematographer he has some amazing credits – Made In Hong Kong, The Longest Summer, Bullets Over Summer, Diamond Hill, Juliet in Love, Little Cheung, Women’s Private Parts among them – he is clearly a favorite of director Fruit Chan and other indie directors. He also composed the music for many of those films. Interesting guy.
I know that all these photos that I have been putting up in lieu of anything that forces my brain to work is a bit monotonous but for some reason I have gotten it into my head to get up all the photos I have before I head back to Asia. So I looked into every nook and cranny of my apartment for all the photos I had accumulated over the years and scanned them in. So prepare yourself for an onslaught of about 2,000 pictures over the next week or two of the famous, the always obscure and the now obscure. Then I should be done with photos for a very long time. Or at least until I get back to the Starlight Photo Shop in Hong Kong!
After listening to Obama's inauguration speech today, I went outside in the chilling cold and just stood there taking in the world around me. It felt fresh and hopeful again and it looked like everyone had a bounce in their step. The dismal days of Bush are over. May we never see his like again. The age of Obama is here. Go Obama!
Here are some Shaw Brothers stills that I came across in a book that a friend brought back from Korea for me. It seems to be a publicity book from Celestial and they focus on about 25 martial arts films. I have no idea what they are saying but there were some nice stills within. I added a few more from two other sources and so have around 5 pages of stills. I have to get back to some Shaw Brother viewings soon.
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 TsuiHark's answer to Wong Kar-wai'sAshes 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.
For God of Gambler Returns, I mentioned that so many of the HK films of the early 90's had amazing casts - well not too many had more star power than this absolutely goofy Wong Jing comedy, Boys are Easy (1993). On the male side there was Ekin, Jacky Cheung and Tony Leung Ka-fai but it was on the female side that things got interesting - three sisters looking for love played by Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung and Chingmy Yau. That all three were having a hard time finding it tested most viewers sense of believeability. The supporting cast wasn't too bad either - full of familiar faces like Richard Ng, Sandra Ng, Ronald Wong, Ken Lo, Helena Law Lan, Wu Fung, Yuen King-tan and Shing Fui-on. They were also trying to make a star of Jimmy Lin but that never happened. This is really an idiotic film but it is easily one of my favorite HK comedies ever. Just thinking of the triad olympics makes me giggle a bit. Unfortunately, the initial DVD that was released mysteriously was missing loads of footage such as the musical number at the bowling alley and I am not sure if a full version has been released since. If not, I hate to recommend this.
I am getting down to a precious few sets of lobby cards to put up. These are of that very silly but enormously fun 1994 film God of Gamblers Return. I haven't seen it in ages but it was made when Hong Kong could still throw together an amazing cast on a moments notice, when their films moved at the speed of light, when it had an anything goes attitude and when Wong Jing was still great. How about this for a cast - Chow Yun Fat, Chingmy Yau, Sharla Cheung Man, Wu Chien-lien, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Tze Miu (the boy kung fu wonderkind), Ken Lo, Blackie Ko, Elvis Tsui and Charles Heung (whose brother was a biggie in the triads and who went on to become one of HK's biggest film producers). It is a dazzling mix of eye candy, action and idiocy.
It's snowing here in New York City and I just finished up that biography on Neil Young so I thought I would get up a few more pictures. These are of a film called The Three Swordsmen that came out in 1994 and is almost unanimously considered one of the worst films ever from Hong Kong - especially taking into account that it had two giant stars. Wuxia films had been very hot for a few years but by 1994 they had fallen into a creative rut and this film pretty much was the final nail in the coffin until this genre was revived (though mainly in the Mainland) some years later. It stars Brigitte Lin and Andy Lau with Elvis Tsui, SiqinGaowa and Yu Li giving support. Brigitte was of course a wuxiaphenomenon at this time but some genius had the idea to have her play a male for the entire film. Of course, she had played a man turning into a woman in Swordsman II and a brother/sister in Ashes of Time but at least those allowed her to explore both her masculine and feminine sides. Here she is terribly miscast and dreadfully dubbed. This is probably a film to skip unless it is mandated by your prison warden.
Here are 8 lobby cards of one of the truly influential films of the 1990's - Raped by an Angel 3: Sexual Fantasy of the Chief Executive starring Alex Fong, Angie Cheung and one of my favorites PinkyCheung. They just don't make them like this any more in Hong Kong! And I expect most people are grateful for that but I always had a perverse softside for some of these trashy films that had no cinematic redeeming factors what so ever. Other than Pinky and Angie of course. The films didn't even have any nudity as far as I recall which made them all kind of a tease. The iconic shot of Pinky drenched in blood with knife in hand still moves me in strange unexplainable ways. I am only sorry that I don't have lobby cards for Raped by an Angel 1, 2, 4 and 5.
Towards the end of the 90's as the HK film scene began its downward trajectory, these were the kind of films that the last Chinese theater, The Music Palace, showed constantly. You would be in there with smoke curling around you and the smell of Chinese food everywhere watching this stuff on the screen with about ten other people - double features - and half the people were there just to get into the air conditioning or out of the cold. One guy kept his myriad of cats with him and pretty much lived there. Every now and then they would show an old Jackie Chan or Chow Yun Fat film which was always a thrill. I miss the Music Palace - all part of the blanding of America.
Having YTSL mention Green Snake in her recent post reminded me that I have had a bunch of lobby cards around of the film and so here they are. It is one of my favorite Tsui Hark films meaning of course that it is one of my favorite films - sensual, sad, colorful, comical - also with Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong taking a bath together. No one seems interested in the older HK films any more with the exception of the Shaw Brothers (and even that has generally petered out) but if you have never seen Green Snake, just do so.