Friday, September 06, 2013

Diana Pang Dan and Veronica Yip in Hong Kong Show Girls, 1996

Hong Kong Show Girls

Director: Joe Hau

Year: 1996


There are certain films that you can proclaim to be stinkers no matter how you view it, where you view it from and no matter the state of your mind. Hong Kong Showgirls falls flatly into this category of awfulness with fewer redeeming qualities than a serial killer might have. The late 90’s were a dreadful time for horror films in Hong Kong with all The Troublesome Night films and oh so many more low budget productions that crept silently into local theaters to die all alone.  The decade had started off well for this genre with stomach churning films such as Ebola Syndrome, Love to Kill, Dr. Lamb and Run and Kill, but by the middle of the decade the Hong Kong horror film had gone tame and limp with few moments of true fear being generated. This was the trend all around the film industry with the exception of perhaps the crime genre (due primarily to Johnny To). Cat III films fell into a dismal slump and the martial art film lost its spark as well.  But in particular, the horror film  just went blandly mainstream for the most part utilizing cute young actors and unimaginative stories. It wasn’t really until the following decade with films like Inner Senses, The Eye and Three Extremes when Hong Kong horror got its mojo back.

There is really so little to say about this film bad or good. It just sort of sits there like an unidentifiable gob in the middle of the street. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is that the script is credited to none other than Wilson Yip who would go on years later to craft and revitalize the Hong Kong action film with the Ip Man’s, Flash Point, Dragon Tiger Gate and SPL among some other terrific films. We all have bad days though and my guess is that is about all the time it took for him to write this up. The director Joe Hau on the other hand did not go on to great things as a director (with the exception of one of my favorite low budget what the hell films, Phantom of the Snake), but he has a very impressive career as an Art Director going back to Nomad in 1982.

In truth the soundtrack quickly cues the viewer into the fact that this is more a comedy than a horror film but it’s not even mildly amusing either. It is a sad sack hybrid that should have been killed at birth. But the talent on screen has likely made a number of people check this out over the years to their deep regret. Three of Hong Kong’s sexier femme fatales show up with Diana Pang Dan, Veronica Yip and Pauline Chan all going through the motions. On top of that there are two great veterans from the 60’s, Wu Fung and Ha Ping. So with these three women you might expect – oh I don’t know – some fireworks, some sexual situations, some tease – just something that breathes life. But not a chance. The film looks so low budget with nearly the entire thing taking place within an old theater that was probably due for demolition so that they were able to rent it for a song or a verse. It made me wonder that if I had been in Hong Kong then whether I could have afforded to produce a film with Pauline, Veronica and Pang Dan in which they basically walked around my apartment all week doing a few household chores. Believe me, it would have been more interesting than this. At least to me! But let’s get to the story. With as little pain as possible.

Joe (Gordon Lam) wants to write and direct a serious play that plums the depths of our souls and the “missing thoughts among people”. Not surprisingly, he can’t find financing and so listens to veteran writer Mr. Woo (Wu Fung) who persuades him to go commercial and get some attractive actresses and have them dance. They find an old run down theater that used to show Cantonese Operas, then plays and now shows porno movies and they arrange to be able to rehearse at nighttime.  Two actresses who show up are the down on her luck Heung-heung (Veronica Yip) and the Goddess of Balls, Tai-dan (Diana Pang Dan). Why the nickname the Goddess of Balls, I am somewhat unsure. Like all old Cantonese Opera halls this one is haunted by performers who died in a tragedy years before. But they are not particularly malevolent. They just want to dance again. The production they were performing all those years ago was the classic I Have a Date with Spring. And that’s about it folks. Much of the last third of the film is people running around making scared faces. Pauline Chan shows up very near the end as one of the ghosts and like all smart actresses quickly exits. Poor Pauline.

My Rating: 2.0

Viewed on VCD

The Big Dance Number with Diana Pang Dan, Veronica Yip and Elaine Eca Da Silva.