Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jenny Hu Double Feature

Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers

1969's Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers starts promisingly enough: six attractive young people singing a song extolling the beauties of Hong Kong while riding in a boat touring Victoria Harbour.

But Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers is not Hong Kong Nocturne or even The Yellow Muffler; it’s a mess!

Jenny Hu stars as a woman also named Jenny Hu (that’s convenient) who is rumoured to be a killer-on-the-run, specifically a woman who went berserk and murdered a batch of men in one instance (hence the title).

Mr. Ivy Ling-Po, Chin Han, is the lead actor and he’s just not very good at comedy – or is it that the comedy here is just not very good? His scenes feel strained, particularly an early scene where he arms himself with trashcan lids and kitchenware in an attempt to sneak up on and confront Jenny, who he thinks is a killer, as she is hiding in his bathtub.

The whole cast is stranded in a fishing village after a typhoon warning. This conveniently explains why no one can leave and why the phone lines are down which means the whole mistaken identity plot can proceed.

There are too many songs and a lot of silliness: a song about fish being served at dinner!?!; Jenny commandeering a motorboat to rescue a drowning boy from a shark (shades of Adam West fighting a shark in the old Batman theatrical film); disguises, and on and on and on for 90 minutes.

The only thing that made the film watchable for me was the presence of Irene Chen. Now, I think I saw Ms. Chen in We Love Millionaires and The Jade Faced Assassin but I watched the former so long ago and so early in my Shaw cycle that I didn’t take note of her. And I watched the latter recently but she didn’t stick out in my mind.

Here Irene plays a local girl engaged to Chin Han and that provides the gist for the majority of the romantic part of the plot as she thinks that Jenny is going to steal her man and so on.

But her best scene is a stick fight/fistfight with one of the female teens from the boat in the beginning. This scene is actually the only thing that made me laugh in the film and it is quite playful, referencing other wuxia figures like The Golden Swallow seen in other Shaw films.

Brian was kinder to this film than I can be; I have a high tolerance for this kind of silly film, especially from this era, but it felt like something Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello would have starred in near the end of their career together in the mid-1960’s. Compared to King Drummer or Blue Skies, it's insignificant to me as a viewer.

River of Tears

River of Tears is a short (74 minutes!) over-the-top weepy, like something Douglas Sirk would have directed.

Jenny stars as a nightclub singer who is being blackmailed into performing and seducing men with her act and then blackmailing them for money. After his younger brother falls prey to Jenny’s charms, older brother Chin Han investigates and soon falls in love with Jenny.

Chin Han is much better in this film than in Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lover, though his part is thankless but necessary.

Chin Han’s father is played by Shaw regular Goo Man Chung who I previously knew from various Shaw historical and wuxia films.

The blackmailing gangsters are played by Yeung Chi Hing and Paul Wei who I’ve already seen in dozens of Shaw Brothers features.

The film is frequently ridiculous and rushed in conveying seriously melodramatic material but if you can tolerate this sort of hokey stuff, it’s quite good. Jenny Hu looks a lot better in this film than in Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers -- her hairstyles and fashion choices are more suited to her physical features here, I think –- and she seems as an actress better suited to melodrama than to comedy. And if you like her singing, she also gets to sing in this film in a couple of nightclub scenes.

There’s even a very dated slow-motion montage of the young lovers running in the park.

You can order Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers on DVD here.

You can order River of Tears on DVD here.