With bongos playing on the soundtrack, and a girl in a negligee fleeing down a dark street in a pre-credits sequence, 1967's The Black Falcon opens with a bang -- literally, as Tien Feng shows up, shoots the girl in the belly, and steals a reel of film from her.
As Brian noted in his review, the film is a clear James Bond pastiche but that's not to say that it's not fun on its own as well.
Turns out that the murdered girl was carrying film that implicated the shadowy Black Falcon gang in a series of crimes and the heads of a insurance union call in a detective (Paul Chang Chung) to crack the case -- his superior leading him to Jenny Hu's character with an instruction to "date her" or "marry her" -- whatever it takes to find our whatever it is she knows about her missing father, a man who may be the head of the shadowy Black Falcon group.
A Black Falcon head henchmen (played by Wong Hap) dispatches his three best assassins from his secret lair, the assassins being played by Ku Feng, Tien Feng, and another older actor I didn't recognize under the makeup.
With peppy music on the soundtrack, the impossibly cute Julie Tan (Jenny Hu) sets out in her red sportscar, little knowing her life is in peril. She meets Detective Zhang in a hip nightclub where the rest of the kids are dancing to a manic instrumental cover of The Coasters' Yakety Yak.
Ku Feng's killer runs Zhang off the road but the idiot "bad guys" don't check to see if the hero is really dead. Surviving an impossible crash, Zhang -- like James Bond -- never dies, it seems.
Soon, the old bespectacled assassin sets up a meeting with Julie Tan and informs her that Zhang is really out to get her father.
With a surprising bare breasted model posing in this scene, Jenny Hu is approached at her art studio by two of the killers in advance of Zhang's arrival.
Zhang figures out the plot, shows up, and in a so-misogynistic 1960s touch, karate-chops Julie Tan in the neck in order to knock her out and take her out of harm's way.
The old assassin -- who looks quite a bit like a character from the TV cartoon series, The Venture Brothers -- is drugged by a woman at a strip-club-kind-of-club and Zhang shows up only to be met by the very same woman who drugged the killer.
At the 41-minute mark, Margaret Tu Chuan makes her first appearance as the assumed head of the Black Falcon organization. Sitting in a mod set, in front of a black falcon emblazoned on the wall, and with her lackeys entering to deliver news of Zhang's escape, she oozes venom and allure -- the Dragon Lady stereotype come to life in glorious and garish fashion.
duriandave at Soft Film: Vintage Chinese Cinema has done an exemplary job of educating me about Margaret Tu Chuan. Check out this wonderful post and look up his others on the stunning actress.
As Julie Tan and Zhang make their escape to a lush hotel (!) in Macau, there follows an amazing scene for Jenny Hu fans.
Now, having seen the actress in Till The End Of Time, as well as in River of Tears and Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers, I guess I was not expecting the actress to be so incredibly sexy in an early role like this; it's just such a moment of obvious 1960s cheesecake, that I was very surprised.
(Though that still is from an earlier scene of the actress changing outfits in her studio.)
The couple has separate rooms and we see in the dim light Jenny Hu in a dangerously revealing kind of teddy-style nightie-and-panties set twist-and-turn restlessly in her bed. She gets up to join Zhang in his room in a languid stroll across the camera that must have made 1967 stagehands sweat profusely; she is simply physically amazing!
Wu Ma shows up as another killer who rounds up a series of his henchmen to pursue Zhang in Macau.
Zhang has been hiding in the bathtube of a voluptuous woman in a bathrobe and, before stealing her absent husband's boat to make an escape, we see the towel drop and Zhang move in like a lustful James Bond. "Hey," I wanted to scream at the screen, "What about Jenny Hu?"
There's a great fistfight in front of the ruins of St. Paul's in Macau.
Check out this pic from my trip there last August.
This is right in front of the ruins facing the opposite direction. The fight scene would have been filmed right about here.
Soon, Margaret Tu Chuan's Miss Hu is being appointed official head of the Black Falcon gang. In what looks like a debutante ball gown, she looks down on her minions from her throne -- I half-expected her to let out a Dragon Lady-like cackle.
There's more action and when next we see Margaret Tu Chuan she's in a bubble bath -- relaxing after taking charge of her villainous minions? -- wearing the same high hairdo. She reaches out of the bubbles to answer her phone to hear news of Julie Tan's capture and then she next tries to seduce Wong Hap's character. Such a Swingin' Sixties scene!
The ending felt hurried to me for some reason but the whole film moves along at such a quick clip that it's hard to fault the film for anything.
Not as much of a retro blast as Angel With Iron Fists, but still a gas.
You can order The Black Falcon on DVD here.
[Photos: YesAsia/Celestial Pictures]