Monday, February 1, 2010

Li Ching in The King With My Face

Li Ching stars in 1967's The King With My Face, a film designed to tap into the Korean market, according to the DVD's background information.

Shin Yeong Gyun, from The Goddess of Mercy, stars as the emperor who spends his days watching dancing girls in the court and romancing Gi Chin (Shen Yi from Swordswomen Three).

However, the emperor is betrothed to the Princess Kue Gi (Li Ching) -- a woman he's never seen -- from the neighboring Cai kingdom.

The Emperor wants to appease Gi Chin and so sets out to build the pleasure palace she has always wanted. The peasants are rounded up to work as slave labor for the thing and this is where noble commoner Shing An (also played by Shin Yeong Gyun) enters the picture. As he attempts to free a girl from the clutches of the Emperor's troops, look for a thin-looking Fan Mei Sheng, the Battle-Axe from The Shaw Brothers classic, The Water Margin.

So after some rote battle scenes -- the result of General Shing -- Shing An's father -- defying the Emperor's pleasure palace plans -- General Wan (Wong Chung Shun) orders General Shing (Cheng Miu) and his lookalike-to-the-Emperor-son arrested.

The lookalike is brought before the Emperor where he reveals that he was adopted by General Shing 20 years earlier.

Meanwhile, the princess (Li Ching) is about to show up at the palace. The Emperor reconsiders killing the Shing father and son and, instead, dresses Shing An in royal garb and sends him to meet the princess in his place.

In a scene so wildly improbably it distracted me the rest of the film, Shing An-posing-as-the-Emperor is beset by rebels. He immediately spares their lives for attacking his caravan and goes one step further to say that he will now listen to the people and change his agenda accordingly.

If that's not enough to strain belief, the people -- rebels and commoners -- spontaneously let out a cheer of "Long live the king!"

Enter Li Ching as the Cai kingdom's princess.

After being charmed by the Emperor Shing An, the princess and her handmaiden (Lily Li) dress as commoners and survey the kingdom and discover the pleasure palace being built with slave labor.

So there's the usual court intrigue as Shing An falls in love with the princess, and the real Emperor ordering the death of the Shing family and so on -- all pretty forgettable.

There is one scene where the score sounds almost exactly like Akira Ifukube's Godzilla theme and that kept me awake for a few more moments.

Then Shing An gets put in an iron mask, there's a fight, and more sneaking around by Li Ching's princess as she is now in love with the imprisoned Shing An and aware of the twins situation.

In an attempt to sneak into the palace and save Shing An, Li Ching's princess gets to perform a song for the real Emperor who attacks her. His concubine is killed and so on.

The King With My Face is a plot-heavy 95-minute adventure which offers an uninteresting leading man -- good thing he's playing two parts then! -- and an underused Li Ching in a part that any Shaw starlet could have played.

The production values are high so everything looks decent, including the separation of the twins shown in a flashback.

Not really essential viewing, except for the other Li Ching diehard fans out there.

You can order The King With My Face on DVD here.