Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with Cherie Chung

Thanks to the good, kind heart of a certain blogger and Hong Kong cinema expert, I now have Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on DVD! Having already seen the film on VCD, I'm now going to post a review of the DVD.

Suffer, readers, suffer!

I have been a casual fan of Cherie Chung for 9 years now; the current near-obsession with the actress didn't start until after I traded Last Romance (1988) for a handful of other DVDs to someone on the Asian DVD Guide forum page.

I thought by trading one DVD for 4 IVL/Celestial Shaw Brothers DVD that I was getting a good deal. And I did get some good stuff -- including The Twelve Gold Medallions (1970), The Twin Swords (1965), The Mighty Peking Man (1977), and one other IVL/Celestial Shaw Brothers DVD -- for the one 1988 Cherie Chung, Yonfan-directed film, but I still feel like I made a mistake.

To that end, I'm now trying to be a Cherie completist and batshit-crazy 1983 Twinkle Twinkle Little Star held a high place on my "to have" list.

When I say "batshit crazy" I don't mean that in a bad way; that whole "anything goes" vibe of Hong Kong cinema of the 1980s and 1990s (to some extent) is exactly why I got into this stuff in the first place.

And, structurally, this film is a total mess.

With credits inspired by 1978's Superman: The Movie, 1983's Twinkle Twinkle Little Star begins. A flying saucer lands -- scaring a farmer in a nod to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) -- and a crowd of scientists, cops, and onlookers shows up to inspect the craft. Two odd dectectives (James Yi Lui and Tam Nin Tam) also show up on a motorcycle.

In a deservedly famous scene, Cherie Chung enters the film -- supposedly this was her debut for the Shaw Brothers -- and causes a massive car accident as she stands over an air vent like Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (1955).

The special effects are pretty good as the car crash is decently staged and, let's face, Cherie Chung is just spectacular. Honestly, this is one of the sexiest scenes I've ever seen in a mainstream Hong Kong film. I'll take Cherie being cute and funny over the "Amy Yip tease" any day.

When next we encounter Cherie she is at her miserable makeup counter job at a large department store when the magical big boss (David Lo Dai Wai) enters and the film shifts into a weird disco number with Cherie singing (probably not her real voice, I'm guessing).

There's more comedy with those two detectives -- the reference to The Deer Hunter (1978) did make me laugh -- and then it's on to a mad scientist (Leung Tin) who turns into a gorilla after accidentally injecting himself with some sort of serum.

Soon, the saucer returns and, in a scene that reminded me of Message from Space (1978), or Starcrash (1979), Cherie is taken up into the saucer for the sort of fx-lightshow that seemed like a big deal in that film era.

It's a shame that, even on a 2nd viewing, I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on once the one detective -- dressed as Cherie, I might add -- gets taken aboard the spaceship. I use the word shame because the interiors are really nice. The film looks great -- well, at least as good as parts of Alien (1979), a film that clearly influenced the look of these white spaceship sets.

Then the Darth Vader-like alien arrives and there's a lot of loud nonsense without any sign of Cherie Chung for long sequences -- she's back on Earth filming a watch commercial it seems.

This is one of those films where I can't say that something was lost in the translation. Even the best subtitles in the world would not have made this thing more coherent for me.

Look for a young Tsui Hark in one scene.

Obviously, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is out-of-print on DVD but you can still order it on VCD here.