Monday, May 31, 2010

Cheng Pei-Pei Ballet Scene from Blue Skies (1967)

Following my earlier review of Blue Skies (1967), here is a sequence from the film of Cheng Pei-Pei putting her ballet training to better use than in most of her wuxia films.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Let's Have A Baby with Pat Ha

A genuinely funny opening montage begins 1985's Let's Have A Baby. An infertile man -- well, I guess the subtitles meant impotent? -- and a woman determined not to have a baby -- she's an overpopulation expert -- meet on a campus in Hong Kong and get married. We see a montage of their first three anniversaries and their childless life seems quiet and relatively happy until...a guy leaves his kids at their apartment and they go crazy dreaming of having children of their own.

Alex Man, from Hong Kong Hong Kong (1983), and Pat Ha, from An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty (1984) among other titles, play the title couple and they each bring a sort of class to the roles; in what could be a madcap baby comedy, the two normally serious actors manage to be funny without straining too much to be funny. That is a big plus for this viewer.

Funnyman Charlie Cho Cha-Lee gives Peter Mui (Alex Man) the equipment -- dirty movies and sex toys -- that he needs to get his wife, Yuan Kwan (Patricia Ha Man-Jik) pregnant; it seems that his exercise routine to the opening of TVB's "Enjoy Yourself Tonight" did not do the trick.

When Yuan Kwan determines she is fertile and Peter rushes home to impregnate her is exactly when Yuan Kwan's mother comes for a visit. Mom is played by an almost unrecognizable Tanny Tien Ni. For comedic reasons, the couple look themselves in their bedroom for five days and prepare to make a baby.

I don't think I'm giving away anything -- especially since this is a comedy about having a baby -- to reveal that the couple can't conceive due to a problem with Peter's...little solders. So the couple, in a nice montage overlooking Hong Kong from the Peak, discuss their options.

Soon, Yuan Kwan is going to Hawaii to get artifically inseminated which leads to another funny montage in the airport.

After some more comedy business, Yuan Kwan returns and the wait begins for the baby to arrive.

Good-looking cousin Siao Bao (Poon Jan-Wai from An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty and Girl With The Diamond Slipper) arrives and Peter starts getting jealous -- especially once he learns that his wife used to bathe with her cousin when they were younger.

After learning that the good-looking doctor works at the same clinic where Yuan Kwan went to get inseminated, Peter starts to get paranoid and Yuan Kwan starts to wonder about Siao Bao as a mate -- or at least as a potential father of her future child.

Here on out the film turns darkly comic. When I say dark, I mean Peter now starts to fantasize -- in more montages -- about killing his supposedly unfaithful wife. Oh, and did I mention the comedy when he tries to give her soup so she'll have a miscarriage?

It sounds worse than it is in the execution, really.

There's a nice little in-joke when Tanny Tien Ni holds up a picture of Yueh Hua and tells the baby that that's his grandfather (the actress married the action star in 1975).

Let's Have a Baby is a pleasant change from the usual Wong Jing-style comedies I'm used to from the Shaws in this era.

Not a masterpiece but a character-driven confection that doesn't overstay its welcome and provides a nice showcase for two normally serious leads.

You can order Let's Have A Baby on DVD here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lauren Laverne's Candy Pop

Besides being the former lead singer of one of my favourite bands of all time, and the DJ of a great daily radio show on BBC 6 Music, AND the sister of one of those blokes in Frankie and The Heartstrings, Lauren Laverne can now add author to her impressive CV as her debut novel for teens, Candypop - Candy and the Broken Biscuits, is now available!

(I ordered my copy from England this morning!)

You can order your copy of Candypop - Candy and the Broken Biscuits from

(I know I will read this and wonder what bits came from her experiences in Kenickie but I think that will only add another layer of fun to this novel!)

Follow Lauren's Twitter feed:

Here's a clip of the lovely L.L. describing her first novel:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Melody of Love with Danny Lee

The oddest thing about the innocuous 1977 comedy Melody of Love is that the director is Mau Dui-Fai, famed Category III pioneer. Not only that, but the guy may have directed stuff harder than Cat. III, according to this Bullets Over Chinatown post.

Melody of Love is harmless fun with Danny Lee in a starring role. The film was presumably made for the Taiwan market. I say that as the DVD only had a Mandarin language track and most other Shaw titles made after 1972 were released on DVD with both Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks. Additionally, this HKMDB link lists the country of production as Taiwan; it just doesn't feel like a local Hong Kong Shaws production for some reason.

Danny Lee is Dr. Xiao Erke and Liu Shang-chien and Liu Lu-Hua are two other doctors in this story of three young men romancing three young women.

I'm not going to try to make this sound like more than it is as it's basically "Three's Company"-level comedy for the 90-or-so-minutes of this thing.

I mean, I'm not spoiling anything by warning you that the same gag of a guy trapped on a car door as it pulls away is played out twice in this film. In fact, what this film calls to mind is not so much a sitcom but one of those live action Disney films from the 1970s. I half expected Tim Conway to show up at some point.

As for the three ladies in the film, former Shaw Brothers child star Niu Niu is appealing but I was more interested in Siu Yiu, star of 1977's Mighty Peking Man. The third lady is played by Chen Szu-Chia, who was in The Magic Blade (1976).

Melody of Love is hardly a masterpiece but it's a refreshing non-Wong Jing-style comedy that is a pleasant time-killer.

Add to that, it's further proof of the versatility of leading man Danny Lee; he really could do any genre of film. He's no Olivier but he is appealing in a very basic way.

You can order Melody of Love with Danny Lee on DVD here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gossip Street with Danny Lee

1974's Gossip Street is based on a TVB program of the time so my review might not add much to the discussion but here goes.

Following a nice opening sequence where the characters introduce themselves directly to the camera, the story proper begins. The main thread tying everything together seems to be Cheung Kwun-Min, an inveterate gambler whose vice leads to the breaking of promises to friends and neighbors.

For fans of Hong Kong cinema of the era, we've got Hong Kong legend Helena Law as an aging seductress who seems to annoy everyone in her building, including Danny Lee; Leung Tin as a Chinese opera singer past his prime; and Ricky Hui, as well as Ouyang Sha-Fei in the kind of role she could play in her sleep.

The story -- such as it is -- involves the local crime boss' son (or simply his main thug; I wasn't quite sure) and his involvement with a local servant girl and the boss' attempts to drive out the tenants of the main apartment building in Gossip Street.

The plot is really just an afterthought as the main point of the film is the interaction between the various characters on Gossip Street and the portrait of life in 1974 Hong Kong that the film is depicting.

There are some Godfather-parodies courtesy of a local businessman (Paang Paang from Shaw's Journey to the West cycle) and his attempts to sweet-talk the mob boss.

Hong Kong Cinemagic has a great photo of the entire ensemble cast with names and you can check that out here.

I think with a film like Gossip Street, I'm clearly out of my element and probably missing 50% of the film's appeal -- if not more due to a reliance on subtitles.

But, I consider my Hong Kong film viewing a 9+ year education -- an education that is still underway.

Given that, I can say that if you want to catch a glimpse of who was on TVB in 1974, and see them mingle with some of the Shaw film studios' main character actors of the time, then check out Gossip Street.

The film is a light comedy with nice production design and feels similar to 1973's The House of 72 Tenants in small ways.

You can order Gossip Street on DVD here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Angela Yu Chien Screencaps from Torrent of Desire

When I reviewed Torrent of Desire (1969) recently, I had trouble finding stills from the film online to use in the blog-post, specifically shots of costar Angela Yu Chien.

Well, now I've got a little DVD player to plug into my netbook so here are some screencaps.

(Yes, I was tempted to post Angela's topless scene but I decided not to; it removes the mystery that makes her sexy and I don't want to turn the blog into the kind of blog that would post celebrity topless shots.)

And I should not that I'm not a smoker, but Angela Yu Chien makes it into an art, doesn't she? It's a Bette Davis-worthy skill in her hands!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sinful Confession with Michael Hui

Comedian Michael Hui plays multiple roles in 1974's Sinful Confession, a big budget Shaw Brothers erotic farce. The sets are really amazing in this film -- proof that the Shaws didn't waste money even on what was really a sex comedy -- and I really enjoyed the film for many retro reasons.

Director Li Han-Hsiang and actress Hu Chin worked together a few times and yet Sinful Confession seems better than most of her other films. I think the modern setting makes it interesting, as does the presence of funnyman Michael Hui.

The roles assayed by Mr. Hui here are less broad than the title role in The Warlord (1972) and the comedy seems rooted in reality to some degree.

I think I'm probably missing some details by relying on English subtitles but I could get a good sense of the film's take on 1974-era Hong Kong.

Michael Hui first plays a newspaper reporter who tries to blackmail the makers of an erotic film in his neighborhood. This section wasn't particularly funny to me but the sequence is a pleasure to watch due to the sets and costumes; 1970s junkies should be pleased.

Then he cameos as a politician who likes to explore the seedier neighborhoods and indulge his vices.

Unlike other Li Han-Hsiang films, the director this time wisely threads the multiple stories together rather than make an anthology film.

Next it's on to a doctor for Michael, a doctor who dances the tango with his female patients. The doctor is about to get his comeuppance from the lovely Pai Hsiao Man. The actress was a new discovery for the Shaws and sadly committed suicide before the premiere of this film. I'm sure there's some story there if anyone can ever find it.

I end up liking stuff like Sinful Confession for the wrong reasons. I mean, it's not that the film is particularly funny to me, or erotic for that matter, but I like seeing the era represented so unaffectedly on film. With this sort of thing, it's almost like a more honest representation of the 1974 milieu. Yes, the sets and costumes and scene trappings are quite nice and top-of-the-line, but it's almost like you're seeing a more honest version of 1974 Hong Kong than you would see in a kung fu film.


Add to that a truly Nabokovean ending where director Li Han Hsiang plays himself in the picture trying to scam scammer Michael Hui (in his fresh-off-the-boat character role). The final scene is both funny and quite sophisticated as the director comments on his own career in character as himself in one of his own films.

[Spoilers End]

A weird film, Sinful Confession was neither erotic nor funny enough to be a classic of either genre but it seemed like some lost classic all the same. Hu Chin's role is relatively small, unfortunately.

You can order Sinful Confession on DVD here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New (Final?) Single from Black Box Recorder

In what they're billing as the final statement, Black Box Recorder (Sarah Nixey, Luke Haines, John Moore) released a new single in May 2010 and it seems to have slipped under the radar -- I just found it on a trawl of iTunes today.

I already heard the sublime "Do You Believe in God?" and the other new song, "Keep It In The Family", is not bad either.

The liner notes reference Frank Butcher, Nanny McPhee, and Enoch Powell -- only Morrissey can do stuff like that with the same mix of dark, sly humor (humour) and pop sense.

Moz got his ass handed to him for even referencing Powell's sort of "England for the English" BS but Black Box Recorder -- as usual -- are using the dark past of England in an intellectual fashion.

The gentle nudge that things are not all right in the "land of our fathers" (to quote another BBR flipside)...

You can stream the songs on the band's MySpace page:

In the States, you can buy the single from iTunes here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Girl With The Diamond Slipper with Maggie Cheung

Wearing a pair of sky-blue, dangerously short shorts, Maggie Cheung peddles her bicycle down a street in Hong Kong in the start of 1985's Girl With The Diamond Slipper. Maggie is impossibly beautiful here and the sexiness of the opening is a tiny bit of a shock given the actress' stature; maybe I've just got a dirty mind?

Girl With The Diamond Slipper, sometimes listed as Modern Cinderella, is a Wong Jing film -- the director is in it too -- so you have been warned.

Anthony Chan, from 1988's One Husband Too Many with Cherie Chung, here plays a harsh TV producer who holds the key to success for aspiring actress Maggie Cheung but Maggie has the hots for a handsome businessman.

Add to that mix Nat Chan and Wong Jing as jewel thieves who seem to be running into Maggie at every turn and you have the beginnings of this Cinderella spoof.

I just want to mention one little scene in this to illustrate what a horrible filmmaker Wong Jing sometimes is. Nat Chan catches sight of Maggie Cheung on TV in a historical drama. In the TV drama, Maggie accidentally spills a drink on the leading lady playing the empress.

Now, wouldn't a TV producer edit out a blooper like that? Yes, of course he or she would. But Wong Jing is so inept, or lazy, that his only way to show Maggie's inexperience as an actress is this clearly implausible scene, a scene whose only purpose is to let Nat Chan see the character as a new, stumbling actress on television.

Compared to 1985's Prince Charming, Girl With The Diamond Slipper is positively tedious. I don't know what it was, but the farce felt more forced than normal and the charms of a young, luminous Maggie were not enough to keep me entertained.

Maggie Cheung completists can order Girl with the Diamond Slipper on DVD here.

Maggie is dreaming of a day when her career doesn't involve Wong Jing films.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Rose Elinor Dougall Video

Following on from my last post on the ex-Pipettes singer, the new single, "Find Me Out", from Rose Elinor Dougall now has a video AND it's up for purchase.

Not only that, but the word is that the debut album from Rose will be released August 30, 2010 via Scarlett Music (I need to find out more about that)!

In America, you can buy "Find Me Out" on iTunes here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The 82 Tenants with Gordon Liu

The sight of the normally bald Gordon Liu rocking a Robert Reed-style perm is a scary one but don't let that turn you away from watching 1982's The 82 Tenants. This film is a farcical comedy about the very real housing crunch in Hong Kong and something of a dose of reality in a studio output largely given to fantasies of the modern and martial arts worlds.

What's so interesting is that the Shaw Studios were cranking out Mandarin films up until the early 1970s in an attempt to appeal to the Chinese-speaking world and not just Hong Kong. While Hong Kong might be mentioned, or shown, in an early film, the goal was to appeal to other audiences and not just local ones.

Then, by 1982, you have a film like The 82 Tenants which is solely designed to appeal to local audiences. I mean, the comedy and star-power would appeal to others -- it appealed to me! -- but the situations in the film are so particular to Hong Kong -- Hong Kong of 1982 -- that it's hard to quite get a handle on the comedy now from another perspective.

Gordon Liu is not the only Shaws tough guy in this reality-based comedy as Lo Meng, recently in Ip Man 2 (2010), is here too.

And Shaws' tough gals are represented by Kara Hui, recent Hong Kong Film Award winner.

As the plot quickly unfolds amid scenes of broad comedy in the overcrowded apartment complex, rick playboy Ah Bing (Nat Chan) learns that the building is to be sold except for the flat he shares with Mrs. Zhang (Betty Ting Pei), the wife of a late and well-respected tenant.

Add to that, Kara Hui's landlady who seems more intent on teasing Gordon Liu's cabble than providing services to her tenants.

There are moments where it seems like Nat Chan is underplaying -- I know that is hard to believe -- and, while the comedy bits early on are very broad, the fact that things are rooted in a very real setting somehow makes the film feel slightly less silly than other comedies of this era do; it's not a Wong Jing picture, in other words.

In a great scene, Gordon Liu sits on a balcony looking out over the Hong Kong cityscape at night. His mind wanders into a fantasy scene where he's berating a cop for giving him tickets -- he chases the cop on the motorcycle down in his taxi and gives him a ticket -- and then Gordon is marrying Kara Hui in an elaborate wedding procession. It's a nice bit of comedy that feels less slapsticky and more based on character.

When it looks like Lo Meng's wife is going to be deported and his new baby left without a Hong Kong birth certificate -- and thus deprived of health care and education -- the tenants consider signing the building over to Ah Bing and Mrs. Zhang in a weird scheme.

As the film starts to get too serious, it gets funny again when a sexy tenant (Margaret Lee Din-Long) is sent out to seduce the head of the real estate firm set to buy the tenants' beloved building.

I found the ending of this film confusing as it seemed as if things were not quite resolved. But, if you want to see a short, slight comment on life in Hong Kong, circa 1982, you could do worse than The 82 Tenants.

You can order The 82 Tenants on DVD here.