Monday, November 22, 2010

The Golden Buddha (1966) with Lo Wei and Fanny Fan

You know, if I said that The Golden Buddha (1966) was a silly spy flick, you might think I meant that as an insult. No, it's not meant that way. Lo Wei's The Golden Buddha is a largely solid tale of mistaken identity, switched briefcases, and girl spies set in Thailand.

That leaden leading man Paul Chang Chung manages to carry this thing along is another accomplishment.

I'd be doing a potential viewer a disservice if I recounted the entire plot with all of its twists and turns so I'll just elaborate on the basics.

Businessman Paul Cheung (Paul Chang Chung) boards a flight to Singapore, finds old friend Chung Cheung (Cheung Pooi-Saan) across the aisle from him, and attempts to catch up on old times.

Chung Cheung is getting off at Thailand and he accidentally takes Paul's briefcase instead of his. The plane gets delayed in Thailand and Paul spends some time tracking down his old friend once he opens the guy's suitcase and finds some mysterious items in it -- notably that titular golden Buddha which is one of three needed for some nefarious purpose.

The Golden Buddha, like the previous year's Crocodile River, uses a mix of real Thailand locations and studio sets to convey the large scope of the picturesque spy story.

The addition of Fanny Fan is another picturesque plus. The voluptuous actress actually has one of her better roles here. My knowledge of her work is still fairly limited but at least here she gets to play normal in the train-set meeting with Paul Chang Chung and then super-sexy when he shows up at her hotel room and he -- and we -- get a shot of her bare backside.

She's just ridiculously sexy in this film. As always, check out duriandave's blog for more on the bombshell.

There's more spy stuff with Paul switching spiked drinks with Fanny Fan after she's seduced him. Really, The Golden Buddha may have been the Shaw Brothers' answer to James Bond but it's closer in spirit to that great episode of "The Flintstones" where Fred and Barney get taken to that island by the spy-lady who calls them "darlings".

I mean that in a good way.

Soon, Paul finds Jeanette Lin Tsui tied up in a closet. The lovely actress once possessed one of the three golden Buddhas so now the goons are after her too. Good thing Paul Chang Chung recognized her from an earlier meeting on that train through Thailand. It does seem awfully convenient that he finds her in the same hotel that he's staying in but, hey, that's the sort of thing that happens all the time in this sort of 1960s flick.

As Paul and Mei-Nan (Jeanette Lin Tsui) search for the other Buddha, the scene shifts to the stronghold of some gold-wearing villain and his girl army. Seems Fanny Fan was "Number 4" in the troops and she's in trouble for mixing with Paul and letting him get away.

Time for the dimestore James Bond tortures to begin! She's put on a table and tortured with what looks like a light you could use to cook Curly Fries in an Arby's restaurant kitchen.

Meanwhile, Paul and Mei-Nan are enjoying a bellydancing show in Bangkok and they spy the other Buddha on the stage as part of the dancer's act.

There's a halfhearted escape from some goons and the two are then gliding down the river in a boat scene not unlike the one pictured on the cover of Crocodile River (1965). As the films share the same director, I wonder if Lo Wei re-used footage from the earlier film in this one?

Anyway, there's more nonsense when Paul shows up at the stronghold.

The plot of The Golden Buddha is inconsequential as the film's main appeal is in providing a lot of retro thrills. I don't know how viewers in 1966 saw this film -- as a cheap Bond knock-off? -- but in 2010, it is just the same sort of pleasurable experience that those Matt Helm flicks are.

Had the film been about 10 minutes shorter, it would have been even more fun.

And, while I'm not going to spoil the ending of this film, let me just say that when the main villain -- the guy in the cape with the all girl army -- takes off his disguise and reveals his real identity, the moment is beyond ridiculous -- you can't help thinking "How was that the same guy as...?" for the last few minutes of the film.

Check out Brian's review here.

The Golden Buddha (1966) is out-of-print on DVD but you can order the VCD here.