Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Love Without End (1970) with Jenny Hu

Jenny Hu is QingQing and her uncle (Wong Chung-Shun) works in a snazzy nightclub in Hong Kong. Essie Lin Chia is star performer Meng Li. Ling Yun is the handsome Tang Pengnan who overhears Qingqing the country girl singing along backstage with Meng Li's onstage performance.

If that basic setup sounds familiar, it should. It's because this is a big color remake of the earlier Linda Lin Dai classic of the same name from 1961. 1970's Love without End benefits from color photography and larger sets and a strong male lead in Ling Yun.

Still, this version is almost more clumsily put together than the original where Doe Chin was at least directing. I mean, within the first 22 minutes, Jenny Hu presents herself as a naive country girl, coughs, and buddies up to older singer Essie Lin Chia. You almost want to tell the filmmakers to pick a story: either it's the naive country girl corrupted by the big city of Hong Kong or it's the story of a young beauty with a tragic disease.

I suppose that even as late as 1970 that this sort of melodrama still worked. And Jenny Hu and Ling Yun at least look fantastic together. If nothing else, the film delivers Shaw Brothers glamour.

So, there's the usual drama and thwarted romance with Jenny Hu having to go on a trip with rich businessman Lin Chih-Yung. When the guy gets stopped at customs entering Tokyo, there's more trouble as it seems the guy is a diamond smuggler.

I guess the drama of a dying country girl becoming a nightclub singer was not enough? She's gotta be wrapped up in a criminal enterprise as well?

Love Without End (1970) is a bit tedious, I'll admit. I guess I would recommend this film to any other diehard Jenny Hu or Ling Yun fans out there.

All of the seriousness here is leavened a tiny bit by the inexplicable scene where Ling Yun disguises himself as a mutton-chopped hippy and shows up at Qingqing's door. Not really sure what purpose it serves other than to be a cute proposal scene.

While I can't say that I entirely enjoyed this version of Love Without End, I did appreciate the time spent on the two leads. In the original, Linda Lin Dai's death seemed a bit abrupt despite the foreshadowing. Here, Jenny Hu's tragic end is telegraphed from the first few minutes of the film but at least there is a sense of doom.

As others have noted, Jenny Hu was not equipped for period piece wuxia films at the Shaw studios. Her Eurasian beauty would have been too much of an anachronism.

But she was ideally suited to this sort of high drama. And in Love Without End (1970) she is practically Shakespearean. I can only compare this sort of performance to what Li Ching was doing in Susanna (1967). The films' plots may be a bit over-the-top but the lead actresses commit without a trace of irony.

The handling of Ling Yun's final scene is well staged despite the actor's surprising lack of emotion -- well, he wasn't the most emotive of actors in the Shaw studio stable, was he? The empty sets here, and the song, serve to convey the sense of loss that the actor cannot.

Love Without End (1970) is out-of-print on both VCD and DVD which is why there is no link here to buy the film.