Monday, February 28, 2011

Jane Seymour and Madeline Smith in Live And Let Die (1973)

In the more than 3 years of this blog's existence, very few movie posts have generated as many hits as this one about Jane Seymour in Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger (1977) and this one about Madeline Smith on TV's "The Two Ronnies" program.

(Heck, pretty much every post I've done about Madeline Smith has generated a significant number of clicks for me!)

So it only seems fitting that I at least highlight the loveliness of these two actresses in the otherwise forgettable Live And Let Die (1973).

I'm not a James Bond fan and I'm decidedly not a fan of Roger Moore; I can take the Sean Connery ones but the Moore ones are just silly without being enjoyably campy.

Live And Let Die (1973) is overlong and a bit awkward racially in some sequences -- though the scenes of Bond in Harlem are sort of funny and I think they were meant to be funny, at least.

Madeline Smith appears very briefly as an Italian agent, Miss Caruso...

Jane Seymour is the main female character in the film, Solitaire...

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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring Blossoms (1968) with Lily Li

In an amusing pre-credits sequence, Mr. Wu (Yang Fang) and Mr. Yao (Chin Feng) are kicked out of their apartment by a landlady in need of space for her soon-to-be-married child. The fact that Chin Feng's side of the room has a wall covered with pin-up pictures doesn't help the guys' case.

The boys are college students and their paths are about to cross with that of high school student Chen Meiyu (Lily Li). Lily Li is the fifth sister and she's watched three of her other sisters get married already.

The girl's mother (Chen Yan-Yan) is busy trying to get fourth sister (Shu Pei-Pei) married off.

There's also the matter of a room for rent in the house which the mother only wants to rent to college students.

Cheung Kwong-Chiu is the girl's uncle and Lily Li's Meiyu seems close to her cousin Jinglan (Essie Lin Chia), also unmarried.

Within minutes Spring Blossoms (1968) endeared itself to this viewer for two big reasons:

1) Location shots of 1967 Hong Kong. There are not a lot but I actually recognized the stretch of road that Shu Pei-Pei's bus is traveling down in an early shot.

2) Lily Li in a lead role.

After seeing the actress in so many supporting roles -- usually playing a petulant brat -- it's a delight to see the girl in a main role here. She's adorable and cute and a bit tomboyish.

So, after Yang Fang's Mr. Wu has moved in with Lily Li and her family, Chin Feng's Mr. Yao moves in with Lily's uncle and his family, including the guy's pushy wife (Kao Pao-Shu). It seems like both sides of the family are desperate for handsome college students to rent rooms if those college students are potential suitors for their daughters.

There's not much reason to recount all of the silliness and romance here; Spring Blossoms (1968) is largely fluff but it's fun. I don't think it's any surprise that the two male leads will somehow end up marrying two of the girls by the film's end but the comedic bits make the inevitable hijinks a pleasure to sit through.

Shu Pei-Pei has the thankless role of the serious sister but Essie Lin Chia is quite charming here as her cousin. At one point, the girl runs away from home and later finds her father in the park. The scene felt quite natural and a lot less histrionic than a similar scene would have been in a Li Ching film.

Then again, the tone here is a bit lighter.

And Lily Li really is ridiculously cute here.

You can buy Spring Blossoms (1968) on DVD here.