Reviews written by Kevin Kennedy
Yamanaka Sadao Box Set: Humanity and Paper Balloons / Kochiyama Soshun / The Million Ryo Pot (DVD) (Taiwan Version)September 23, 2021 Humanity and Paper Balloons
Director Sadao Yamanaka's film 'Humanity and Paper Balloons' is an affectionate, ferocious, funny, and terribly sad look at the downtrodden lives of the residents of a dilapidated tenement. Its story focuses primarily on two residents: Unno (Kawarasaki Chojuro), an impoverished ronin desperately seeking help from a wealthy man who had been aided in his rise by Unno's father, and Shinza (Nakamura Ganemon), a grifter who dares to operate his own gambling den on yakuza turf.
In director Sadao's film, no one emerges untarnished, no one is without sin. Unno relentlessly lies to his wife, implying a bright future ahead for them. Shinza's every breath is dishonest. Even the tenement's gentle, sweet-tempered blind man is working an angle to come out ahead after his silver pipe has been stolen. While the running length of the film is only 78 minutes, one leaves the film feeling that it has told a complete, complex slice-of-life story about this very human milieu.
Under the Hawthorn Tree (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)(1)Our Price: US$15.99September 22, 2021 Pure love
Director Zhang Yimou's film 'Under the Hawthorn Tree' is a love story of great, simple beauty. Set during the Cultural Revolution, and subtly hinting at the horrors of that age, the film tells of the luminously sweet high school girl Jing (Zhou Dong Yu), who is sent to the country to 'learn from the peasants'. While there she meets the kind and handsome Sun (Shawn Dou), a worker with a geological exploration unit, and each is immediately smitten with the other.
Over the coming months, their relationship is challenged by long separations, parental resistance, illness, and the constant threat of political persecution, yet the enduring purity of Jing and Sun's shared love shines through.
What is most striking about director Zhang's film is its firm grasp of the true nature of love -- a self-sacrificing relationship which always puts the interests of the other above one's own. This simple truth is captured so beautifully in 'Under the Hawthorn Tree' that, having seen it, one can't imagine ever forgetting it. Very highly recommended.
The Adventures Of Emperor Chien Lung (Hong Kong Version)(1)Our Price: US$14.49September 22, 2021 The adventure (singular) of Chien Lung
Director Wang Feng's film 'Emperor Chien Lung', starring Anthony Lau as the Emperor and Wang Yu as his (eventual) sidekick, opened in movie theaters precisely one year before the release of Li Han Hsiang's 'The Adventures of Emperor Chien Lung'. In short, director Li simply was building upon the firm foundation already created by director Wang.
Director/screenwriter Li, however, decided to begin his film by unnecessarily turning the clock back. He spends the first 18 minutes of the movie spinning the clumsily-constructed origin story of Chien Lung. Why did I find it clumsy? It includes a hunt scene which has obvious stock footage of animals in the wild, and it includes a 'bear' attack featuring an embarrassingly obvious man in a cheap bear suit. For good (?) measure, director Li throws in footage of some actual possessions of Chien Lung held by a museum in Taiwan.
We wait until the film's 18 minute mark before we see for the first time Anthony Lau as the emperor. Then we must wait an additional 52 minutes before the emperor has his first (and only) 'adventure' in the film. What happens during those 52 long minutes? A series of humorous scenes in which Treasurer Liu (Li Kun) turns an insult into a pay raise, outsmarts the emperor to win his jade ring, and defeats the emperor's schemes to terminate his pay raise. While these scenes are amusing, surely they should not have consumed over half of the film's running length!
When the emperor finally does go on his 'adventure' to a southern city, there are only 30 minutes remaining in the film. And a huge portion of that half-hour is consumed with one very long fight scene. Director Li many times over in his career proved his greatness, but in this film he is undermined by the clumsiness of screenwriter Li. Of the five comedic Chien Lung films created by directors Wang and Li, this is surely the least compelling.
Fox Legend (1991) (DVD) (US Version)September 18, 2021 Foxy fun
Director Wu Ma's 'Fox Legend' only lasted a few days in Hong Kong movie theaters, and tends to get very lukewarm reviews, but I really enjoyed it. Lovely fox spirits -- it's got 'em. Lots of fun wirework -- got it. Wu Ma in one of his crazy costumed roles -- got him. 'Fox Legend' has many of the elements we love in early '90s HK films.
Cleavage-baring Kelly Yao is featured as the queen of fox spirits, a nasty piece of work devoted to preying on humans and training her daughter Snow (Joey Wang) to entice the best hunters of fox spirits into a deadly honey trap. As part of the queen's plans, Snow makes the heir (Li Wei Qiang) of the great fox hunting family fall in love with her. The heir wastes his family fortune in his pursuit of foxy Snow, but things don't go quite as the queen has planned -- Snow has fallen in love with the heir.
Into this mix like a bull in a china shop comes the Hunt King (Wu Ma), who is determined to straighten out the heir and eliminate the fox spirits. But his efforts end up putting him at odds with the totally smitten heir, who is willing to defend lovely Snow to the death.
While Li Wei Qiang is a bit of a damp squib as the heir, I bought the film's love story, loved all the crazy action, enjoyed the beautiful eye candy, and delighted at the always outrageous Wu Ma. Recommended for fans of the genre.
The Lost Swordship (Taiwan Version)September 11, 2021 Action-packed wu xia drama
Based upon a Gu Long novel, director Li Jia's 'The Lost Swordship' tells of a battle for control of the martial arts world. A mysterious clan led by a masked figure known only as 'the Bishop' uses advanced fighting techniques and technologies to slay its competitors. One man who refuses to bow down to the Bishop is the noble and upright Lu Nan-Jen (Tien Peng).
Lu's principled stand against the Bishop comes with a great price. The Bishop's minions have seriously wounded him. His wife, the famous beauty Xue Jo-Pi (Tang Bao Yun) has disappeared and is apparently kidnapped by the Bishop, and his fast friend and former rival for Jo-Pi's love Ling Pei Hsiu (Pai Ying) shockingly has thrown in with the Bishop.
To reclaim his wife and defeat the Bishop, the wounded Lu goes in search of his family's legendary weapon, the Fragrant Sword. Instead, he encounters two colorful characters who call themselves the Thief of the North and the Thief of the South (Chen Hui Lou, Kao Pao Shu), who render Lu some tough love.
Will Lu ever be able to defeat the Bishop and retrieve Jo-Pi? Why has Ling Pei Hsiu betrayed him and sided with the evil Bishop? I've only scratched the surface of the intriguing plot and vivid characters to be found in this martial arts gem. 'The Lost Swordship' provides an engaging story and more than enough action to satisfy wu xia film fans.
Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal (2015) (DVD) (Thailand Version)September 11, 2021 The special effects let the movie down
'Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal' is remarkable film, both remarkably good and remarkably bad, but definitely remarkable. Its story, drawing on a concoction of Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese mythology, and even Chinese traditional medicine, tells of an event which occurs only once every millenium for demons: They are reincarnated. The fate of their reincarnation depends upon the stolen human souls housed within the Dark Crystal.
Alas for the demons, the Dark Crystal has been stolen from their domain by Zhong Kui (Aloys Chen) pursuant to the directions of the deity Master Zhang (Winston Chao), who has assumed responsibility for shielding the city of Hu from the reincarnated demons. To fetch back the crystal to the underworld, Xueqing the Snow Girl (Li Bing Bing) and her minions are dispatched to Hu, disguised as a troupe of beautiful dancing girls.
Upon her arrival in Hu, Zhong Kui immediately recognizes the Snow Girl as the woman he briefly met three years earlier, and with whom he had fallen deeply in love. Although he soon realizes her true identity as a demon, and although he is commanded by Master Zhang to destroy her, Zhong Kui is deeply torn by his love. Will he jeopardize the fate of his city by failing to do his duty?
When the film focuses on telling this essentially romantic story, it is remarkably compelling and looks gorgeous. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are unsatisfied to be compelling; they want to create a spectacle. Over and over again, they insert over-the-top CGI special effects to pump up the action, and much too often those special effects look remarkably cartoonish. The cheesy CGI wrecks the film's dramatic momentum. Here's the moral to the story: Just because you have CGI doesn't mean you need to overuse them.
Life Gamble (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)September 10, 2021 Gamble on Chang Cheh
Chang Cheh directing a huge, stellar cast is bound to bring attention to the film 'Life Gamble'. But to what end? In the film, the martial arts world is focused on nabbing a not-particularly impressive-looking piece of jade. The stakes seem too low and require too much exposition to make this a compelling story.
While the story turns out to be as dull as dishwater, several of the characters are a treat. Topping them all is Peng Shuang Shuang (Shirley Yu), essentially a party planner and temptress with an avaricious heart and overactive eyebrows. Two other particularly intriguing characters are Yun Xiang (Fu Sheng), a master blade thrower modeled after a Wild West gunslinger, and Qiu Zi Yu (Phillip Kwok), a blacksmith who has sworn off participating in the endless rivalries of the martial arts world. What makes these two characters compelling is that, unlike everyone else, they are motivated by ends much higher than mere greed.
Given that it is a Chang Cheh film, you can expect lots of action and a high body count. Concentrate on the unusual characters, the imaginative weaponry, and the multiple fight scenes and 'Life Gamble' will entertain.
The Emperor And The Minister (Hong Kong Version)September 9, 2021 The Emperor gets lost ... and lost again
'The Emperor and the Minister', the last installment in writer/director Li Han Hsiang's series of comedic 'emperor' films, begins retrospectively with brief glimpses of tales related in earlier films in the series. It then launches into a prolonged cross-talk routine between Treasurer Liu (Li Kun) and Minister Er (Chiang Nan), the comedy of which is largely impenetrable to those not fluent in Mandarin.
We were twenty minutes into the film before a fresh episode begins; fortunately, it was a very engaging story. The incognito Emperor Chien Lung (Liu Yung), together with Treasurer Liu and Minister Er, have become lost in their travels outside of Suzhou, when they enter a complex and deadly trap. Key players in setting this trap include Madam Hua Jin (Liu Hui Ling), the dodgy proprietress of an even dodgier inn, and Xiao Hong (Kara Hui, looking particularly fetching), a gal with a grudge.
The film next relates a tale of when the emperor, on another of his journeys, becomes lost, alone, and frightfully ill. In a feverish daze, he stumbles into the hovel of two beggars (Chiang Han, Dai Jun De), who nurse their unexpected guest back to health with a 'special' broth to which the emperor takes a liking. Indeed, the emperor likes it so much that he wishes to serve it to his guests at the next big imperial function, with hilarious consequences.
After its slow start, 'The Emperor and the Minister' becomes richly entertaining, another fine example of the cinematic brilliance of Li Han Hsiang.
The Chinese BoxerSeptember 9, 2021 Jimmy Wang Yu does it all
'The Chinese Boxer' was Jimmy Wang Yu's debut as a director (and as a writer), and he puts many more experienced helmsmen to shame! The plot is archetypal: Diao Erh (Chiu Hung) gets thrown out of a martial arts school for misbehavior, and later returns seeking revenge. In the interim he has learned some Japanese techniques which, upon his return, he employs. While he beats several of the students, he gets thrashed by the school's master Li Chun Hai (Fang Mian).
Diao Erh returns again to Master Li's school, bringing three Japanese martial arts experts, including the exceedingly nasty Master Kita (Lo Lieh). The Japanese trio lay waste to the school, killing Master Li and most of the students. One of those students, Lei Ming (Jimmy Wang), barely survives and is nursed back to health by Master Li's lovely daughter Xiao Ling (Wang Ping).
During Lei Ming's convalescence, Diao Erh and Master Kita have gained dominance over the town, crushing the people under usurious interest rates and cheating them at the casino Diao Erh and Kita now control. Lei Ming is determined to defeat this evil crew, but knows he lacks the skills to beat them. However, he recalls that Master Li had told him of two ancient Chinese techniques which could overcome the Japanese styles...
Throughout its running length, the film is creatively mounted, lensed, and edited. As a consequence, it is always interesting to watch. Particularly appealing to the eyes are the film's later scenes, which create wonderful atmosphere by being filmed amidst snow. 'The Chinese Boxer' is a martial arts gem.
Demon Of The Lute (Hong Kong Version)September 8, 2021 Bring your sense of humor and enjoy!
What a delightful charmer of a movie 'Demon of the Lute' is! Someone known as the Demon of the Lute has got ahold of a very special lute (think: 'Deadful Melody') and is using it as a weapon in an attempt to gain control of the martial arts world. Only a very special bow and very special arrows can defeat this mighty lute. But the bow and arrows are hidden and no one knows where they may be found.
Feng Ling (Kara Hui), possessing one part of a clue to where the bow and arrows may be found, goes in search of them. She is joined in her quest by a thief (Phillip Kwok) and his remarkably talented little daughter Xiao Ding Dong (Kei Kong Hung) and by the blacksmith Yuan Fei (Chin Siu Ho).
This merry band must battle the bizarre minions of the Demon of the Lute (including Red Haired Evil and Hermaphrodite) while they also cross paths which such strange creatures as the Skinny Elf and Feng Ling's brother Old Naughty. Eventually all roads seem to lead to the seemingly peaceful Wandering Hermit (Jason Pai). But surprises lie ahead.
Kara Hui, Chin Siu Ho, and the adorable tyke Kei Kong Hung all are perfectly cast for their roles, with all three throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the wild action. 'Demon of the Lute' provides a rollicking good time with lots of laughs, plenty of action, and some of the craziest characters you'll ever see.
Scandal (Hong Kong Version)September 7, 2021 Scandalously funny
In director Li Han Hsiang's hilarious film 'Scandal', Michael Hui stars as Zhen Ming, a not particularly competent burglar who, together with his criminal cohort Chia Liang (Wang Shen), breaks into the office of the corrupt county magistrate. Zhen finds nothing of value in the magistrate's safe other than a series of reports into the nefarious dealings of the county's top officials. Meanwhile, Chia sees a photo of the magistrate and discovers that he and the magistrate look identical.
When a riot creates havoc in the county building, Zhen hatches a wild scheme: Chia will pretend to be the magistrate, Zhen will pose as the magistrate's right hand man, and together they will use those reports to blackmail the county officials. All goes well for our pair of good-natured rogues ... until the province's ultra-corrupt governor (also played by Michael Hui) arrives to investigate rumors of the riot.
Michael Hui is brilliantly funny in his two roles, and Tanny Tien and Lily Li spice up the proceedings. 'Scandal' is surely among director Li's most delightful comedies. Highly recommended.
The Tiger And The WidowSeptember 6, 2021 This widow is worth watching
Director Li Han Hsiang's 'The Tiger and the Widow' is an intense drama which has a particular relevance for today's China. Set during the late Qing dynasty, the film tells of the salt trade. The government has monopolized the industry; anyone infringing upon the government's monopoly receives the death penalty. However, the government has set the price of salt so high that it has incentivized others to participate in the lucrative illicit business. The inevitable result is government corruption.
A kind of tong has arisen to grab a foothold in the salt business. Governed by three elders, the tong trains three young men to lead its efforts. One (Jason Pai) enters the government in order to protect the tong against government enforcement. The other two go into the illegal salt trade, but when one of them dies his widow (Tanny Tien Ni) succeeds to control of the salt business. The other young man (Anthony Lau) designated by the elders acts as her right hand man in running the business.
Pressure comes from high ranks of government to crack down on the illegal salt trade. The threat to the tong is compounded when a traitor (Chan Shen) emerges from their ranks. A sacrificial lamb is required; someone must be turned over to the government to face the death penalty in order to keep the tong's business alive. Who will it be?
The complex story is expertly told by director Li (although the English subtitles occasionally are unhelpful). Tension is effectively built, as the government threat looms over the tong. Much of the film's success is owing to the revelatory performance of Tanny Tien. She is able to convey a woman in command, yet who when needed can slide into the conventional submissive woman's role, a woman who can be ruthless yet possess nobility of spirit. As with so many Shaw films, this one ends too abruptly, but it spins a very compelling story.
The Golden Lion (Hong Kong Version)September 5, 2021 Golden Lion meets the Poison Flying Claw!
The short opening scenes of director Ho Meng Hua's 'The Golden Lion' reveal that the film's central character Dai Xiaoyao (Chiu Hung), also known as the Golden Lion, is a dour Robin Hood who, together with his band of not-so-merry men, steals from the rich at sword-point and gives to the poor. This 'chivalrous' criminal wants no one to be confused about who is committing these robberies; he scrawls 'Lion' at the scene of his crimes.
Naturally, the authorities want to put an end to these assaults on their community's most prosperous members, but they lack the power to stop Dai Xiaoyao, a man of Herculean strength, and his sword-slinging 'brothers'. Consequently, they hire the brutish Wang Jian Chao (Wong Hap) and his huge red-shirted private army to take down the Golden Lion. A bloody confrontation ensues, in which Wang's infamous Poison Flying Claw grievously wounds and poisons the Lion.
His 'brothers' bring the nearly dead Lion to the home of the renowned (but retired) Dr. Lu (Fang Mian), who together with his lovely daughter Wen Fang (Li Jing) reluctantly agrees to attend to the Lion's wounds. Dr. Lu's son Min Yip (James Gung Fan), however, opposes his father giving care to this notorious criminal. After the Lu family (all of whom prove to be great martial artists) is assaulted by Wang's red-shirted warriors, son Min Yip can take no more of this association with the Lion; he throws in his lot with the Wang gang.
Dr. Lu can do only so much to cure the Lion; he is missing a key ingredient for the antidote to the poison, a rare lotus blossom found only in a distant valley. Dr. Lu and his sword-slinging daughter (who clearly has fallen in love with the gallant bandit) set out in search of the missing ingredient, hounded along the way by the red shirts. An ultimate confrontation between Wang and the Lion surely is on the horizon.
'The Golden Lion' presents a crisply-told, well-acted, action-packed story, featuring thrilling martial arts and feats of strength. It boasts both high production values and fine cinematography. Li Jing, who received top billing in the film, provides grace and beauty. While its ending seems truncated, fans of wu xia films should enjoy this Chiu Hung starrer.
Brothers From The Walled City (Hong Kong Version)September 5, 2021 Good choice for fans of Chin Siu Ho
'Brothers from the Walled City' opens by giving us a panoramic view of life in Kowloon's infamous Walled City, where Chan Yuan Loong (Kwan Hoi San) runs a mahjong parlor and serves as a restraining force among the community's violence-prone denizens. We see his two sons, errant schoolkids Da Ge and Xiao Ge, run wild in the place, only to wind up seeing their father knifed to death by a drug addict. This vision of life and sudden death in the Walled City is intense, claustrophobic, and very compelling.
The film then jumps forward a decade or so. Da Ge (Philip Ko) has gone straight, working a legitimate job in a night club. His younger brother Xiao Ge(Chin Siu Ho), however, has turned into a juvenile delinquent, neglecting his high school studies, impregnating his girlfriend (Liu Lai Ling), and generally creating havoc in the community. His irresponsible actions often have him crossing paths with his girlfriend's father, police officer Cheung (Johnny Wang), who works with Da Ge to try to keep Xiao Ge under some control.
Xiao Ge and his school buddies have fun pulling pranks on a gang of thugs which rules their neighborhood. The gang, led by Yi Ching (Wong Ching), are determined to make the teens pay. As time goes on, the kids' pranks become more outrageous and the thugs become increasingly angry. An explosive situation has been created, with the potential for disastrous consequences.
For most of the film, this tit-for-tat between the delinquent kids and the thugs becomes the film's dominant story line. After the intriguing opening scenes of life in the Walled City, this largely unrelated cat-and-mouse game seems a surprisingly trite story choice. While it is well-executed, it is too simplistic. Consequently, 'Brothers from the Walled City' seems like a missed opportunity. I wish that the filmmakers had created a more complex story about brothers IN the Walled City, instead this simple yarn of brothers FROM the Walled City.
The Voyage Of Emperor Chien Lung (1978) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)(3)Our Price: US$14.49September 4, 2021 A voyage filled with delicious wit
Emperor Chien Lung is determined to go on yet another of his incognito journeys, and this time there's a competition underlying his travels: an ongoing contest between Chien Lung (Lau Wing) and his treasurer Liu Yung (Lee Kwan). Treasurer Liu is determined to win a yellow imperial robe if he can prevail in his bets with the emperor.
Right from the outset of director Li Han Hsiang's 'The Voyage of Emperor Chien Lung', the viewer knows he or she is in good hands. The look of the film is gorgeous, its production values first-rate, its cast is reliably good. The viewer expects to be entertained and most definitely is not disappointed.
The film presents a wide variety of interlocking stories, including a colorful tale in which Treasurer Liu must persuade reluctant artist Zheng (Yueh Hua, in a brilliant performance) to create a painting over the imperial seal, a vignette in which the undercover emperor comes to the defense of a beautiful young woman who really doesn't need to be defended (Kara Hui), a humorous encounter between the emperor, a tart-tongued barber, and the barber's wife (Wang Sha and Wang Lai), and the final story in which the cunning treasurer figures out how to win a seemingly unwinnable bet to gain the imperial robe. But, of course, it is the emperor who will end up having the last laugh.
'The Voyage of Emperor Chien Lung' is a delight to which I will enjoy returning again and again.
A Friend From Inner SpaceSeptember 3, 2021 A good story poorly executed
Seeing that the cast of 'A Friend From Inner Space' includes Ti Lung, Josephine Siao, Shek Kin, and Nat Chan, I couldn't resist giving the film a try. At the film's center is pint-sized Xiao Ji (Leung Jun Git), a child who is unhappy at his parents' marital separation and ostracized by classmates for being a rich kid. Woe is him!
On a school field trip, Xiao Ji wanders away from teacher and classmates as he chases a white rabbit (echoes of Alice in Wonderland). Night falls, and the child is lost in the woods. When a thunderstorm threatens, he takes refuge in an empty, haunted mansion. Fortunately for Xiao Ji, the ghost in the mansion turns out to be Jian Ren (Shek Kin), a very friendly apparition.
Jian Ren follows the child back to his father's home and takes up residence there. The boy's dad Joe Weng (Ti Lung), who strangely wears an oversized black cowboy hat indoors, is a wealthy businessman who never seems to do any work, and is distracted by young lovelies coveting his money. While Joe tries to be a good father, his separation from wife Maggie (Josephine Siao) has left a gaping hole in the family's life.
Maggie runs her own fashion business. When she gains custody of Xiao Ji, the tyke tags along with his mom as she runs her business. Poor Xiao Ji grasps the brief crumbs of attention her mom can spare him. Maggie, meanwhile, is coveted by the hapless principal (Nat Chan) of Xiao Ji's school.
Seeing Xiao Ji's plight, the ghost Jian Ren attempts to bring Joe and Maggie back together through using his supernatural wiles. Comedy ensues.
Or comedy would ensue, if this were a well-crafted movie. Unfortunately, the film's direction by Ricky Chan (the man responsible for 'Disco Bumpkins') is ham-handed and the script often was leaden. As I watched the film, there were times when I actually felt sorry for Ti Lung and Josephine Siao, as they were asked to breathe life into hopeless scenes.
The film's story is sufficiently sturdy to make it watchable, and I actually am happy that I had a chance to see it. But with a competent director and better script, 'A Friend From Inner Space' could have been dazzling. (And I'm still wondering about that stupid cowboy hat!)
The Happiest MomentSeptember 3, 2021 Many 'happiest' moments in this farce
Director Li Han-Hsiang's 'The Happiest Moment' stars Michael Hui playing four different roles in a variety of settings, but all set in the Japan-occupied Beijing of director Li's childhood. In his four roles, Hui plays a libidinous businessman with performance issues, a corrupt police official who has difficulty controlling his avarice, a gluttonous old woman suffering health issues due to her overeating, and a dim-witted young barber-in-training whose enthusiasm for his endeavors fails to match his skills. In each instance, the character's obsession proves to be his undoing.
The dialogue is snappy, the humor is rich and bawdy, the depiction of our fallen human nature is insightful, and the performances by the huge cast are terrific. Particularly worthy of mention is Tanny Tien who plays two different roles (a concubine and a nurse). Tanny speaks volumes with the smallest of gestures or expressions. Hu Chin also is excellent in two roles, but most memorable as the voluble barber's wife.
'The Happiest Moment' succeeds, however, because of the incredible acting range of Michael Hui. His years of performing comedy sketches with his brothers surely helped him develop this boundless talent. Mature audiences will enjoy this comic romp.
The BastardSeptember 2, 2021 Another keeper from reliable Chor Yuen
In this director Chor Yuen film, Tsung Hua stars as an orphaned young man with no name (let's call him 'Nameless'). He has no idea who his family is; as a baby, he was left on the steps of a temple. He was adopted by a hermit who has trained him in the martial arts. Now at age 18, he sets out into the world to find his father.
Having been raised by a hermit, Nameless finds himself to be utterly clueless as to the ways of the world. Fortunately, he befriends the streetwise beggar girl, Hsiao Yi (Lily Li), who he has saved from the clutches of four rich brothers who had intended to have their way with her. Hsiao Yi teaches Nameless how to beg, and shares her home with him. Soon she has fallen in love with him.
When Nameless next runs into the four rich brothers, it is revealed that he looks just like their fifth brother who has been imprisoned for murder. They tell their father (Ching Miao) of the resemblence, and the father realizes that Nameless is the fruit of his relations with a courtesan. The father uses the feminine wiles of his niece (Chiao Lin) to lure Nameless into the family home, where an evil scheme is concocted to make Nameless pay for the crime of his imprisoned son.
The story is unfolded with real pathos and surprising turns of events. It is filled with Yuen Woo Ping's spectacular fight choreography, and benefits from atmospheric cinematography. The film's real stand-out performance is delivered by Lily Li, whose character ends up driving most of the film's plot twists. Recommended for fans of martial arts action.
Emperor Chien Lung (Hong Kong Version)September 1, 2021 The emperor's first journey
Before Li Han Hsiang took the Emperor Chien Lung franchise and ran with it for four movies, there was this film, the original 'Emperor Chien Lung', directed by Wang Feng and starring Liu Yung as the wandering emperor.
Frustrated with the boring sameness of everyday life at the palace, the handsome young emperor Chien Lung becomes determined to explore the country he rules, but to do so incognito. He shuns the privileges of his office so he may gain a clearer picture of the lives of his subjects.
What follows are a series of adventures in which he encounters corrupt officials, greedy businessmen, religious charlatans, as well as good-hearted ordinary folks. Accompanying him in his journey is Chau Yi Ching (Wang Yu), a wisecracking, overly confident young con artist who has no idea of the true identity of his travel companion.
Filled with good humor, terrific martial arts, bawdy episodes, and Wang Yu's boyish charm, 'Emperor Chien Lung' is a winner.
Hong Kong 73September 1, 2021 Humorous look at middle class problems
In September 1973 the Shaw Brothers film 'The House of 72 Tenants' became an instant classic and a box-office smash, a landmark film which reinvigorated Cantonese language film-making. The film was based upon a successful stage play which, ten years earlier, had been made into a movie. It drew on people's nostalgia, as it looked back a generation earlier when times were tough in a Hong Kong filled with recent immigrants from the mainland.
Seeking to further cash in on the success of '72 Tenants', its director Chor Yuen created the film 'Hong Kong 73', released only seven months later in April 1974. As the earlier film had done, 'Hong Kong 73' sought to give a snapshot of life in Hong Kong through the interconnected stories of a group of people living in the same apartment complex.
'HK 73' had several challenges to overcome: It was conceived and filmed in a short period of time. It lacked a previous story source; unlike its predecessor, it was not based on a play. Since it was presenting a picture of contemporary middle-class Hong Kong, it was lacking the nostalgic glow of hardships overcome in simpler times, which contributed so much to the success of '72 Tenants'. Let's face it, middle class problems typically lack the drama of the problems of those who are only one step away from utter destitution.
Nonetheless, 'Hong Kong 73' is a very watchable and enjoyable movie. Like its predecessor, the central characters are played by Yueh Hua, as a security guard, and Ching Li, as his wife, a librarian. Like the predecessor, just about everyone who was anyone at Shaw Brothers studios has a role in the film. Most of the film's storylines revolve around people trying to get rich quick, through tips on the stock market, gambling in Macau, thievery, or other schemes. The contemporary array of Hong Kong's hardships are humorously depicted. And, in the end, the people's sense of community is emphasized.
Comparisons to 'The House of 72 Tenants' are inevitable, but unfortunate. 'Hong Kong 73' is no classic, but it is a lot of fun to watch.