Spy With My Face (Review)
Spy With My Face
aka Black Rose vs. Black Rose aka Hei mei gui yu hei mei gui aka 黑玫瑰與黑玫瑰
Directed by Chor Yuen
Written by Poon Faan
The sequel to 1965’s Black Rose has a greatly expanded scope, as the Chan sisters go from being champions of the poor to outright superheroes who take down a sinister secret gang intent on robbing jewelry from all over the city. The James Bond influence is very heavy, as there are a lot of gadgets, microbombs, disguises, and hidden identities. The film also has what sounds like an original score that is rather well done as well (and also Bond influenced).
The review of Black Rose has miniprofiles of Nam Hung, Connie Chan, Patrick Tse, and Chor Yuen, so we don’t have to do it here! Hooray for laziness! We also have the overviews of the Jane Bond genre and other interesting links there so we don’t have to link it again here. Spy With My Face is notable because this film was where Connie Chan eclipsed Nam Hung and became a bona fide Hong Kong superstar.
A color print does survive in the HKFA vault, but the VCD release is a black and white dub probably made for TV. This sucks, because it would be great to see all the funky colors. At this point in time Cantonese cinema was on the decline as the Shaw Brothers were becoming the standard with their high production values and massive use of color. Shaw was also putting out their own spy films at this time, some with female leads as well.
Once again we have no subtitles, but TarsTarkas.NET doesn’t need no stinking subtitles! And the wife translated about half of the film before deciding it was time for bed, so the rest I just followed along the story as best I could. It all works out fine.
Opens with ending of previous film where Cheung Man Fu gets on the train to leave town while Chan Mei-yi and Chan Mei-ling wave goodbye. Then a narrator (who happens to be director Chor Yuen) says that you would expect that he came back and gets the girl, but life is strange. Are we entering the Twilight Zone? No, just watching as the film dives headfirst into James Bond territory.
At his home, Cheung Man Fu is jumped by a bunch of dudes who eventually beat him into submission, steal the blue diamond, and take Cheung to a secret lair. A secret spy lair. There is a skull in a triangle decoration all over the place, and when cars arrive to park they make a very very very annoying ringing noise. So annoying. If I worked in the car parking area of this secret base I would stab my ears with knitting needles.
Cheung is dragged before the boss of this operation, a refuge from a Mexican wrestling film. He has a gold glitter hooded outfit that covers his face. Gold Boss is what we’re calling him, and he wants to use Cheung’s insurance job to steal all the jewelry in town. Cheung laughs, but is beaten up by #2. Yep, these guys are all numbers instead of names. Because Cheung is the Prisoner! Oh, wait, he’s not. Suddenly he is as #1 comes out and it is Cheung! Okay, it is a dude who was given plastic surgery to look like Cheung.
Gold Boss keeps his troops in line by making them all wear skull triangle tags that he can explode at will with a giant control board with every number on in it. Don’t get caught playing Solitaire on the computer in this office! Cheung cannot fight back because he’ll be blown up as they have stuck a bomb tag on him. The Fake Cheung shows up to work, Cheung is very popular with everyone there, like a rock star. Fake Cheung gets to work photographing a whole stack of documents so the gang can get to work stealing all the valuables people have insured.
The robberies happen and are bad enough that the Chan sisters read it in their newspaper the next town over. They send their maid to go ask Cheung if he needs help. Fake Cheung is confused at first, because he has no idea who she is while she acts all familiar. He tries to take the maid hostage, and does so after a brief struggle.
Gold Boss finds out about a Black Rose connection this way, leaves a message via tape recorder in Cheung’s house that the two girls find when sneaking around as Black Roses. Then there is an ambush with like 15 guys. Those 15 guys are vastly outnumbered by the two Black Roses. Luckily, the darkness only obscures MOST of the action, so we can sort of see the two sisters beat up these dudes. The goons get their butts kicked, Black Rose style, until the cops arrive lead by Fake Cheung. The Black Roses scatter, but remain lurking in the bushes, where they spy Fake Cheung reporting to his boss via a giant antennaed walkie-talkie.
The next morning, Fake Cheung is back at work photographing more important documents when Chan Mei-Yi pays him a visit. It is obvious to anyone at this point Fake Cheung has no idea who she is, but she pulls a bluff talking about being named Miss Wong and wanting insurance and pretends not to know him. She also tries to get ahold of his camera. Fake Cheung puts the camera in his pocket, but then he gets hit by a drama bomb as Chan Mei-Ling bursts into the room nine months pregnant. And claiming Cheung is the father! Fake Cheung has to deal with the entire office seeing this drama unfold and Connie Chan pretend sobbing incredibly loudly to befuddle Fake Cheung enough that Chan Mei-Yi can steal the camera. Pregnant Chan Mei-Ling is dragged screaming from the room. One day I wish I see someone at work get screamed at by a pregnant ex-girlfriend, the closest I have had are psychotic customers screaming at each other.
Fake Cheung instantly realizes his camera is missing after the pregnant Chan is removed from the office, but as Chan Mei-Yi gave him her card, he goes to that apartment. It is all another ruse, but Fake Cheung is totally getting played. He has no chance because he is Fake Cheung, and they are Black Rose. Chan Mei-Yi is dressed in what can only be described as Eskimo Mod during this scene. I am surprised her hotel room wasn’t in an igloo. Fake Cheung pulls a gun on her, but she isn’t phased at all and continues to talk tough. Chan Mei-Yi returns the camera, and then laughs because the film isn’t there. He grabs the film she is waving around, despite the fact any real film like this would be exposed and useless, so it obviously isn’t the real film. Chan Mei-Yi still isn’t phased by Fake Cheung, because Chan Mei-Ling is sitting off to the side with a gun trained on Fake Cheung!
He is disarmed (and scoffed at by Chan Mei-Ling that she would be dating the likes of him when he recognized her as the jilted pregnant lover.) They call his boss via the giant antennaed walkie-talkie and Mei-Ling starts talking tough to the goons and Gold Boss. They will ransom fake Cheung for lots of money, the baddies agree and they make the exchange in what looks like the same complex as the last fight. It is also dark again, so once again it is hard to see.
The baddies throw Fake Cheung a gun and then a bunch of dudes come out after the exchange to capture the girls. Fake Cheung wants to just shoot them, but #2 stops him, as Gold Boss wants to meet them. #2 doesn’t actually say this, because he is mute, but another guy does. Why is #2 mute? It doesn’t serve much of a purpose except to complicate things. I guess it is to add flavor. They take the girls back to the secret base (the annoying beep sound as they park is back) and put the bomb tags on them both.
The girls chat with Gold Boss, but the girls take complete control and start threatening Gold Boss in his own compound! Gold Boss is miffed, but the girls reveal there are no bullets in the gun that Fake Cheung captured them with and thus they came on their own accord. Fake Cheung, you are totally useless. The girls declare they want to join up with the gang.
To prove their mettle, things move so Mei-Ling is fighting #2 by hand as the others watch. Mei-Ling not only beats him, but mocks him throughout the fight. Fake Cheung then tries to show off his marksmanship by throwing something in the air and shooting it. Then Mei-Ling grabs the gun and shoots the object before it hits the floor, then Mei-Yi takes the gun and shoots the object before it hits, and then she shoots several candles. Fake Cheung has been defeated again. Wait, wasn’t there no bullets in that gun? Gold Boss goes “I got bombs on you!”, but the girls distract him for half a second and toss their bombs away right next to him. Idiot! They gave him a gold finger, all right. He is the Man with the Golden Dumb.
The gang takes the girls away to their special hotel suite they have set up in case random females wander into the base and want to join the gang. The hotel suite is so complex it has a whole female division complete with four female guards and motion-activated alarms. No wonder they need to steal all the jewelry in town. How much did this secret base cost? The guards were even guarding it before there were any people in the hotel suite! The Chan sisters immediately begin to look for a listening bug, and find one. So they write a few notes then fake a conversation where they insult the looks of every major gang member: Gold Boss, #1, #2, and #3. They all have to listen as they get insulted and take it.
The gang even takes Chan Mei-ling back to the hotel to get their bags, and in said bags is a device that they put near the electronic bug that will block it. The gang brings an expensive dinner for the girls. Fake Cheung is there and pours some champagne and tries to act all suave to the unimpressed girls. Fake Cheung also sets up the long antennaed walkie-talkie as an additional spy measure, but the girls move it close to the radio blocker.
The gang brings in the real Cheung, and the Chan sisters and him pretend they don’t know each other. Fake Cheung sends the other guards out of the room and is then karate chopped because no one can hear on the blocked radio. They switch clothes on the Cheungs, then call in the guards to put the unconscious fake Cheung into the real Cheung’s cell, while the Chan sisters are called before Gold Boss.
The meeting is a grand affair with a trumpeted up theme music and Gold Boss walking out of a separate set of doors all important like. It seems like the girls are let into the gang. Afterwards, Real Cheung and Mei-Ling try to get Real Cheung out, and they solve the problem of identifying Fake Cheung’s car by having a henchguy go start it. Mei-Ling is then taken to see the captive maid, who is locked in with the unconscious Fake Cheung. She lets her know the plan.
Real Cheung goes home and calls the cops, but it is all picked up by a bug in the house. Real Cheung returns to base, and is called in to a special meeting where everybody is present…including the cop he just called (as a member of the gang!) Real Cheung, you just screwed up! The maid (tied up) is brought in and Fake Cheung is there.
The gang knows that the Chan sisters are up to no good, so they send a bunch of guys with guns to go get them. But when they burst into the hotel suite, no one is there. The gang leaves, and the sisters drop down, as they were hiding in the ceiling decked out in Black Rose garb.
They contact the command room via radio and mock Gold Boss. The Black Roses both pop out in the command room and get them all to surrender by putting a gun to Gold Boss’s head. An attempt to fight back is quickly stymied by the Black Roses pressing at random on the bomb buttons, so everyone stops in fear that they will be blown up (a few dudes are blown up and also a few shot when the sisters shoot back.)
Fake Cheung has no bomb and cares not for surrendering, but after firing a few shots, Mei-Ling shoots him dead. They collect all the guns, but then Gold Boss grabs a gun from Cheung. They fight for a bit, but Gold Boss has them hostage now. Until a siren and the sound of gunfire in the distance. Gold boss runs to the elevator to escape, the Chan sisters throw one of the bomb tags at him and press its button, killing him. The cops burst in and arrest everyone, except for the Black Roses, who have escaped again.
After the dust has settled, the Chan sisters are hanging with Cheung. Cheung gives Chan Mei-Yin a flower, while Mei-Ling gets sassy. Connie Chan sassy. After more teasing of the lovers, the director does a voiceover as they freeze-frame (but not with a freeze-frame, the actors just stand still for a few seconds like the end credits of Police Squad) and we cut to the secret base where Gold Boss reveals he was Cheung Wood-Yau and talks to the audience. I guess if Cheung Wood-Yau has his face covered for the whole film he has enough pull to show his face at the end.
That is the last Hong Kong will see of the Black Rose character for twenty-five years until she shows up in the 1990s. Those films are subjects of their own, so let’s not spoil them here.
Rated 9/10 (Director, Voice Box, spy camera, secretary, boss, bomb badges, female guard, female guard, someone won’t be in the sequel!)