Golden Skeleton (Review)
aka Jin ku lou aka 金骷髏
Written and directed by Wong Fung
Josephine Siao Fong-Fong kicks butt in this crazy awesome groovy 60s spy conspiracy Jane Bondish thriller! Despite a slow start and a confusing last minute, Golden Skeleton has become one of my favorite female spy films because the villains are just so weird. The leader Golden Skeleton is a guy in a gold skull mask, his henchmen have space cadet uniforms and masks, and Golden Skeleton is seldom seen without a pair of babes in midriff-baring hot pink catsuits flanking him. Just what evil is Golden Skeleton up to? Does it matter? What matters is cool things happen. Just go with it and enjoy the spectacle. We don’t need no stinking subtitles. Okay, fine, I did a bit of Googlin’ and found some plot points not explained by watching and making up things.
Director and writer Wong Fung helmed 88 films, including How The Ape Girl Stole The Lotus Lamp, Blonde Hair Monster, Midnight Were-wolf, The Lady Killer, Blue Falcon, and a whole host of the Wong Fei Hung films (which he wrote even more installments than he directed!) Born in 1923 in Guangxi, he began writing films in 1950, and directing in 1959. Wong Fung joined Shaw Brothers in 1973, and retired in 1980. He passed on sometime in the 1990s. The cinematography was done by Lee Maan-Git, who also worked on Bruce Li in New Guinea.
The soundtrack is 100% jazzy jazz. It is interesting how the all jazz soundtrack makes everything seem cooler and cooler. I should use jazzy jazz to soundtrack my life, then I’ll live in a constant cool high that will come crashing down around me when my iPod runs out of batteries. Hopefully I won’t be near any tall buildings to hurl myself off of! Just kidding, I’d totally kill myself by feeding myself to lions at the zoo, not tall buildings.
Before Josephine Siao enters, we spend the first 15 minute following around the lamest James Bond knockoff who ever existed. He spends most of the film failing to get it on and waltzing into traps, narrowly escaping through dumb luck or Josephine Siao’s character saving him. He starts out getting called into work, forced to leave the women at his big mansion that practice kung fu moves on each other all alone while he pays the bills. He’s secret agent SAA6. Yep. A guy with a briefcase has come to make him go on the next case. You know it’s serious because the incidental music changes tone! SAA6 is supposed to meet up with SAA9, aka Pink Bomb.
At the airport, a woman played by Gam Lau pulls up and writes the SAA6 code on her windshield in lipstick, claiming to be Pink Bomb. At least she didn’t write “jerk”, because this isn’t the movie Mitchell. But Joe Don Baker should be in this flick. That would’ve been awesome! Agent Guy gets into the car because he’s a moron. And their car is so obviously being followed a blind lamprey eel could know. The pair immediately go to a hotel where he tries to nail her. The room is bugged, and we get tasteful back nudity!
The room buggers are a bunch of dudes in suits, but there is also a lady in a hot pink catsuit with gold gloves (one removed because she’s writing down notes) Forget this loser, let’s focus on the catsuit girl! She shows up later as one of the two women flanking Golden Skeleton. But for now, she’s the voice of reason in the bug room, not going all pervo like the rest of the technicians when Seducer Girl returns to the room wearing nothing but a towel, and SAA6 rips it off. Flanking girl declares it time to move, and they send in a man to put a gun to Agent Guy’s head.
Sending one guy was a mistake, as he’s soon karated to the head. Agent Guy flees the hotel, and is next seen wandering down a lonely ocean highway until he gets into a car with another hot babe in it who claims she is totally the real Pink Bomb. They drive off, but it’s another trap (!!!) as there is a guy in the backseat with a gun! This is the oddest trap I’ve ever seen. They struggle, the car stops and Agent Guy and the driver girl fall out of the passenger side and slide down a hillside while fighting. Our brave hero beats up the girl, rips off her clothes, and leaves them as a trail to lure the gunman down closer. He then stabs the gunman with a tiny brittle stick, somehow this kills the gunman instead of breaking the stick and getting Agent Guy shot.
Next, Agent Guy goes to Hong Kong Hilton, and there are people waiting for him there as well! He’s the worst spy ever. But Agent Guy is saved from his followers by a kung fu girl. It’s Josephine Siao Fong-Fong! And because she’s not incompetent, she beats the tar out of Agent Guy as well. We find out she’s actually his contact, Agent SAA9. As her wristwatch can detect bugs she quickly finds the one in the room and gets rid of it.
Another agent named Chen Ho is guarding an old guy (Lee Ying), when he’s hit by some knockout gas that leaks from a pen he was using! The old man is captured by enemy agents and the baddies begin to search the room. Agent Guy and SAA6 arrive and interrupt the goons, causing a big kung fu battle. Agent Guy leaps out the window onto the top of the car that is spiriting away the old man, though he is eventually forced off of the car after a long driving sequence. SAA6 spend her time beating up everyone bad in the hotel room and waking up Chen Ho.
Now Golden Skeleton cranks it up into awesome territory! This is the stage where it becomes a film I will mention to others as opposed to a film I’ll review and then not think about again. The scene where we see just how crazy comic book our villains are! In a room where there is a single throne chair on a stage, out through a secret door comes a man flanked by hot babes. The man has a golden skull helmet and gold suit, the babes are dressed in the midriff-baring pink catsuits with gold gloves, boots, and trims. The room is lined by a procession of masked trooper goons, who look like space cadets with bug eyed helmets with a single antenna at the top. Their uniforms looks like something out of Star Trek. You can just imagine Captain Kirk and Spock throwing down with these guys.
The bug troopers march in the old guy to threaten him by taking a prisoner and pressing him beneath a giant heat press. The man is heat pressed to dust! I am sure he didn’t think that was how he’d go out… The old guy finally agrees to do whatever it is they wanted him to do right before he’s heat pressed as well. I’m told the old guy came up with a cheap way to desalinize sea water, but as the bad guys never do anything with old guy, the kidnapping seems pointless.
Our heroes (Agent Guy, SAA6, and Chen Ho) go to that staple of spy movies, a nightclub, where a white fandancer is showcasing her skills. The heroes look around very suspiciously, drawing attention to themselves even more than Agent Guy’s obvious flirtations with the next act, a lady singer. SAA6 tells Agent Guy to go seduce her, so he goes to the front row and winks. That’s how you seduce the ladies, boys and girls! The singer sings, and we get lyrics at the bottom to sing along (which isn’t uncommon for Cantonese cinema of the time) and some audience shots of creepy fat old guys licking their lips (which IS uncommon for Cantonese cinema of the time!)
In comes the Seducer Lady from earlier along with a pack of goons. She’s dressed to the nines and has one of those foot long cigarette holders, puffing away. She stops by to try to ruin Agent Guy’s game, and a fight breaks out. SAA6 has to come to the rescue again, knifing a guy through the hand, and kung fuing other dudes so hard they’re spitting up blood.
A mysterious man in sunglasses just sits and smokes as all this goes down, then leaves. SAA6 and Chen Ho escape, leaving Agent Guy to get a ride from the singer. Chen Ho was attempting some sort of undercover work dressing up as one of the goons, but that plan just gets abandoned and he and SAA6 just follow a car filled with goons very obviously. Maybe you shouldn’t tailgate the car you are following when you two are the only cars on the lonely country road. Just a secret agent protip! Chen Ho and SAA6 are stopped in their pursuit first by a landslide and then by a blazing inferno on the highway. Ambushed, SAA6 and Seducer Lady fight, with Seducer Lady randomly losing her clothes! She continues fighting in her bra and panties with no shame. This lady can’t keep clothes on for the life of her! SAA6 can beat up people clothed or naked, but even she has to stop when people point guns at her head.
Chen Ho and SAA6 are taken to the lair of Golden Skeleton and locked in a room. There, Golden Skeleton mocks them via speaker and gasses them. But someone secretly lets them out of the room. They were let out by a guy who claims to be SAA5, one of his men was the sunglasses guy in the club
Goons attack Agent Guy, interrupting his date. Agent Guy has an ability to suddenly be on a lonely road somewhere, and uses that ability. Two Golden Skeleton agents burst through empty boxes while on motorcycles to chase Agent Guy, but are then foiled when they crash into different empty boxes, defeated. A third motorcycle guy just drives off of a truck, and a fourth drives into a fence. Agent Guy has done nothing but not get ran over here, but somehow is the victor.
Everyone goes back to the hotel to talk with SAA5. The new plan is to send SAA5 to try his luck with Seducer Girl, who is hanging out at a pool in a bikini, because that’s what evil agent girls do. Look it up! SAA5 scores a success, and is taken back to her room. This inspires Agent Guy to try his luck with SAA6. He gets a smack to the mouth for his trouble. Haw-HAW!
Our four agents scout out the enemy’s island base, which gives us an excuse to pad time with long shots of a motorboat leaving the dock and heading to the island. And they’re spotted before they even get ashore, so good job being stealthy! The heroes sneak inside, which requires they pass by some area that looks like it’s where fireworks are constantly being set off. Is it supposed to be a volcano? Who knows. Once inside, it’s kung fu time! Chop! Punch! Kick! Snuh! Bork!
Agent SAA5 mysteriously is too injured to continue into the throne room and stays behind. Hmmmm… The rest go on, jumping over the giant heat press machine.
In another room, Golden Skeleton calls in the Old Guy to yell at him, rips off his mask, and it’s who we know it is, SAA5. Old Guy is injected with something. We’ve not seen old guy do much of anything, but now he’s drugged, so he’ll be even less useful!
Fight in the throne room time! SAA6 fights one of the catsuit girls! Golden Skeleton wanders in after being summoned by the escaped catsuit girl, but is instantly captured by SAA6, who puts a gun on him. That was easy. Too easy. The heroes leave with old guy, but outside there is a running firefight to the boat. Chen Ho is captured at one point. But to get to the dock where the boat is, everyone has to pass by a bunch of bamboo lumber and we soon have a running kung fu battle atop the stacks of bamboo polls.
Golden Skeleton is there calls in lots of goons, arriving by a big boat. But all the bad guys run back to the boat and drive away. Our three heroes run after the boat and shoot, but nothing happens except Seducer Lady is shot on the boat. Then the boat explodes, only we see a very tiny model of the boat explode, and our heroes are happy. It took me a second to realize that all of the bad guys were just killed. There are a few glimpses of a very far away helicopter, and it is implied that the chopper blew up the boat (or Agent Guy destroyed it by throwing something at it, not 100% sure.)
Everyone congratulates themselves for victory and goes home triumphant. Yep.
Except for that abrupt and confusing ending, the majority of Golden Skeleton rocked! Too bad this doesn’t seem to have a good DVD release, the only release has been tv broadcasts that good people have taped. I call for a remastered version to hit DVD now. Failure to do so will result in bad news for whoever holds the rights. Because I’ll send my armies of bugeyed troopers, pink dressed flanking women, and my gold masked self to set things right!
Rated 8/10 (Japanese fighter, bug town, flanking babe, magic watch, Lee Ying, Pervo McOldPants, bigger bugger, skull motif)
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UPDATE: Thanks to the sharp eye of Todd from FourDK, we have determined that the helmets worn by the Golden Skeleton gang are toy helmets from the 1960s Hamilton’s Invaders line!