Gold Button (Review)
Directed by Cheung Wai-Gwong
As the female-focused action films that later became collectively called Jane Bond films evolved, other studios quickly jumped into the action to capitalize on the Black Rose/Connie Chan mania. Besides the already reviews Dark Heroine Trilogy, another entry is Gold Button. Gold Button features mysterious star So Ching and shows off some of the James Bond spy influences that helped shape a good number of the Jane Bond films. We have such wonderful things as doomsday weapons, an all-powerful secret gang, female agents, gunfights, punching, gangs of girls in swimsuits, dozens of nameless henchmen, a masked boss of the evil gang, spy gadgets, a film named after a flower/characters named after a flower, and stolen theme music (including the James Bond theme!)
Things get a bit more sleazy than the female-audience targeted Connie and Josephine flicks. Fanny Fan is naked in the back, while female characters are forced to disrobe and threatened with rape, and we see undies tossed on the floor. But even the sleaze is held back, the women wear one-piece swimsuits instead of bikinis! I am not sure if Mingxing Film Company is imitating 1966’s Golden Buddha with the extra sexiness, or if these films began production before Golden Buddha and it is ramping up things for another reason. Gwan Jing-Leung did the stunt work, and Wong To produced.
So Ching displays not nearly as much charm as Connie Chan and Josephine Siao in her appearances in front of the camera, probably due to her not growing up while making movies like those two. But she does have that beauty contest winner appeal and serious tone (contrasted by Fanny Fan playing the sexpot here!) After making several Jane Bond type films and a few other pictures, So Ching seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth. So Ching, if you have ever returned to Earth, please let us know!
Fanny Fan Lai started acting in 1957 after winning that often entry point into Hong Kong cinema, a beauty contest. Acting under the name Wan Li-Hong in Shaw’s Cantonese division, she failed to achieve much success until she joined Shaw Brothers’s Mandarin division as Fanny Fan, and became a star with 1959’s The Pink Murder. She became known as a sexpot and bad girl, probably best for her role in The Golden Buddha. Her nickname was the Oriental Brigitte Bardot. She retired from film in 1969.
As you can probably guess from the craptacular images included in this review, Gold Button is not available on in any sort of format you can find acceptable. I scored this from a Hong Kong tv broadcast someone uploaded to a Chinese YouTube site, complete with the station’s squashed picture due to the widescreen not being anamorphic. The uploader took it upon himself to blur out the station logo, so the top right of the screencaps look like someone smeared vasoline all over them. There is also a small segment of the film missing, and the very small compression on YouKu means if I blew the images up any larger than I have, they’ll just look like a bunch of blurry squares. As there is little information on Gold Button out there, it is currently unknown of the three other films So Ching made that feature many of the same cast are also part of this series or their own thing. TarsTarkas.NET will let you know the second someone uploads squashed tv recordings of the film for us to gawk at and write lame jokes.
Gold Button starts out with an animated opening credits of a gold disk radiating circles set to the tune of Bonanza. But there is no dude ranch or cattle rustling going on. Instead, we have a mad scientist (yet another Professor Lee – that name being the default mad scientist name for Cantonese cinema!) who is hard at work testing his new deadly doomsday weapons on some poor helpless rabbits. I sure hope the rabbit skeletons we see are either fake or were killed for reasons unrelated to the making of this film.
The first thing you do when you are a mad scientist making a doomsday weapon is to call a female agent you are friends with for reasons never explained, so Professor Lee calls up Miss Pai No. 1 and explains how he invented the P-bomb, which could destroy the world in a few hours. He’s also made the Green Tear Bomb, because just one doomsday weapon isn’t enough. Professor Lee…or Professor Farnsworth?? Someone sneaks in the room and cuts the phone line, and also cuts Professor Lee’s life short.
Miss Pai No. 1 tells Pai No. 2 to call Interpol Chief Lin Wen-Tsu while she prepares to investigate. This involves dressing in an all-black action outfit, with no sleeves and two-gun holster. She suspects the Devils Gang, which we’re soon to find out are the bad guys responsible for everything ever that happens. The Pais and the cops arrive at the lab, where it takes them way too long to notice Professor Lee’s dead body in the middle of the lab. Even worse, Devils Gang members arrive, beat up and replace the outside policemen, and pose as coroners and take away the Professor’s body.
Eventually Pai No. 1 and Chief Lin figure out that something is wrong, and then the Devils Gang attacks! There is a big gunfight, where Devils Gang members get shot and have long death agony sequences. They even kill their own wounded members so no one is captured alive.
Devils Gang members attempt to catch Pai No. 2, who is wandering alone in the tall grasslands near the Professor’s place for some reason that ht film doesn’t bother to tell us. She hides in the lake as the Devils Gang men search and calls for help from Pai No. 1 via radio. Peony Pai No. 1 has returned to the Interpol HQ along with Chief Lin, and they say they’re going to send a speedboat.
The boat comes…she’s rescued! And by rescued, I mean immediately captured because the boat is filled with the Devils Gang! Oops! If you like shots of people riding a boat along a river, boy will this movie make you happy! There was lots of shots of the boat coming for Pai No. 2, and a long sequence of the real boat looking for Pai No. 2.
The Devils Gang take Pai No. 2 to the secret underground base – after a long walk along some cliffs. Inside, one gangmember blows himself up because he’s new and too dumb to know that there is a minefield just past the secret door. And now the audience and Pai No. 2 now knows! But it never comes into play, even when the cops storm the secret base in the final act. So, yeah, this whole sequence of moving magnets to open the door and stepping in pre-made footprints is pointless.
They enter the throne room, where a row of babes in red swimsuits stand in a row. There are also goons in all-black uniforms with devil head insignias covering the heart area lining part of the walls, and some shirtless goons with green faces, who look like B movie zombie monsters or something. The throne is empty, but a giant Devil Head (!!) beeps it’s eyelights and broadcasts orders to take Pai No. 2 to the secret jail!
The Devils Gang boss declares the leader of the group that captured Pai No. 2 a failure because he didn’t get Pai No. 1 or Chief Lin from Interpol, so he sentences him to death! Death by electric Chair! What a strict boss! Just imagine what he’d do if you hung up a Dilbert cartoon… The man is electricuted by the Devils Gang second in command, No. 2. The giant devil head laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs. And then it laughs.
At the police base, Pai No. 1 and Chief Lin discuss strategies when Pai No. 2 walks in, obviously hypnotized or brainwashed or something. She refuses to go to the hospital, and Miss Pai No. 1 takes her home. Pai No. 1 uses clock radio to call into the Pai Headquarters, and requests Pais No. 5, 7, and 13 to help. The plan is to search Professor Lee’s dead body, because no one thought to do that before. The best and brightest!
Pai No. 2 shoots darts at Pai No. 1, misses, and pretends to be asleep when Pai No. 1 investigates what just happened. Uh-huh. I don’t get this fake sleeping, because who else could be shooting darts in the same room when there is only two of you???
Pai 13 is some guy with a long beatnik goatee, though later he’ll have no goatee. He and Pai No. 1 leave for the morgue, while Pai No. 2 tattles on her sis to the Devils Gang. By the time they get to the morgue, Pais No. 5 and 7 have been replaced by evil guys that Pai No. 1 beats up. They find the real 5 and 7 unconscious.
Professor Lee and many of the other bodies at the morgue have been replaced by Devil’s Gang members who gas everyone to kidnap them. Pai No. 1 is not knocked out, but pretends she is and gets kidnapped anyway. So all this pretending to be asleep does nothing despite being a constant feature of Gold Button.
Interpol finally gets around to searching the morgue and realize Pai No. 1 is missing and something is wrong. Peony Pai No. 1 left a note disguised as a gold button that you put on a record player, saying she knows Pai No. 2 is a fake and went to the morgue, and is probably dead.
Pai No. 2 is now dressing in halter top and tight pants, and we find out she’s not hypnotized, but is a fake! Chief Lin is coming to see her. She’s ordered to capture him so she has knockout gas loaded in a fake tooth to give him via kiss. Won’t that knock her out too? I guess not, because women are tricky like that. He shows up and she’s in the shower, back naked! Also buck naked, but we only see the back. She has him bring her clothes, because she forgot to bring them with her to the bath… Chief Lin knows what she’s doing, but decides to pretend to go along with it, because it lets him go along with it. Also some other logic I don’t follow. Pai No. 2 says she is to replace Peony Pai No. 1 as fiance as she’s dead. But some guys in black masks are hiding in the curtains, and Chief Lin attacks!
While Chief Lin is beating them all up, Pai No. 2 must have changed clothes because she has a completely different outfit on right afterwards when she tries to kill him. Chief Lin rips off her fake face to reveal her real face (Holy Mission Impossible, Batman!) But the fake mask was glued on by knockout gas or something and he’s KOed and captured.
Peony Pai No. 1 is put in a room where there are doors and windows, but if she gets near them, they slam shut Star Trek style! And then reopen when she steps back, sort of a Tantalus torture or potential escape. A speaker voice mocks her (it seems every evil villain in these films uses a voice via speaker!) His gang of swimsuited girls come in, and are to force Miss Pai No. 1 to change into a swimsuit like them! She refuses and is insulted, so has a karate fight where she fights the girls and beats up all 7 of them. Then the Devils Boss brings in four of the big shirtless guys with green faces, and says if she doesn’t change, he’ll have them change her, and they might have hands that wander around a bit… He also says that if she kills herself via cyanide in her tooth, they’ll change her clothes regardless! So she agrees to change with the girls, and is given a white and black patterned swimsuit.
There is also a secret doorway on the bed, her and two girl guards get on the bed and lay belly down, and the bed slides forward into the next room. The Devils Gang boss is there, and boy does he look like he escaped from a Luchador film! His identity is a secret, hidden behind a black skimask on with no holes, over glasses. He’s wearing what looks like a gold and red band uniform with a gold devil head broach, and green pants with a gold cape.
The version I’m watching seems to have a few minutes missing…
We return when Chief Lin has Devils Gang guy No. 2 captive and is stopping other bad guys from repairing a switch. It turns into a fight and he beats them up. Chief Lin then tries to arrest the Devils Gang boss, which turns into a fight. The fight becomes a long struggle which results in Chief Lin ripping off the mask of Devils Gang boss – it’s the Assistant Chief at Interpol! Because he’s the only male character left!
The other cops coming led by Yim Lam, having captured Fake Pai No. 2. The real Pai No. 2 is free, and is hanging with Miss Pai No. 1 in the Devils Gang lair. Pai No. 2 has a huge machine gun, and when Assistant Chief escapes from Chief Lin, he convinces Pai No. 2 to give him the gun. Which he then shoots at Chief Lin. The two girls freak out, and Chief Lin yells that Assistant Chief is the Devils Gang leader. Devils Gang boss guns down Pai No. 2, but is then beaten and gunned down himself by Chief Lin.
We’re also told that Pais 5 and 7 were also killed by the gang by Pai No. 13, who is also there. Devils Gang members swarm, Chief Lin machine gun them down until he runs out of bullets. The Devils Gang prepares to attack, will the cops come in time? Yep, cops come in and slaughter everyone evil! And if you are wondering if Peony Pai No. 1 is sad that her sister and roommate is dead? She doesn’t even look at her dead body.
And everyone lives happily ever after. Except all the people who died. The end!
Pretty entertaining, though sadly overshadowed by bigger and better entries in the genre. Still, Gold Button isn’t a film to miss, it is just sadly not in a form to be appreciated by anyone until the magic remastered DVD fairy gets off her lazy butt and produces the dozens of flicks I’ve been calling for.
Rated 7/10 (hunting rabbits, round buttons, fridge magnets, give him the chair!, needle-shooting pin, the title button/recorder, Pai No. 13 is here to be useless!)
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