aka 飛女正傳 aka Fei nu zheng zhuan
Written by Patrick Lung Kong and Lam Nin-Tung
Directed by Patrick Lung Kong
Patrick Lung Kong’s work is not mainstream pop cinema. It is instead cinema touching on social and economic problems not touched by most films, and the few times the topics are, it’s clearly in the realm of exploitation cinema. The approach to the subject matter is more mature than much of the Hong Kong cinema of the time. While there were plenty of dramas involving family issues, the issues tackled in Teddy Girls trend more serious, and show more of societies effects on the problems, both on how they’re caused and by what they do to the people trapped in them. These are common themes in Patrick Lung Kong’s work.
What makes Patrick Lung Kong’s films stand out from other dramas is the strength to tackle difficult and controversial issues in a mature manner and still tell a good and entertaining story. Both as a writer and a director, Lung worked to better Hong Kong film at the same time Hong Kong cinema was suffering from a decline. Mandarin-language Shaw Brothers flicks outperformed and outclassed local Hong Kong productions, and the highly respected Union Film had shuttered its doors.
His directorial debut was in 1966 with Prince of Broadcasters, which foresaw the influence of radio in Hong Kong and became a hit at the box office. He followed that up with what is arguably his most famous and influential film, The Story of a Discharged Prisoner (1967), a tale about a former prisoner desperately trying to not get sucked back into a life of crime. It had a direct influence on John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow. Woo also must have seen (and borrowed from) Lung’s next film Window (1968), which features a blind woman and a criminal who fall in love. Next up was a look at youth culture with Teddy Girls, the film we will discuss at length below. Yesterday Today Tomorrow (1970), about a plague affecting Hong Kong, caused controversy, the heavily censored version failed at the box office. He continued on with My Beloved (1971) and the domestic drama Pei Shih (1972).
Lung dealt with social issues at large with Hong Kong Nite Life (1973) and then The Call Girls (1973), which featured the stories of five prostitutes. Lung Kong tackled the issue of nuclear disarmament before it was even on people’s radar with Hiroshima 28 (1974), and followed up with the quickly made Mitra (1976), filmed in Iran while he was showing Hiroshima 28 at a film festival. 1976 also saw the release of the sci-fi influenced Laugh In (1976) and Lina (1976). His final film was 1979′s The Fairy, the Ghost and Ah Chung, though he continued to be active in the Hong Kong cinema world through the turn of the century. His films went on to inspire the Hong Kong New Wave directors as they helped reshape Hong Kong cinema.
Most of Lung Kong’s films are hard to find in general, and with English subtitles they are exceedingly rare. Despite a HKFA retrospective his material still remains hard to find for the true Hong Kong cinema connoisseur.
Lung was not afraid to create serious films that tackled social issues in a non-exploitative manner. Patrick Lung Kong became one of the most influential directors in Hong Kong cinema due to how he helmed films like Teddy Girls. His attempts to escape the boundaries and touch on subjects usually avoided stand out sharper now, especially with the ease of availability of the other older films, you can see just how fluff a lot of them were.
What other director of the time could do a teenage girls in prison film and not make it feel dirty in the slightest, but still fill it with believable and sympathetic characters, humor and tragedy? Characters who suffer all types of bad influences while growing up, rebelling for their own reasons, reaching further tragedy due to the consequences of their original actions. These aren’t bad girls who are bad, these are girls who had the entire deck stacked against them. It’s no wonder some of them just fold and give up. Teddy Girls is never so cruel as when is is making you think things just might be all right for once.
Josephine’s character is running, running from an unhappy home life and disintegration of everything she knew. Her father’s decay and death while her mother found comfort in a new man, a man who is obviously a sleazy parasite.
Of the stories of the girls, Josephine’s is the most avoidable, she seems to be acting out more of simple teenage rebellion. But she becomes part of a system that is bigger than her, and life is a cruel thing at times. Josephine’s downfall is the biggest as she has the longest way to fall. Her character seems to have it all, but she lacks the one thing she craves, and she cannot stand it. Her life becomes destroyed, and her rage focused on a single target, the man she blames for ruining everything. And he’s not innocent, his motivations are scuzzy and he leaves Josephine’s mom in ruin.
Josephine is swept up in revenge, but she becomes her own victim, by acting out rashly and destructively. Not only does she destroy her life, she brings downfall on others. Misery is spread, the only lesson is how many ways this could have been avoided, by many people.
The only real drawback is the moral message at the end literally given by Kenneth Tsang Kong as the mouthpiece to one of the young ladies, bringing to mind flicks like Reefer Madness where a character will suddenly address the audience from behind a desk.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm
Categories: Good, Movies Tags: Hong Kong, Josephine Siao Fong-Fong, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Lam Nin-Tung, Lydia Shum Tin-Ha, Mang Lee, Nancy Sit Ka-Yin, Patrick Lung Kong, Teresa Ha Ping, Women in Prison, Wong Oi-Ming, Yip Ching
Sword of Emei
aka 峨嵋霸刀 aka E Mei ba dao
Written by Wan Hoi-Ching and Ling Hon
Directed by Chan Lit-Ban
A Cantonese swordplay flick featuring a masked heroine, plenty of swordplay, piles of bodies, and one of the fastest paces I’ve seen in a Cantonese language feature from this time. Sword of Emei was a great surprise and a highly recommended action film. By 1969, the rails were starting to come off of the Hong Kong film insdustry, as pressure from the far superior Shaw Studios was making the local productions look like child plays. One way the industry tried to take up the slack was to push for some more adultish wuxia flicks, thus what would have probably been a slower female sworswoman (nuxia) film with a lot of gabbing in 1966 suddenly is a fast-paced action bonanza focused on one of the hot female leads of the time. And while it isn’t one of the Jane Bond flicks of the era, it does feature some of the plot tropes transplanted back to older China, along with the standard wuxia ideas like super swords and being noble bandits.
The main reason why this is so enjoyable is the pacing, so let’s give a hooray to action directors Han Ying-Chieh and Leung Siu-Chung for coming up with modern action film pacing 40 years ago! Sure, with the vast amount of action going on vs the probably minuscule shooting schedule, the action isn’t complex, and most characters get killed in a slash or two, but there is a ton of it and it makes up for the complex swordfighting that was still in its infancy at the time.
Sword of Emei was originally filmed in color, but the only released version I could find was a black and white vcd with a beat up print and burnt in subs (subtitles are rare on a lot of these films, so I’ll take what I can get!) thus explaining these blurry, blown up screencaps I have for you. According to the cast listings, there is an attempt to give some cross-national appeal with Mitr Chaibancha! Except I couldn’t spot him and didn’t even know he was supposed to be in this film until after it was over. Oops! Sammo Hung Kam-Bo is also somewhere among the many men slaughtered, but with all the carnage, he could be Guard #3 or Guard #343! So instead, let’s focus on the cast we know:
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 7, 2012 at 12:46 am
Categories: Bad, Movies Tags: Chan Lit-Ban, Han Ying-Chieh, Hong Kong, Josephine Siao Fong-Fong, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Lai Man, Leung Siu-Chung, Ling Hon, Ling Mung, Lok Gung, Mitr Chaibancha, Sammo Hung, Sek Kin, Sum Chi-wah, Wan Hoi-Ching, wuxia, Yeung Yip-Wang, Yung Yuk-Yi
The Swords of Tien Shan
aka 天山龍鳳劍 aka Tian shan long feng jian aka 神劍女瘋俠 aka The Magic Sword and the Eccentric Lady Knight aka Shen Jian Nu Feng Xia
Written and directed by Wong Fung
Mysterious super swords cause a whole heap of problems in The Swords of Tien Shan. This Cantonese wuxia flick is believed to be a coproduction of two different companies, each producing one part of the two-part feature film. According to reports, part 1 was produced by Hoo King Motion Picture Co., while part 2 is credited to Lap Tat Film Co. Wong Fung (How The Ape Girl Stole The Lotus Lamp, The Blonde Hair Monster, and Golden Skeleton) wrote and directed both parts, so this looks like just a unique way of crediting a coproduction. The two films were later edited down into a single film and retitled The Magic Sword and the Eccentric Lady Knight (神劍女瘋俠), which is the version I am reviewing as the original two films are unavailable (and might be lost?)
The editing of two films into one does cause a bit of a problem, because the flow of the film is now even more disjointed, and at times characters wander off for reasons not explained, or are introduced as already established people. This is complicated because there are already so many characters, and because this is an older Cantonese wuxia flick, the pacing is already a lot more casual than a modern film. The disjointedness hurts the film, but it doesn’t mean it’s awful, it just becomes a weirder wuxia epic. It also focuses on different actors than the story of the original films, downplaying and almost eliminating several major characters. Instead, the film focuses mainly on Josephine and Sek Kin, with a lot of Connie thrown in (though at least one major Connie Chan scene is MIA)
The important thing to remember is there is a guy in a gorilla costume! This is important, because that makes The Swrods of Tian Shan TarsTarkas.NET’s entry into the new MOSS conspiracy, Hairy Beasts! MOSS is the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit, and is a collection of all the cool cats with cool websites/podcasts/shows who review and watch and read all sorts of crazy stuff. Check out other Hairy Beasts entries at the above link, including houseinrlyeh taking on Bigfoot, TeleportCity vs Red Riding Hood, and Monster Island Report and TheCulturalGutter discussing hairy beasts!
The gorilla costume looks like it is the same one used in How the Ape Girl Stole the Lotus Lamp, though this film was made first and the gorilla Yin-yin is a semi-major character here. I would theorize that the gorilla costume was made for this film, but I would not be surprised at all to see it show up in other earlier films, either.
Being a Cantonese wuxia flick from the 1960s, some of the familiar stars are here. Young Josephine Siao and Connie Chan are running around (Connie playing a boy once again!) Sek Kin is a former villain, Lau Hark-suen is a weirdo, Sai Gwa-Pau and Mui Yan are “comic relief”, and Simon Yuen Siu-Tin is an eccentric kung fu master and teacher. Because of how things were carved up as the two films were merged, I’ll add in some missing portions quoted directly from the HKFA synopsis. But there will be some gaps where things make little sense. And since this film is pretty darn rare, the film synopsis will be detailed detailed detailed.
As usual, we got more listening choices than you can shake an unsubtitled vcd at: downloadable mp3, embedded flash with slideshow, embedded audio player, and iTunes feed link. So many choices, you’ll have to call in your secret evil gang to select them all!
Watch in slideshow form:
Black Rose – Tars Review, Todd Review, Dave Review
Spy With My Face
The Blonde Hair Monster – Dave Review
Lady Black Cat – Tars Review, Dave Review
Lady Black Cat Strikes Again
The Black Killer
Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa – Tars Review, Todd’s series overview
Dark Heroins Muk Lan-Fa Shatters the Black Dragon Gang
Lady in Black Cracks the Gates of Hell
Temptress of 1000 Faces
Angel with Iron Fists
Angel Strikes Again
Wong Ang vs the flying tigers part 1 part 2
Prior Infernal Brains:
Taiwanese Giant Monster Films Part 1
Taiwanese Giant Monster Films Part 2
Polly Shang Kuan
Turkish Pop Cinema Part 1
Turkish Pop Cinema Part 2
Infernal Brains Podcast – 07 – Insee Daeng
Infernal Brains Podcast – 08 – Worst Podcast Ever
The Mummies of Guanajuato – Infernal Brains Podcast Episode 09
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm
Categories: Movies, Podcasts Tags: Chan Leung, Chor Yuen, Connie Chan Po-Chu, Fanny Fan Lai, Hong Kong, Infernal Brains, Jane Bond, Josephine Siao Fong-Fong, Law Oi-Seung, Lily Ho Li-Li, Podcast, Sek Kin, So Ching, Suet Nei, Tina Chin Fei, Yu So-chau
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.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 22, 2012 at 1:39 am
Categories: Bad, Movies Tags: Cheung Loi-Loi, Cheung Ying-Tsoi, Gam Lau, Go Fung, Gwan Jing-Leung, Jane Bond, Josephine Siao Fong-Fong, Lee Maan-Git, Lee Ying, We don't need no stinking subtitles, Women who kick butt, Wong Fung