Connie Chan/Lady Black Cat Strikes Back album

[adrotate banner=”1″]DurianDave at the often driving me crazy blog SoftFilm has upped some mp3s from the album Lady Black Cat Strikes Back featuring Connie Chan singing. This is the sequel (although the characters are unrelated, IIRC) to the original Lady Black Cat, reviewed here at TarsTarkas.NET to prove our jawesomeness. It’s like awesome, only with an extra letter because simple awesomeness cannot contain it all.

So DurianDave uploaded four tracks, including the new title track, which is the Haak Yeh Maau song sung to the tune of Ghostriders in the Sky! It is spectacularly amazing, and you haven’t heard Johnny Cash until you’ve heard him as a Chinese lady dressed as a cat. Tars Tarkas says check it out and fire up your iPod!

Click for huge!

Jane Bond Films – Hong Kong Cinema That Rules!

[adrotate banner=”1″]The best part of the internet is running across films you never knew existed and suddenly have to have. So in a change of pace, we’ll be naming a bunch of films, some of which I have, some of which I am in search of, and some of which no longer exist or are just interesting to look at their poster art. To start with, we are going to go over some Jane Bond films, which is a subgenre from Cantonese cinema which mixes spies with costumed women who kick lots of men’s butts. All of these films look very interesting. The Jane Bond films are a product of the times, when female roles dominated Chinese cinema. There was a period when it was thought that men couldn’t lead movies because most of the theater audience was women. As James Bond influences came in, the Jane Bond films became the Eurospy of Asia. They were also the precursors to the Girls with Guns films that ran rampant in the late 80s and early 90s. As there now seems to be a mini-resurgence across Asia for female action (Chocolate, High Kick Girl, Coweb) maybe Jane Bond will become a grandmother!

There are two main actresses you have to know if you want to watch Jane Bond films: Connie Chan Po-Chu and Josephine Siao Fong-Fong

Connie Chan Po-Chu is the daughter of two Cantonese Opera stars – Chan Fei Nung and Kung Fan Hung. She learned Cantonese Opera from her parents Peking Opera under master Fen Ju Hua and Cantonese Superstar Yam Kim Fai. This made her adept at both the Southern and Northern styles of martial arts and operas. She was one of the most popular actresses in the sixties with an impressive output, 32 films in 1967 alone. One of her nicknames was Movie Princess. She later retired from films in 1974. Go to the fan site Connie Chan Movie Fan Princess for more information than you can shake

Connie Chan’s main contemporary (the only other to approach her in star power) Josephine Siao Fong-Fong. She first appeared in 1954 and two years later won the Best Child Actor award for Orphan Girl. Like Connie Chan, she also had an impressive output in the 1960s, but in 1969 she slowed down her acting to focus on education and marriage (to actor Charlie Chin, which lasted three months – she later remarried and had children) She later appeared on TV as the bumbling plain Jane character Lam Ah Shun in 1977, followed by three films (one of them was Plain Jane to the Rescue, directed by a young John Woo). She is probably best known to fans from the 1990s for her parts as Fong Sai Yuk’s mother in the Fong Sai Yuk films.

More information on some of these films (and others) can be found in the Why SoftFilm Drives Me Crazy post and the SoftFilm blog.

There was even a film festival in Hong Kong featuring the Jane Bond genre, and that is where we will start out journey…

Jane Bond Film Festival

The Story of Wong Ang the Heroine
Wong Ang
Director : Yam Pang-nin
Scr: Cheng Kang
Cast: Yu So-chau, Wu Lai-chu, Yam Yin
1960 B&W D Beta Cantonese 84mins

The pulp fiction series Oriole, the Flying Heroine, which originated in Shanghai in the 1940s and remained popular in Hong Kong in the 1960s, was a major influence on the Jane Bond films, its titled heroine a precursor of the quick-witted, fast-fisted, and good-hearted Jane. The Story of Wong Ang the Heroine, adapted from the series before Hollywood’s James Bond tidal wave, provides interesting study on the impact of the 007 craze on Hong Kong popular culture.

The modern film Silver Hawk (with Michelle Yeoh) also has an origin with these stories, based on the 1940’s comics of masked heroine Huang Ying (Wong Ngang)

Black Rose
Black Rose
Dir: Chor Yuen
Scr: Ho Pik-kin
Cast: Nam Hung, Connie Chan Po-chu, Patrick Tse Yin
1965 B&W Beta SP Cantonese 94min

Director Chor Yuen had always been eager and also skillful in incorporating Western influence in his work, and his introduction of James Bond elements into Black Rose likely kickstarted the Jane Bond genre. This was in turn thrown into the mix with the Cantonese cinema’s penchant for combining the relatively new Jade Girl phenomenon of Chinese cinema with the longtime tradition of xia dao, a Robin Hood-like figure who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The film was a box-office success, spurning imitators that quickly materialized into a genre.

Reviewed on TarsTarkas.NET here
The classic of the genre, which had only one true sequel, Spy with My Face. There were many spinoffs involving the character that came along much later. A great retrospective of Black Rose and its sequels/spinoffs at The Illuminated Lantern

Spy with My Face
Spy With My Face
Dir: Chor Yuen
Scr: Poon Fan
Cast: Nam Hung, Patrick Tse Yin, Connie Chan Po-chu
1966 B&W + Colour D Beta Cantonese 102min

This sequel to Black Rose further sets the Jane Bond genre on its course. Director Chor Yuen, emboldened by the success of the original, takes the Bond influence up a notch. The arch villain is not just a crooked businessman, but the head of a powerful crime syndicate, lording over an army of thugs while headquartered in a secret hideout equipped with an endless array of high/low-tech devices. And Connie Chan Po-chu, with her embodiment of both the fairy Jade Girl and the fierce fighting woman, eclipses Nam Hung as the film’s true star, establishing herself as the Jane Bond prototype.

Reviewed on TarsTarkas.NET here

92 the Legendary la Rose Noire
92 rose noire
Dir / Scr: Jeff Lau
Cast: Wong Wan-sze, Fung Bo-bo, Leung Ka-fai, Maggie Siu, Teresa Mo
1992 Colour 35mm Cantonese Chi&Eng Subtitles 95min

92 the Legendary la Rose Noire is not only a surprise hit when it was released in 1992 but also a phenomenon that defined its time. The film’s irreverent drama and director Jeff Lau’s genius in taking audience imagination through time and space captured the spirit of early 1990s Hong Kong and the then colony’s awkward awareness of its own history. And the way the film invests its dramatic capital on and draws mythical power from the character Black Rose is an illustration of how much the Jane Bond figure embodies the unique qualities that make Hong Kong what it was and what it is.

Three entries in the saga: 92 the Legendary la Rose Noire; Rose, Rose, I Love You; and Legendary La Rose Noire II (AKA Black Rose II) And the Twins movie Protege de la Rose Noire is another attempt to add on to the Black Rose mythos.
Overview in the Illuminated Lantern Entry listed above. I have recently gotten a copy of this for review, so hopefully it will show up here sometime this year.

The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-fa
Dark Heroine
Dir: Law Chi
Scr: Lau Ling-fung
Cast: Suet Nei, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Sek Kin
1966 B&W D.Beta Cantonese 105min

The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-fa is a popular series of pulp fiction in the 1960s. Written by the prolific martial arts author Ni Kuang, it is in many ways an update of the Shanghai originated Oriole, the Flying Heroine, more suited for the emerging metropolis that was Hong Kong. This cinematic update infuses Ni’s colourful plots with again Bond elements, from spy characters to secret hideouts to death-ray watches. The casting of Suet Nei instead of the obligatory Connie Chan Po-chu and Josephine Siao as the action woman in black tights represents a validation of the Jane Bond formula, which is proven to work here without the iconic superstars.

There are three films in the Dark Heroine series: The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-fa, The Dark Heroine Shattered the Black Dragon Gang, and Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell. All three are available unsubtitled on VCD.
A great overview can be found at the Lucha Diaries site.

The Golden Buddha
Golden Buddha
Dir: Lo Wei
Scr: Shi Wei
Cast: Jeanette Lin Tsui, Paul Chang Chung, Lo Wei
1966 Colour D Beta Mandarin Chi & Eng Subtitles 102min

The Golden Buddha is a prime example of Shaw Brothers’ action offensive in the mid-1960s, with generous production budgets that allowed for explosive action sequences and locations filming in Thailand to add a touch of international exoticism. Bond influence is evident in every turn, but the film’s unbridled machismo differs greatly from the women-centered sensibilities of Spy with My Face, which was released the same year on the Cantonese front.

A shaw brother entry and an answer to the James Bond films, complete with crazy villains, evil lairs, and gadgets. I got a copy of this one and hopefully will be able to go over it soon.

The Precious Mirror (aka The Maiden Thief)
Maiden Theif
Dir: Chor Yuen
Scr: Szeto On
Cast: Josephine Siao, Lui Kay, Leung Sing-po, Lee Hong-kum
1967 B&W D Beta Cantonese 94min

Jane Bonds almost always lead comfortable middle-class lifestyles, complete with all the Westernized trimmings. How do they pay for it? The answer is simple: by stealing. Because of Hong Kong cinema’s mandate to avoid politics, the Jane Bond film often takes on the flavour of jewel theft films, its moral ambiguity justified by the heroine’s Robin Hood-like exploits. The Precious Mirror is one of the genre’s better films, largely due to director Chor Yuen’s delicate touch in blending comedy with action and Josephine Siao’s wonderfully natural performance.

The Mysterious Sisters (aka Two Sisters Who Steal)
Mysterious Sisters
Dir: Ng Wui
Scr: Man Min
Cast: Suet Nei, Woo Fung, Fung Bo-bo, Sek Kin
1969 Colour 16mm Cantonese 97min

As the Jane Bond films evolved, the genre became less Bond-like, cutting down on the staging of fights and the flaunting of secret weapons. The heroine remained an action figure, complete with quick wits and agile prowess, but the stories increasingly took on the jewel theft plot. The Mysterious Sisters is especially noteworthy, in director Ng Wui rendering of the theft in the classic French film Rififi, with long stretches of action that unfold without dialogue.

Temptress of a Thousand Faces
Temptress of a Thousand Faces
Dir: Chung Chang-hwa
Scr: Sung Kim
Cast: Tina Chin Fei, Pat Ting Hung, Chen Liang
1969 Colour D Beta Mandarin Chi & Eng Subtitles 77min

The Mandarin cinema’s action offensive in the mid-1960s successfully captured the fancy of male audience and its spy flicks are more male-oriented than their Cantonese counterparts. The Jane Bond figure of Temptress of a Thousand Faces is a cop with all the requisite trimmings, yet she is regularly paraded in situations that highlight actress Tina Chin Fei’s sexuality, the most obvious of which is when she has to climb down the side of a 17-storey high-rise, wearing a revealing miniskirt.

Another film with a great review at Lucha Diaries. I have a copy as well that is on my ever-increasing pile of films to watch.

Other Films:

She Is Our Senior
Director: Chan Lit-ban
Cast: Connie Chan, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Law Oi-seung
she is our senior
Another good review from Todd of the Lucha Diaries, this time at Connie Chan Fan Movie Princess site.

Lady Black Cat (1966) and Lady Black Cat Strikes Again (1967)
Despite being sequels, the films feature different characters even though the plot follows roughly the same progression and most of the actors are the same. Lady Black Cat steals from the rich and helps the poor, all while being a swinging 1960’s Chinese girl.
Hey, let’s link to our review of Lady Black Cat, because I am all about self-pimpage!

The Blonde Hair Monster (1962)
Blonde Hair Monster
Director: Wong Fung
Cast: Connie Chan, Yu So-chow, Tso Tat-wah, Sek Kin
Great review with lots of pictures at Connie Chan: Movie-Fan Princess

The Lady Killer aka The Batgirl
Starring Josephine Siao
Pictures at the Soft Film blog here and here. Unfortunately, this film is believed lost.

Blue Falcon
Starring Josephine Siao
Another lost film, pictures from the webmaster of Soft Film are at the Die, Danger Die, Die, Kill blog.

Lady Bond aka Chivalrous Girl
starring: Connie Chan
The Lady Bond series is the answer to James Bond. None of the films are available on DVD as of this writing.
There are three followups in this series
The Return of Lady Bond gives us this song:

The Flying Killer
Directed by Mok Hon-si
Starring Connie Chan Po-chu, Lydia Shum Din-ha and Sek Kin
Another entry in the Lady Bond series. Review

Lady in Distress: The Invincible Fighter (1967)
director Mok Hong-See
starring Connie Chan Po-Chu, Lui Kei, Tam Bing-Man, Sek Kin, Yue Ming
Another film in the Lady Bond series

SoftFilm let’s us know about a few more films starring So Ching
So Ching made four Jane Bond films for Mingxing film company:
Gold Button (1966), The Golden Gun (1966), The White Swan (1967), and Pink Bomb (1967)

All four films co-starred Cantonese cinema’s all-purpose leading man Wu Fung, Fanny Fan (who had just reignited her sex bomb image in Shaw Brothers’ The Golden Buddha), and Cathay hunk Roy Chiao Hung (who was branching out into Cantonese films).

So Ching in Gold Button (1966)

So Ching in Gold Button (1966)

So Ching also starred in the non-Jane Bond films The Golden Bat (1966) and Return of the Golden Bat (1966)

These are not all of the Jane Bond films, just a nice overview. I don’t know if there is a comprehensive guide to them out there. But pieces are being put together here and there, and as more films show up on vcd or DVD a more complete picture of the surviving films can be shown.
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SoftFilm strikes back –

Duriandave threw up some new treasures to further drive me crazy after the last blog entry I wrote about him! Now we have:

1952 film The Precious Sword and the Magic Bow aka Three Lady Fighters aka Daughters of Musketeer. It’s directed by martial-arts movie pioneer Yam Yu-tin and stars Hong Kong action queen Yu So-chow and Yam’s daughter Yam Yin.

Another awesome female action film that I will never get to see without a tie machine! Congratulations, duriandave, you have driven me crazy again!
SoftFilm story link

Plot of the film from the HKFA:

Yu Jie is a fisherman of Lake Poyang. His three daughters Suqiu, Sumei and Suzhen are formidable martial artists whose fame as fighters of bandits precede them. They are known far and wide as the “Three Lady Fighters.” One day, the three sisters witness an attempt by bandit Iron Mouth Pao to steal chickens from chicken farmer Zhang Bingshen and Second Uncle Li. The sisters scare off Iron Mouth Pao. Suqiu is attracted to the poor but gentle Bingshen, who has started the chicken farm with help from Second Uncle Li. His chickens are once again appropriated by two local tyrants Jin Kai and Jin Diao. Feeling that life has no value, Bingshen attempts suicide, but the three sisters come to his rescue. A plan is hatched whereby third sister puts on male disguise to penetrate the Jin household to snatch back the chickens. The Jin brothers recall third brother Jin Hua to plan retaliation. Hua and Iron Mouth Pao join forces to tackle the three sisters. In a confrontation, Bingshen is captured by Iron Mouth Pao. The three sisters set out for the Xin Le Dancing House where they take on and defeat the Jin brothers and their ally, Chen Dagang. Bingshen is incarcerated at the Jin Family Fortress. Hua has a change of heart when he sees his two brothers cruelly submitting Bingshen to torture. The three sisters invade the stockade to rescue Bingshen but fall into booby-traps. The father rushes to the rescue, helped by Hua. The Jin Family Fortess’ defences are broken through. The sisters and Bingshen are rescued. Suqiu and Bingshen finally marry.

In fact, rumbling around the HKFA is turning out to be very interesting, I will see if I can compile the plots of some interesting sounding films soon.

And tho those who think it is weird to be obsessed with old Chinese films when there aren’t any in my review list, stay tuned, because two of them are in the pipeline! A Connie Chan flick and an even older film with a young Josephine Siao!

Why the Soft Film blog drives me crazy…

[adrotate banner=”1″]There is a blog called SoftFilm run by duriandave that posts artifacts from movie days gone by of Chinese cinema. The webmaster has a rather large collection of movie memorabilia and usually pictures and biographical information is posted about various actors and actresses from 50 years ago. The problem that causes the SoftFilm blog to drive me crazy is that every week or two, he will post images or information about some awesome-sounding Chinese film that probably no longer exists! Imagine finding out that there is a Chinese Female Robin Hood movie? Well, there was, but I will probably never get to see it! Gah! Here are some of the treasures that tempt you in their delightfulness, but then punish you with their wickedness of not existing:

The most recent mentioning was of a Shaw Brothers production of Ali Baba and the 40 Robbers. I can find evidence of this film in various databases, but nothing mentioning it exists in some sort of video format. Here is the IMDB.

Secret Agent 101

So what’s up with this film?… Secret Agent 101 (also known as Magic Fire 101), a Shochiku production shot in Hong Kong with the help of MP&GI and released the same year as The Golden Buddha.

The poster for this one is listed in a lot of internet poster dealers, but the film itself is not.

Oriole, the Heroine
Oriole, the Heroine

Oriole, the Heroine (also known as Miss Nightingale, the Flying Fencer), a Cantonese crime thriller starring Pearl Au Kar-wai as the titular heroine and Fanny as the trusty sidekick.
The character of Oriole (or Wong Ang) the Flying Heroine first appeared as the protagonist of a popular series of pulp novels in 1940s Shanghai. Written by Siu Ping, an intelligence worker during the Sino-Japanese War, these stories depicted the social injustice and inequities of the era and gave the people a hero who fought on their behalf. In 1950s Hong Kong, the Wong Ang novels remained as popular as ever.

This was a precursor to these:

Previously, I had assumed that the first film adaptation of Wong Ang was How Oriole the Heroine Solved the Case of the Three Dead Bodies (1959), which featured reigning martial-arts queen Yu So Chow in the title role. Yu played the crime-fighting heroine seven more times in the next few years. Her final Oriole film was The Blonde Hair Monster (1962)

Eight Yu So Chow Oriole movies, and one Pearl Au Kar-wai entry. Of those, I know The Blonde Hair Monster still exists, it is even on the top ten list of movies I am trying to get and will as soon as I can afford it.
For more information on Yu So Chow, I found a good biography here. Here is the HKMDB

Double Pistol Heroine
Another Yu So Chow (or Yu So-Chau) film is Double Pistol Heroine, of which nothing is known at all. Gah!
Double Pistol Heroine

The Steel-Arm Girl Knight-Errant
The Steel-Arm Girl Knight-Errant
This one is a Thai film, but stars a Chinese actress. Since Thailand has an even worse record of preserving its films than Hong Kong, there is even less of a chance this is still around! =(

[Carrie] Ku Mei, the little “Skylark”, becomes very popular in Thailand as she leads the cast of the Siamese picture “The Steel-Arm Girl Knight-Errant”. She speaks now fluent Siamese and has adapted herself to the customs of the land. Her kiss scene in the picture boasts to be the longest, the hottest, the wildest and the most tempting kiss in the history of Siamese movies.

Red Heroine
red heroine
Hey, this one actually still exists!

Hound Murder Case (1961)
Another one that exists, yet I don’t have it, thus must get it. We have classic film villain Sek Kin as some sort of were-animal thing.
Hound Murder Case

Bat Girl!!!! Second link (alternate title: The Lady Killer (1967))
Why doesn’t this still exist? Why? Why? WHY???
bat girl flyer

Blue Falcon (1968)
A Josephine Siao starring that is also no longer among us. I weep for the loss of this awesome film.
Blue Falcon
Blue Falcon
Blue Falcon

Wu Lizhu starred in the Lady Robin Hood movie. She has nicknames Lady Robin Hood and the Oriental Female Fairbanks. Some biographical information is available via Electric Shadows, another blog that drives me bonkers! More info here.
Lady Robin Hood wu lizhu
Lady Robin Hood is well known enough to have made it into the Inaccurate movie database. In fact, a print of this might still exist, but who knows? I haven’t run across it yet.
Here is a Movie summary:

Title: Lady Robin Hood
Pinyin: Nu Luo Bin Han
A sick king instructs his loyal minister Luo Zhengqing to guide and install the crown prince as king after his death. However, the minister of the army, Situ Yangming, makes a grab for power after the King’s death and incarcerates the crown prince. Luo Zhengqing leaves the government, unhappy about Situ’s dictatorship and the heavy taxes levied on the people. Unknown to Luo, his daughter disguises herself as the male bandit Robin Hood, robbing government offices to help the poor. Meanwhile, Situ orders captain of the imperial guards, Zhang Zhonggeng, to kill the crown prince. Zhang is a loyalist and conspires with Lady Robin Hood to save the crown prince. When Situ discovers that the prince has escaped, he falsifies the late King’s will and has himself crowned as king. However, the female Robin Hood has stolen the original will, thus exposing Situ’s false claim to the throne. The female Robin Hood kills Situ and instals the crown prince as the ruler. Only now does Luo Zhengqing discover that the Lady Robin Hood is none other than his own daughter. (Based on viewing the film and the film synopsis.)

Director: Yam Pang-nin.
Scriptwriter: Yam Pang-nin
Wu Lai-chu (as Lady Robin Hood),
Wang Hao (as Situ Yangming),
Ren Yizhi (as Xiaolan),
Tso Tat-wah (as Zhang Zhonggeng),
Meng Na (as Mrs Situ),
Hu Siao-fung (as Zhang Xiao Er),
Cen Fan (aka Tsen Fan) (as Inspector Chen),
Chen Jian (as Zhao Da),
Jiang Rui (as Luo Zhengqing),
Gao Dian (as tax officer),
Che Xuan (as Brigadier Tang)

The hits keep on coming, so I applaud SoftFilm blog and DurianDave, and tell him to keep up the good work, and keep driving me crazy. Because a little bit of crazy never hurt anyone. The world needs to know about Chinese Batgirl films, lady super heroine flicks, and Jane Bond mania.