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.
My Girlfriend Is an Agent
Kicking it old school TarsTarkas.NET as we go over a Korean romantic comedy, something we haven’t done in over four years. Oddly enough, there hasn’t been a lot of good Korean romantic comedies in the past four years (although there are several from back then we haven’t covered and might get to eventually.) But retro TarsTarkas.NET is where we are right now!
This is a return of the kind of quality we took for granted from Korea for a few years, but then the industry crashed and the flow of great films slowed to a trickle. Still, some great films came out, and we hope that the slow trickle will once again turn into a mighty Mississippi again.
My Girlfriend is an Agent had great use of editing. I specifically enjoyed the use of flashbacks/scene cuts to complement dialogue. I personally find that smart filmmaking, though I know there are people who don’t like it. But screw them, this is my website! There is also some nice splitscreen editing.
The Korean title 7Keup Kongmuwon means literally 7th level civil servant – in South Korea the ranking of public servants starts from 9th (lowest) on down to 1st (highest). Now you are an expert in Korean culture and should go out and eat some kimchi.
Secret Undercover Agent: Wild Cats in Strip Royale
Secret Undercover Agent Wildcats in Strip Royale continues the tradition of having weird microchips in fashion accessories that do amazing things started in the previous film. Wildcats in Strip Royale also continues the tradition of the film looking freaking gorgeous. The cinematographer should be doing mainstream work in Hollywood, not Japanese DTV exploitation trash. But Hollywood’s loss is our gain! In fact, a lot of directors in Japan get their start doing trashy exploitation work. That’s partially why a lot of the 1970s Sukeban films look so good, along with the hundreds of detective films and pinku films.
The biggest news of the sequel is that Haruna Yabuki left, and was replaced by Reon Kadena. As Reon Kadena has a much higher profile, this announcement caused a large amount of internet buzz that the first film just didn’t have. Although the internet buzz was pretty much “Hey, Reon Kadena is in a movie!” it was enough to raise the profile of the film far above the nothing the predecessor had.
Wildcats in Strip Royale does have a few other things going for it. It is obvious the actresses are having more fun in this one, Yuuri Morishita especially. Some of the costumes are pretty ridiculous and funner than in the original (the cats suits are actual cat suits!) and the plot is easier to follow without subtitles. Yes, that’s right, TarsTarkas.NET doesn’t need no stinking subtitles! I still don’t know the name of their agency or of some of the minor players, but such is life.
Quick lesson for everyone: In Japan, there are these supermodel girls called Idols. Some of them are just models, some do more than that such as singing and/or acting. The big Idols pull in a ton of cash, then marry some rich guy and retire. The lesser Idols do car shows and mall openings and marry midlevel accountants. Most of the bigger Idols have followings all over the web, and there are guys who just scan photobooks of models all day, or host websites that just catalog Idol pictures and news. Idols can specialize in certain genres, like the gravure Idols that star in the film, there are also AV Idols which is a nicer way of saying porn stars. This film will talk of Pure Idols, which is another term used but I don’t know exactly what it means. And let’s not forget the Idols who are thrown so whips can be received.
Secret Undercover Agent: Honey & Bunny
aka Himitsu Sennyuu Sousakan: Honey & Bunny
Directed by Keiichi Kobayashi
Written by Yoshiyuki Morita
From the land of Japan comes the first of the Secret Undercover Agent films, what is basically a showcase for two gravure idols. For those of you who don’t speak Japanophile, gravure idols are models that pose almost naked, but not quite naked. Thus we have no nudity and have to make due with implied nudity. Don’t blame me for the lack of naked chicks, this is purely a Japanese phenomenon. The two gravure idols are Haruna Yabuki and Yuuri Morishita.
The plot of this and the sequel is there is a secret organization whose name I haven’t ever figured out that does James Bond-type work in the fashion industry. So I am guessing Zoolander was also an inspiration. This allows for the girls to wear lots of skimpy outfits, while at the same time there being action and other things happening. What makes the Secret Undercover Agent movies stand out is they are beautifully shot. They seriously have some of the best cinematography I have ever seen in what is essentially an exploitation film. The film was written by Yoshiyuki Morita and directed by Keiichi Kobayashi, so they get the majority of the credit and blame.
The DVDs come lacking English subtitles, so there will be certain things we are guessing at. At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! Another guess is at some of the character names, our rudimentary translation skills were put to the test and found lacking (partially because I didn’t want to devote three times the amount of time trying to find out a character’s name than I was spending writing the whole review!)
Now, we must try not to let exploitation films speak for a culture as a whole, though it does speak for a subculture of the main culture. Do you want Japan judging us based solely on The Hills Have Eyes 2? As far as exploitation flicks go this is pretty tame and would barely even qualify, if it wasn’t so blatant on showing off the gravure girls it could even pass itself off as a comedy.