ASIA-POL Shaw Bros. Bond rip-off starring Jimmy Wang Yu
Hong Kong's Shaw Bros. studio made a bunch of James Bond-style spy thrillers in the 1960s. I went into ASIA-POL (1967) hoping it would have more entertainment value than the other ones I've seen in this genre because it had the studio's then-ranking martial arts star, Jimmy Wang Yu (ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN), in the lead role as a secret agent working out of Japan as a member of APSS (Asia Police Secret Service, a new one to me). I expected some good fight scenes at least. Well, not this time. The film's slight plot about gold smugglers working on a run from Bangkok to Macao to Japan never develops any excitement and the "action" scenes never take off, lacking any degree of imagination. There are two brief fistfights featuring Wang Yu, but none involve any martial arts whatsoever. There's a shootout amidst some picturesque ruins in Macao, but it's badly staged. There are rather sluggish chases, a lot of people following each other, lots of going in and out of hotel rooms, and two scenes where the hero and his sister get trapped in enclosed spaces with time bombs. Yet no suspense is ever generated.
The film tries to position Wang Yu as some kind of suave womanizer, yet he doesn't get very far in that direction either. When a sexpot working for the bad guys turns up in his hotel room wearing only a towel, he immediately kicks her out! Would James Bond have done that? Eventually maybe, but not right away. Poor Wang Yu doesn't even get to take his tie off. His only actual potential love interest is the Japanese secretary (Ruriko Asaoka) back at the Tokyo office, the counterpart of the Bond films' Miss Moneypenny. She turns up at his hotel room in Hong Kong too, but only to help him out of a jam.
There's a lot of location work in Hong Kong and Macao and one does get a nice view of what those places looked like, back alleys and tourist spots alike, in 1966, when the filming took place. Part of the film takes place in Japan, and some shooting was done there as well.
Interestingly, the film was a co-production with Japan's Nikkatsu Studio and features several Japanese cast members and behind-the-scenes personnel, including the director, who also directed THE LADY PROFESSIONAL (1971) for Shaw, also reviewed on this site. The lead villain, a character named George, is played by Jo Shishido, star of Nikkatsu's cult classic, A COLT IS MY PASSPORT (1967), and notorious for having cheek implants(!) to make him look more "handsome." All the speaking parts, though, are dubbed in Mandarin.
Following this film, I did see another secret agent film from Shaw made the same year, INTERPOL, and it marked quite an improvement over ASIA-POL and the other Shaw Bond rip-offs I've seen, ANGEL WITH THE IRON FISTS (1966) and THE ANGEL STRIKES BACK (1968). For one thing, INTERPOL's lead character, played by Tang Ching, is much less of a Boy Scout than Wang Yu and does a lot better with women. All three of these other films are also reviewed on this site.
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