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Damiana y los hombres (1967)
Damiana y Los Hombres(1967)
Damiana y Los Hombres(1967) is a Mexican soap opera made as a big budget movie. The title means "Damiana and the Men". Mercedes Carreno portrays Damiana, a girl from a rural area who has to choose between a career as a supermodel or life with a guy she loves. Damiana y Los Hombres is "really good" compared to bad, vile Mexican movies made in the 1980's. There are some fun scenes such as Carreno dancing in her underpants to something that sounds like a Canned Heat cover band. Carreno does appear topless in the film for six seconds! How did they get that past the censors? The film is soaked with 1960's pop culture. You can see a Donald Duck LP in the background. This film may have worked better as a twenty episode Mexican soap opera on TV. Damiana y Los Hombres is no masterpiece, but it's worth a look if you enjoy Mercedes Carreno and her sensuality.
La inocente (1972)
La Inocente(1972) is a solid tear jerker drama starring Mercedes Carreno and Lilia Michel. Once you get past the bizarre, corny surface, it's an engaging melodrama. Mercedes/Meche Carreno plays Constancia, an adult woman who suffers from Down syndrome. She has a childlike innocence and natural beauty. Michel plays Alicia, Constancia's loving, stressed out mother. Lorena Velazquez is quite good as an evil stepmother. Raul Lavista's music score for La Inocente is super. Constancia's theme music is catchy. There's some 1970's hard rock in some scenes. It sounds like Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix, and Iron Butterfly showing up for a gig. Carreno has appeared nude in many films. In this film, all we see is a couple shots of her underpants. Carreno could have ruined the film by winking at the camera and camping things up. She gives a sincere performance in the film. When Constancia gets raped, I couldn't stop crying for days. There are lighter scenes with Meche Carreno eating junk food and playing with dogs and cats. The film was directed by veteran Rogelio A. Gonzalez Jr. La Inocente is an underrated drama from 1970's Mexico.
Mexican Film Noir
El Oficio Mas Antiguo Del Mundo(1970, The Oldest Profession in the World) is a dark Mexican drama with a fair amount of humor. Two drunken prostitutes, Libertad (Maricruz Olivier) and Graciela (mega babe Jacqueline Andere) walk back to the brothel where they live. On the sidewalk, they find an injured man(Oscar Chavez) dying! In the brothel, the madam(Gloria Marin) and the rest of "the women of the night" nurse the man back to health. How are they all going to react when they find out that the injured man is a priest?!
This is a plot, character, and dialouge-driven drama and it's helped by good editing. Director Luis Alcoriza jams as much sex appeal as he legally can into the film. He'll order the cameraman to shamelessly film Lina Marin's cleavage or Lupita Ferrer's legs! Oscar Chavez does a good job playing a shy, timid, nebbish priest trapped in a brothel and the late Maricruz Olivier is memorable as an intelligent, strong willed prostitute. El Oficio Mas Antiguo Del Mundo may have seemed very decadent and perverted in 1970, but it's tame by today's shameless standards...and it's nowhere as perverse and low brow as the Mexican films made in the 1980's!
The jazzy/bossy nova music score by Enrico Caviatti is very catchy. It makes me want to jump around and dance until I puke on someone! Isela Vega co-stars in this film. She played Warren Oates' girlfriend in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia(1974). The lovely Heidi Blue co-stars in the film. I don't know where she's from, but she looks "Nordic". Eduardo Lopez Rojas plays a butler in the film. Fans of the film My Family(1995) may recognize him. Lupita Ferrer went on to co-star in the 1999 telenovela/soap opera Rosalinda. The TV version of El Oficio Mas Antiguo Del Mundo that airs on Telemundo is actually an alternate version of the film. Takes run 2-3 seconds longer and there's an alternate take when Gloria Marin yells at Jacqueline Andere. Also, the footage of Estela injecting insulin into leg is snipped out. This film is a classic of Mexican cinema.
La cigüeña distraída (1966)
Silly, Unpretentious Fun!
In La Ciguena Distraida(1966, The Absent Minded Stork), twins Viruta and Capulina(Marco Antonio Campos and Gaspar Henaine) leave their rural town for life in the big city. In the city, they're mistaken for rich, powerful twins also named Viruta and Capulina and all hell breaks loose! This film is a rehash of Vagabundo y Millonario(1959), but a fun rehash. The Prince and the Pauper metaphor is clearly there. Emilio Gomez Muriel directs this piece of fluff; Gomez Muriel also directed the noirish Mexican drama, Los Corrompidos(1971). Robert Gomez Bolanos, alias Chespirito, penned the screenplay and co wrote the film's catchy theme song. Gomez Bolanos recycled the bowling ball gag on an El Chapulin Colorado episode. Raven haired sexpot Emily Cranz really adds a sense of fun to this movie as a sexy maid! I think this is one of the last films Viruta and Capulina starred in together before Capulina started a solo career. Manuel Esperon's score reflects the fun tone of the movie. La Ciguena Distraida is a fun, 1960's time capsule from the lighter side of Mexican cinema.
Me quiero casar (1967)
Fun, breezy, 88 minutes of cinematic cotton candy!
In Me Quiero Casar(I Want to Get Married, 1967), the sweet, lovely Jane Friedman(Angelica Maria) is a "gringa" from the USA and she's on vacation in Mexico. A heart surgeon, Pedro(Alberto Vasquez), makes a bet with his friends that he can seduce Jane. What's Pedro to do when he REALLY starts to fall in love with Jane? Will the two live happily ever after?
Maria can speak fluent Spanish and English and she does a credible job playing a "gringa"("white, Caucasian woman"). Maria and Vasquez must've had a "Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers" type chemistry; it's fun watching the two play soldiers in Pancho Villa's army during a campy fantasy scene. I also like the scene where a riot breaks out at a bull fight arena: Jane passes out into a priest's arms and a brunette in a blue shirt pulls Pedro's hair! Let's not forget about co star Malu Reyes: with a pretty face and a killer body, she may have been the Jane Mansfield of Mexico! John Kelly, with his decent acting and decent Spanish, co stars as Jane's "friend". Kelly may have been from the USA. He also appeared in the Cantinflas comedy Su Excelencia(1966). That instrumental pop song by El Klan is really catchy! Every time I hear it, I wanna shake my booty! Sergio Guerrero's bubbly music score also adds to the fun. Me Quiero Casar is a fun piece of 1960's Mexican fluff.
La mesa que más aplauda (2006)
A fun way to kill ninety minutes!
La Mesa Que Mas Aplauda(The Table That Aplauds the Most/The Table Dance) takes place in the poor, humble Mexican town of San Pascual El Chico. Nacho, the son of Mayor Cienfuegos, sexually harasses a bunch of working class women(Lupita, Pilar, Jenny, etc.) and they give him his "just desserts"! Nacho gets even with the women by using his father's resources to have them fired from their jobs! Berenice(Liz Vega), an exotic dancer from Las Vegas, arrives in San Pascual and she comes up with a plan to help Lupita, Pilar, and Jenny. They plan to bounce back by starting a strip club. Will they succeed with Cienfuegos still in office?
The plot for LMQMA seems to have been inspired by a song from the band Climax(they make a guest appearance in the film). Director Rene Cardona III is good at handling broad humor and there's plenty of it in this film. This film also does a tasteful job handling its tawdry, provocative material. It feels like a Frank Capra movie mixed with a Russ Meyer movie. There seems to be at least two versions of this film out there: for example, Father Carmelo(Sergio Corona)tells Lupita that he saw a film about Father Amaro. In the other version, he tells the same thing to a blonde woman(a completely different woman)in an alternate take.
Maribel Fernandez(a co star from Televisa's La Fea Mas Bella)portrays Lupita's mother in the film. The lovely Hanny Saenz plays Pilar and she looks like a blonde version of Thalia...to me, at least. La Mesa Que Mas Aplauda isn't award-worthy cinema, but it's a breezy, fun, lightweight film that'll entertain for an hour and a half.
El inocente (1956)
A Classic of Mexican Cinema!
El Inocente(The Innocent Guy) is a classic comedy starring the late Pedro Infante, Silvia Pinal, and Sara Garcia. It was remade in 1968 as Romeo Contra Julieta(Romeo vs. Juliet), with Angelica Maria and Alberto Vasquez. On New Years Eve, Mane(Silvia Pinal) throws a fit in front of her boyfriend and she takes off in her car. Unfortunately, the car stalls and ends up stranded on the highway. A mild mannered mechanic named Gutberto Gaudazar, alias "Cruzi"(Pedro Infante), gives Mane a ride home to her parent's house in Mexico City. She insists that he spend New Years Eve with her and the two get drunk on champagne. Mane passes out on the living room floor and Cruzi hauls her upstairs. Once Cruzi deposits her on her parent's bed, he passes out, too. The following day, Mane's parents come home from a party in Cuernavaca and they find Mane and Cruzi in bed together and they assume that Cruzi raped her! Cruzi's innocent(hence the title)and nobody is on his side. Mane's parents force Cruzi to marry Mane("a shotgun wedding")to save the family's good reputation. What's to become of Cruzi and Mane?
El Inocente is a lot more fresh and original than its remake, Romeo Contra Julieta. Then again, RCJ holds its own weight as a remake. I like the fact that El Inocente has more sight gags than RCJ when Mane's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Mane almost shoots a cow and a friendly gringo with a loaded gun!
Gringo: ?Pasar algo? ?Necesita help? ?Ayudar? Oh, OH, MY MISTAKE! GOOD NIGHT!"
Mane: "!Oiga, mister! !Alto ahi! !Ven aca! Come back! I am not...ladrona! !Tonto!"
One problem that I have with El Inocente is that Silvia Pinal is very shrill and whiny at times! For example, Pinal sounds really harsh to the ears when she finds out that she's being forced to marry Cruzi...or when Cruzi drops her onto the floor! In the remake, Maria is much more..."subtle"...when Mane finds out that she's being forced to marry Cruzi. Angelica Maria's Mane isn't as irritating. Actually, Maria's Mane is much more condescending. Still, Silvia Pinal gives a sincere performance and she has chemistry on screen with Pedro Infante. Pinal's version of Mane is different from Maria's. Aside from acting talent, Silvia Pinal was very sensual in her prime. At times, we could see Mane's cleavage and my eyes were glued to the screen! The late Pedro Infante gives a memorable performance as Cruzi. His version of Cruzi was a little more macho than Alberto Vasquez's. I thought Vasquez was much "cooler" as Cruzi.
Manuel Esperon wrote a memorable music score for El Inocente. His score gives the film some heart and soul. Sergio Guerrero also wrote another solid music score for the remake Romeo Contra Julieta. El Inocente and Romeo Contra Julieta are like the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the 1978 remake: The original and a remake can both be entertaining.
Romeo contra Julieta (1968)
Enjoyable remake of El Inocente!
This Mexican film(in groovy color!) from the Swinging Sixties is a remake of a black and white Pedro Infante comedy, El Inocente(The Innocent Man), from the Fifties. While at a New Years Eve party, Mane(the lovely Angelica Maria)throws a tantrum in front of her boyfriend and she takes off in her car! While on the road, her car stalls on her and it breaks down on the highway...in the middle of nowhere! A warm, affable, mild mannered mechanic in a VW bug, Gutberto, alias "Cruzi"(Alberto Vasquez), gives her a ride to her parents' house...in Mexico City. Mane insists that she spend New Years Eve with him and the two end up getting drunk on champagne! Mane passes out and moments later, Cruzi loses consciousness and he passes out on her! The following morning, Mane's parents and her brutish brother come home from a party in Cuernavaca and find them in bed together! Mane and her family think Cruzi raped her, but he's innocent and nobody believes him! Mane's paranoid, menacing, condescending parents force Cruzi to marry Mane to save the family's good reputation. What's to become of Cruzi and Mane and their bitterness toward each other?
Alberto Vasquez does a good job making his character Cruzi likable. He has rugged, good looks and charm. We sympathize with him even though Mane's folks have a lot of disdain and contempt toward him! He even gets two opportunities to sing his songs. Vasquez is like a cross between Elvis Presley and Ted Bessell. As for Angelica Maria, she looks so lovely and statuesque in her prime. Her mix of German and Mexican facial features adds to her pulchritude(good looks). Maria also does a good acting job; Mane is fussy one minute, then she'll do a 180 and ooze charm.
The supporting cast also adds some color and fun to the film. Romeo Contra Julieta(Romeo Versus Juliet) is "G Rated" compared to the content in other Mexican films...so it's safe to watch with the whole family. The content of violence and sexuality is higher in latter day Mexican films. RCJ was one of the films featured on a budget priced DVD set that I own. It was presented in watchable pan and scan format with missing frames and negative damage. I hope some company out there will be generous enough to find an anamorphic widescreen print of the film and restore it for future generations. Romeo Contra Julieta has a sweet sense of nostalgia. After one viewing, one can understand how Angelica Maria got the nickname, "Mexico's Sweetheart".
Santo frente a la muerte (1969)
Santo, Santo, Santo...
In 'Santo Frente a la Muerte'(1969, a Spanish/Mexican/Colombian co-production), a group of international criminals steal a large emerald from a heavily guarded Colombian mine and they plan to sell it on the black market. Unfortunately, the evil Dr. Igor is also manipulating other criminals, as well as the ones who stole the emerald, for his own benefit. Santo, a Mexican wrestler/Interpol agent(a cinematic one, anyway) works with the Colombian authorities in an attempt to recover the emerald and to stop Dr. Igor and his subordinates, as well.
I've only seen a few Santo movies and, frankly, I can't call myself an authority on the genre. I can see why these films are critically-reviled, but they do manage to deliver some cheap thrills. This film is so bad...it's good. Santo is worthy of being a cinematic Mexican superhero and his grace as a wrestler was admirable. Mara Cruz, Elsa Cardenas, Celia Roldan. etc. provide some eye-candy and they each do good acting jobs, as well. These wrestler films do have a share of "innocent eroticism". There's also plenty of wrestling scenes for the fans. 'Santo Frente a la Muerte' has the energy of a poor man's 007 flick(there's a neat faux-John Barry "music score" by Daniel White)and it's a good time at a bad, schlocky movie. Watch out for them plot holes!
La Banda Del Carro Rojo (1978)
'La Banda del Carro Rojo' is a solid Mexican crime-drama, filmed on location in Texas. Rodrigo y Lino Quintana(Mario Almado and Fernando Almado) play two brothers who live in poverty and they have debts piling up. After hooking up with two other guys looking for work(Pedro Infante Jr. and Jorge Patino), they work in the lucrative, yet dangerous field of drug traffiking. However, as La Banda del Carro Rojo("The Red Car Gang")reap the benefits of making money from illicit drugs, they also get more than they bargained for. Los Tigres del Norte, a famous band that are notorious for singing songs about drugs, make a guest appearance.
When I was five years old, my dad watched this Spanish language flick on TV. He didn't have any shame; he didn't tell me to go to my room or shut my eyes. I was "blown away" when the characters on screen starting blowing each other away! After watching dozens of violent movies, domestic and foreign, the violence in 'La Banda del Carro Rojo' was tolerable. My mom is the more moral prude in my family. The filmmakers borrow stuff from Sergio Leone, such as close-ups of people's eyes during stand offs. They also borrow canned music from a number of Hollywood movies. The last twenty minutes of this film has a fair share of bloodshed; the MPAA might slap an R-rating on this flick if they choose to pan it. Keep in mind that this is a Mexican film with a very UN-Hollywood feel. Aside from some hammy acting, the performances were quite solid. There's some broken English spoken in a number of scenes by Mexican actors. 'La Banda del Carro Rojo' is not for the kiddies or fundamentalists, but it should please viewers who like good crime flicks. The red car doing a "donut" in a field has been burned into my memory.
Pobre, pero honrada! (1973)
'Pobre, pero Honrada' is good, lightweight fun
'Pobre, pero Honrada!'(1973) is a dated, yet fun and entertaining film starring comedienne Maria Elena Velasco, alias 'La India Maria'. I still enjoyed the film despite the esoteric humor and the fact that I can't speak Spanish fluently. In her films, she usually portrays a humble, noble, sympathetic woman who tries to co-exist with pretentious people, big-wigs, con-artists, foreigners, etc. My family, mostly Mexican-Americans, used to watch her films as we lived in the U.S. for many decades. La India Maria's films almost always bring a smile to my face. In 'Pobre, pero Honrada', Maria sells spring water with enigmatic healing qualities, but some people, including two con-artists, want to tarnish her reputation because they think her claim that the spring water is "magical" is illegitimate and bogus. Also, some people want to see if the water is really "magical" so they can take it away from Maria and capitalize on it. As if things weren't stressful enough, Maria passes out while she cleans inside a church and she has to have an minor operation involving her appendix, or something. Around the same time, a rich man's daughter asks her father to help get rid of her illegitimate child: the tycoon and a surgeon try to make La India Maria believe that the baby is hers. Maria, being a very humble, chaste, simple-minded woman , assumes that she's a modern-day(for the 1970's)"Virgin Mary". When the authorities try to take Maria's baby away and some people continue to exploit her, she flees from her hometown with the baby and her mule in tow. Will Maria's luck turn around?
Aside from the serious-sounding plot, 'Pobre, pero Honrada' is a good, light-hearted film. A priest(played by Angel Garasa), is willing to tell the authorities that he's the father of the baby(he's telling a "white lie", of course) so the baby won't be put in an orphanage. There's room for lots of ironic humor in 'Pobre, pero Honrada'. Maria carjacks a jeep that belongs to two con-artists when she tries to get away from the authorities(she drives surprisingly well for someone with no driver training!). This was a nicely staged action scene, but thankfully, 'Pobre...' doesn't forget it's a comedy. I love that bit where Maria pulls off the road and she can still see cop cars and helicopters that are "chasing her", but they're actually chasing nothing! In Spanish, Maria yells out, "I AM RIGHT HERE!" That scene cracks me up every time. I saw this film on a grey-market VHS tape that my sister bought at a flea market; it was shown in pan-and-scan with muddy video and audio. It was watchable, nonetheless. A definitive home video version of 'Pobre...pero Honrada' should be released one day. Recommended.
Xian nu xia fan (1972)
A guilty pleasure
'The Human Goddess' is a VERY guilty pleasure starring Shaw Brothers' "Baby Queen" Li Ching. Li Ching is the Seventh Sister, an angel who comes down from heaven to see what life in Hong Kong is like. In Hong Kong, she runs into Zili(Chin Feng), a reincarnated version of her deceased lover, Dong Yong. Zili, with help from cook Uncle Bull(the warm, portly Peng Peng), do their best to watch over homeless kids in an run-down orphanage. However, a heartless tycoon named Xu Caifa wants the land where the orphanage is and he's willing to go to extremes to get it. Armed with omnipotent powers, spirit, and help from her "celestial sisters", Seventh Sister works to defend Zili, Uncle Bull, and the orphans from Xu Caifa.
Scenes with nudity and some ribald, dyspeptic humor make 'Goddess' a questionable choice for children and prudent viewers, but this film still manages to be light-hearted and whimsical. Director Ho Meng Hua('The Flying Guillotine')does his best to hold the film together even though the film, at times, almost spins out of control like a broken merry-go-round. Li Ching is at the pinnacle of cuteness; she's almost like an HK Chinese Doris Day, to me, at least. 'The Human Goddess' does suffer from flaws such as overacting, stale puns, a dated 1970's look, etc., but it still manages to be a fun, enjoyable, and charming, albeit guilty pleasure.
Dan Ma jiao wa (1973)
'Sexy Girls of Denmark' is lackluster entertainment...
'Sexy Girls of Denmark' is an erotic-comedy-drama produced by the Shaw Brothers studio and directed by Lu Chi/Lui Kei. A businessman's son, Kwok Chuen(Chung Wa/Tsung Hua), heads to Denmark to take care of a deal for a movie studio. In Denmark, he meets and falls "in lust" with actress Ann Charolette(Birte Tove). Later on, Kwok Chuen finds out that Ann Charolette is a soft-core porn actress and she has no plans of leaving the industry or having a relationship with Kwok Chuen. Kwok Chuen later meets Ms. Fang(Li Ching, not to be confused with actress Ching Li, Ching Miao's daughter), a Chinese woman living in Denmark. Will he succeed in seducing her, winning her love and her hand in marriage? Should we care?
There's a lot more working against 'Sexy Girls of Denmark' than for it. The story fails to be engaging most of the time, the Danes seem to speak more English than Danish in the film, the wobbly camera work may make one dizzy, the bizarre editing could cause seizures, and the close-ups of people kissing each other(with tongue!)may cause nausea! I adore actress Li Ching, but I personally, will never get over her unfortunate involvement in this hunk of junk. This film does contain some decent acting, a few effective gags, and "Baby Queen" Li Ching, but there aren't enough redeeming factors to save this lackluster film. Birte Tove and a number of other Danish women are constantly nude in the film. Li Ching and Karen Yip are kept clothed as they were considered "legitimate" actresses in Hong Kong, at the time. Tsung Wa and Li Ching "make love" during a montage with period costumes and weapons. This film isn't a turkey, but it's close!
Hua yue liang xiao (1968)
'Hong Kong Rhapsody' is tacky, gaudy, 1960's HK cinema fun...
'Hong Kong Rhapsody', from 1966, is director Inoue Umetsugu's(alias Jin Shang Mei Zi) follow-up to his Shaw Brothers-produced 'Hong Kong Nocturne', from 1965, a remake of one of his own Hollywood/Japanese style musicals. Inoue Umetsugu may not have been great at directing drama. Usually his attempts at drama are very clichéd and forced, but he knows how to add fun, style, and flavor to a film. The characters in the film feel two-dimensional. This is probably due to the Shaw Studio's "cookie-cutter, crank-'em-out-quick" policy, but the thespians add some life to them. The musical/dance numbers are very reminiscent of the ones we'd see in a Hollywood film or a Broadway stage production. In 'HK Rhapsody', a young, female, vagabond orphan, disguised as a 15 year-old boy, Chang Xiao Ping, portrayed by Li Ching searches for Chen Tsz-hsin, a magician colleague of her late father, Chang Te-chiang. When Xiao Ping finds Tsz-hsin, he's seducing two different women, played by Angela Yu-chien and Helen Ma, at different times and he tries to cheat them out of money. Both women want retaliation against him when his scam is uncovered. After being deserted by both women, Xiao Ping joins Tsz-hsin in his magic show. When Xiao Ping, in a "magic" box, sings a song about a pensive bird, Tsz-hsin runs "magic blades" into it! The audience starts to panic when something resembling blood oozes out of the box! That was some good, dyspeptic humor! DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME, FOLKS! Thankfully, Xiao Ping is unharmed by the magic blades. After Tsz-hsin ditches some people who are at odds with him, Xiao Ping joins him. After getting kicked out of his apartment and the fact that Xiao Ping is homeless, Tsz-hsin and Xiao Ping find shelter from the rain at an HK villa where nobody is living at; the house belongs to miser Lin Chin Fu. Xiao Ping takes a bath when Tsz-hsin finds a suicide note; later he finds out the suicide note is twenty years old. He looks for Xiao Ping to notify her about the suicide note, barges into the bathroom, and finds out she's a lovely, 19 year old girl! Tsz-hsin falls in love with Xiao Ping, but he keeps his hands off of her for the sake of his late friend, Te-chiang.
While throwing a grand party at the villa for the poor, Xiao Ping's birthday, and the memory of Yu Hua, the girl who killed herself and she's also the daughter of Lin Chin Fu, a guy with a cane(Yang Chih Ching) comes to the party and Tsz-hsin gets him a drink. In the background, Li Ching,looped over by Jing Ting, sings merrily while everyone enjoys the party. The man with a cane asks Tsz-hsin who the young lady, specifically, Xiao Ping, is; the man with the cane is revealed to be Lin Chin Fu! Xiao Ping resembles his late daughter and she could be his grand-daughter. When Tsz-hsin and Xiao Ping have to go their separate ways, due to Tsz-hsin's infamous reputation with women, Chin Fu takes Xiao Ping into his home and he plans on sponsoring a large scale musical, also called 'Hong Kong Rhapsody' starring Xiao Ping, with Chin Fu's niece, portrayed by Allison Chang Yen, and her aspiring musician friends(very convenient cliché, huh?). However, Lin Chin Fu's accountant(Wei Ping Ao)secretly wants to get his hands on Chin Fu's wealth...and Xiao Ping! There are also old enemies who want to collect debts from Tsz-hsin when he becomes a co-producer on the stage show. Will the show go on despite the chaos in the background?
'Hong Kong Rhapsody' is gaudy, dated fun from a lost era in cinema. At one time, starlets dominated the silver screen in Hong Kong. Things changed when filmmakers like Chang Cheh added lots of vigor to the screen. Li Ching, Allison Chang Yen, and their co-stars show off some sassy grace during a series of musical/dance numbers. Cutie-pie Chin Ping, sultry Lily Ho, and stunning Margaret Hsing Hui guest-star in a musical/color/emotion/montage(red for violence, blue for melancholy, and yellow for bliss; kind of like Zhang Yimou's 'Hero'). I'll never forget the first time I saw Li Ching(Li Guo Ying and "Baby Queen") in this film. I had a stressful, depressing day in the Summer of 2004; when I witnessed Li Ching singing(with help from Jing Ting), I was pulled by a tractor beam into her realm of bubbly charisma and charm! I wanted to live again! She makes me happy just to be alive! Then again, Li Ching dropped out of the acting scene in the 1980's, she retired, and now she's about 56 years old(assuming she's still alive). If you're out there Ms./Mrs. Li Ching, we love you! Wo men ai nin! Nin hao yeh! You have a new generation of fans! You're worthy of idolatry! What's great about Li Ching is that she's an unconventional starlet; at 100 lbs. or 200 lbs., she's still worthy of idolatry! I just love her cute looks, her large flying-saucer eyes, sensuality, and her solid acting abilities. I recommend 'Hong Kong Rhapsody'!
Bruce the Super Hero (1979)
Lackluster, 1970's Bruceploitation cheese...
'Bruce The Superhero' features Bruce Lee clone, Bruce Le, who "stars" in and directs the film. Actually, Bruce Le is mostly a supporting player in the film while a more competent Philipino lead actor/martial artist takes charge. Le, the Philipino kickboxer, and their allies must get to hidden WWII gold before the Yakuza and a bunch of different gangsters do. Bolo Yeung(of 'Enter the Dragon' fame) plays one of the gangster's lackeys. In one scene, he "fights" with a decrepit, somewhat benign ox as a stolen Jerry Goldsmith score from 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' plays over the scene. I almost thought V'Ger was going to come down from the sky and turn Bolo into a "data pattern". This film stinks of gaudy fashions, low production values, grainy filmstock, etc. Still, there's a half-decent fight between Bruce Le and Chiang Tao(who sports a snake hand puppet). Bruce Lee clone, Bruce Le, shows little presence(as usual) in this film. I only recommend this film to hard-core martial-arts cinema fans who have the patience to endure this lackluster cheese-fest.
Lian shou jing tan (1991)
A solid, yet somewhat sloppily-crafted actioner...
'Red Fists', a.k.a. 'Lian Shou Jing Tan' is a prime example that shows that Yu Rong Guang and Sharon Kwok Sau Wan, in my opinion, are two of Hong Kong's underrated actors from the late 1980's and early 1990's, even if this film isn't top-notch quality. The plot is muddled at times, some of the acting is sub-par, and the film feels run-of-the-mill in comparison with the likes of 'Police Story' and 'Yes, Madam'. Yu Rong Guang portrays a Mainland Chinese cop who goes undercover in Hong Kong to bust some criminals who are attempting to get their hands on stolen currency plates. While infiltrating the crime family that's trying to acquire the plates, a Hong Kong cop(Kwok) blows the Mainland cop's cover, placing the Mainland cop and his son in danger. 'Red Fists' contains some solid, 'Police Story'-influenced fight scenes, gunplay, explosions, and stunts. With his background in Chinese Opera, Yu Rong Guang shows his stuff during the fight scenes. On the other hand, Sharon Kwok isn't a martial artist or a screen fighter, but she manages to hold her own during the action scenes and non-action scenes with her solid acting abilities, girl-next-door beauty, warm smile, and nice physique. The rough production values and muddled, hackneyed plot bog down 'Red Fists', but the film deserves credit for trying to be a b*#^s-to-the-wall, high octane actioner.
Xin zui jia pai dang (1989)
A solid entry in the Aces series...
Ngoh meng giu King Kong, a bit like James Bond, Joi gaai paaktong, ngohdeih haih, joi gaai paaktong, ... This is the fifth entry in the 'Aces Go Places' series('Aces Go Places '97' may be related only in name, I assume). It seems to be an underrated installment in the saga as well , yet it has enough quality to hold itself together. 'Aces Go Places V'(a.k.a. 'Xin zuijia paidang') starts off with King Kong and Albert "Baldy" Au(Sam Hui and Karl Maka) kidnapping a Thai woman for a client. When their moral judgment gets in the way of profiteering, King Kong and Baldy go their separate ways. King Kong and Baldy are later re-united when a brother and sister duo of thieves(Leslie Cheung and Nina Li) posing as the Aces duo, steal a sword connected to some stolen Terracotta statues. In an interview with Peter Hunt filmed for a James Bond documentary, he claims, and I quote,"Every director puts his(or her) stamp on a film." This statement would apply to Shaw Brothers kung fu guru director Lau Kar-leung as well as the previous directors of the Aces films who've added their contributions: Eric Tsang(Aces I & II), Tsui Hark(Aces III), and Ringo Lam(Aces IV). Lau and his stunt crew bring a wide array of wu-shu and kung fu into this film. The fights are solid and fun to watch even though they're performed mostly by non-martial artists such as Sam Hui, Karl Maka, Nina Li, and the late Leslie Cheung. The absence of Sylvia Chang leaves an incomplete feeling to this entry(Chai Po[Chang] and Baldy Jr. are supposedly in Canada, as this film mentions). Still, there's a large supporting cast that attempts to stand in for Sylvia. Conan Lee is Chinese Rambo, a mainland soldier who forces the new and old Aces duos to help the Red Chinese recover the Terracotta statues, from a gwailo with white cat mittens(?, Ernst Blofeld he's not) and his lackeys. Lovely Ellen Chan portrays King Kong's secretary who suffers under his employment from damage caused by mainland bureaucrats and international criminals. Cho Tat-wah reprises his role as Wah So from the previous Aces films. Leslie Cheung is one half of the new Aces duo and buxom Nina Li(married to Jet Li Lian-jie[Gong xi nin])is the other half of the new Aces duo. Fannie Yuen Kit-ying portrays Baldy's niece(whose cabin he hides out in order to avoid the authorities and tax collectors). Singer/actress Maria Cordero has a brief cameo in the film as well. Danny Lee Sau-yin portrays a pimp from Hong Kong who awaits punishment in a mainland Chinese prison and gives information on purchasing bullets for executions! There are other supporting players whose contributions make up the film as well. Sam Hui and Karl Maka return as the aging, bickering Aces duo in the fifth(and last?) film in the Aces series. Not the best film in the 'Aces Go Places' saga, but this installment holds its own.
Tian shi te jing (1991)
A well crafted, guilty pleasure from the Girls with Guns Genre...
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** WARNING: This review may contain potential spoilers. 'Angel Force' a.k.a. 'Tian shi te jing' was the first Moon Lee actioner that I saw years ago(not knowing who she was then, but still impressed by her screen presence) on programming broadcasted in the San Francisco area. This film is unrated, but would probably receive an R-rating in the U.S. due to its chaotic fun; bless those censors for protecting us from reality. BA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA...! Moon Lee Choi-fung portrays Ah Mun(May in an English dubbed version), a Hong Kong police officer(chai yahn) who travels with her male partner(Wilson Lam) from Hong Kong to Thailand to rescue a gwailo beaureaucrat who's been taken captive by a drug lord(Wong Lung-wei,a Shaw Brothers-era bad-a** and legendary HK cinema baddie). Ah Mun and her partner have a Riggs and Murtaugh-esque partnership; when Ah Mun is having dinner with her partner, his wife and his son, stock music from 'Lethal Weapon' plays on the soundtrack. 'Angel Force' suffers from the usual flaws in the girls-with-guns genre: a lack of story depth and texture, high production values, original music(some exceptions for some films), a lack of cohesiveness, hammy acting, and other factors. This film was made on the heels of successful films such as 'Yes Madam' and the 'Angel' flicks(also starring Lee) and may account for the films derivativness. 'Angel Force' goes from a cop movie to a campy jungle warfare flick and back again. As for its redeeming values, 'Angel Force' delivers the goods. The fight scenes(staged by Yuen Bun) are well crafted and the gunplay is hokey, yet energetic. I love the triple take in the prolouge where Moon Lee locks a lackey's head with her right arm and hits his face by kicking her left leg backward. As for the supporting cast, Hugo Ng portrays a mercanary who is good and bad: he doesn't follow orders too well, he tries to rape a female POW(until Ah Mun intervenes and stops him), he's somewhat chivalrous, and he's deadly. Shing Fui On portrays the kind of triad heavy that he's been typecast as(his character may be in cahoots with the drug lord and Ah Mun's superior!) 'Angel Force is nothing great and it's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's more entertaining than most modern HK "popcorn" films and action junkies may enjoy it.
Jin san jiao qun ying hui (1992)
Pretty good Girls-with-Guns actioner...
'Mission of Justice' is an offering from the girls-with-guns genre that probably isn't as memorable as 'Yes, Madam', the 'In The Line Of Duty' saga, or the 'Angel' films(which were made prior to 'MOJ' and also star Moon Lee Choi-fung and Yukari Oshima), but it's still quite entertaining. The film combines espionage and commando-like action(Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima even wear brown camoflouge)in a story that takes place in the Golden Triangle in Southest Asia. Moon(Moon Lee) and Bullet(Yukari Oshima) are two agents who work for the supposedly ficticious Anti-Crime League led by Colonel Carry(Carrie Ng). There's a prolouge where Gary Daniels and Moon Lee are hunting eachother. Why it happens in the film is difficult to explain. Moon and Bullet are sent to spy on a woman named Yie Feng, who runs white slavery, counterfeiting, and drug smuggling rings. Yie Feng plans on selling large amounts of narcotics to a man named Somi and his henchman, Hans. Moon and Bullet recieve assistance from Mr. Ma( of Station 'B', in what I have to assume is Burma). When Mr. Ma is killed and Moon and Bullet's covers are blown, they join Colonel Carry and her troops in an attempt to bring Yie Feng, Somi, and Hans to justice. As with most girls-with-guns actioners, the plots are somewhat sub-standard in quality, the budgets are miniscule, the music scores(assuming it's not stock music) sound like something from a 3M advertisement from the 1970' or 1980's. Yet, where else are we going to see gorgeous women with solid acting skills and amazing athletic abilities kicking #@$? Usually, not in Hollywood. I, personally, enjoyed the film despite its shortcomings. This film probably isn't the best from the girls-with-guns genre, but it's worth a look.
Wu xing ba quan (1977)
Not bad, but not that great, either.
The Secret of Chinese Kung: Strong enough for a...Just kidding. This film is like a cross between 'The Big Boss' and 'Shane'. Two women from a fishing village rescue a stranger who happens to be good at kung fu. The stranger helps the two women fight against an oppressive "big boss" portrayed by Lo Lieh. I rented the film from a local video store on a VHS copy released from the original distributor, Ocean Shores Video. Now, the film has been re-released by Tai Seng in their Martial Arts Theater series. The great Lo Lieh is given top billing on the DVD's artwork. However, in this film, Lo Lieh isn't given much of an opportunity to show of his prowess. There's a Eurasian-looking Bruce Lee clone who portrays the heroic stranger. The fight scenes are pretty well choreographed, but this film lacks originality. Some scenes from "The Big Boss" are even filmed shot-for-shot in this film and are sometimes slightly altered so the scenes wouldn't qualify as direct plagiarism. This film isn't that bad, but it's not great, either. Still, it's watchable.
Xun cheng ma (1982)
A rare, martial arts epic.
In 'The Postman Fights Back', couriers who work under the stressful conditions in the war-torn Republic of China are hired by Hu(Eddy Ko) to deliver a set of mysterious cases. The couriers assume that the cases are simple birthday gifts until they're attacked by mysterious warriors who may be after their cargo. This film leads to an exhilarating and action-packed surprise ending. This is an early Ronny Yu film starring Fan Mei-sheng, Eddy Ko, Cherie Chung,a young and lanky Chow Yun-fat, and many others. Even Chow Yun-fat looks good the film's fight scenes as we watch his acting prowess as he fights. Not all of the action is martial arts, there's some guns which are fired as well as some monster fire ball explosions. There's also a fight scene on frozen lake which is well-crafted and exhilarating to watch. This wonderfully-crafted period-piece filmed in Korea is a classic which I feel should not be missed.
Hu ying (1983)
An underrated classic.
In 'Hu ying' a.k.a. 'A Fistful of Talons', Billy Chong portrays a young misfit who becomes an apprentice to a kung fu master who is trying to stop Ch'ing Dynasty loyalists from throwing The Republic of China into a civil war. Billy Chong is one of the better known "Jackie Chan" clones created the wake of 'Drunken Master'. At times, Chong tends to overact in this film, but he is one amazing martial artist! Hwang Ing-sik is terrific as the main antagonist who wants to re-establish the Ch'ing government. The fight choreography, cinematography, editing, and direction are excellent. The performances are quite good, but not excellent. On the other hand, this film isn't perfect, but then again, no film can be too perfect.
Gui ma gong fu (1978)
An odd, but entertaining kung fu comedy.
In 'Dirty Kung Fu', Wang Yue(Not Jimmy Wang Yu, Ho Chi from 'Dirty Ho') portrays a young man who uses his kung fu skills to capture criminals wanted by the authorities in exchange for a cash reward. He learns the "eel fist" in order to go after a vicious criminal expertly trained in kung fu.
This film is filled with dry, Cantonese humor and plenty of nicely choreographed fight scenes by Liu Chia-yung. I wouldn't think of this film as a classic, but I would recommend it to viewers who enjoy martial arts comedies.
Po jie da shi (1980)
Entertaining, yet somewhat incoherent kung fu film.
This is an independently-produced kung fu film made in 1984 by the Lau Brothers: Liu Chia-liang, Liu Chia-hui, and Liu Chia-yung. Liu Chia-hui(a.k.a. Gordon Liu) portrays a Buddhist monk who abandons his post at a Buddhist temple when the temple is attacked by Japanese troops during World War II. After he leaves the temple, he takes on two misfit apprentices portrayed by Eric Tsang and Liu Chia-yung. Together, they battle two villians, one portrayed by the talented, but underappreciated Li Li-li. Some scenes are incoherent such as the scene with the hopping Chinese vampires who have nothing to with the film and do not reappear later on. Most of the violence is bloody and the mood of the film changes from Cantonese comedy to gritty bloodshed. Still, the excellent fight choreography is very much in the Lau brothers fashion. It's enjoyable, but not really memorable.
Tai chi chuan (1982)
Really cool fight scenes.
'Secret of Tai Chi' is an independently-produced martial arts film from the 1980's. The overused plot about vengence is used in this film, but the plot also consists of Manchurians versus The Han Chinese conflicts during the Ching Dynasty. On the plus side, this movie does contain some nice fight choreography. The fight scenes with the Shaolin Monks and the fight against the color-coded-attired fighters are among my favorites. Being an old school kung fu film, this film doesn't rely much on wires(A good bonus). I hope Tai Seng is able to include this film in their Martial Arts Theater series.