# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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The Face Behind Mask (1977) Directed by: Chen Chi-Hwa

One of the very best movies Rarescope unearthed for release on dvd, the excellent cast, plentiful action and a truly engaging trip down familiar plotting makes The Face Behind Mask a previously lost winner. Yueh Hua, Hsu Feng and Lo Lieh play characters that are in the service of clan leader Chi Tien-Wei and have to spend their days as assassins or avoiding sneaky attempts on Chi's life. The opposition always hide arrows in boxes with decapitated heads or use deadly, projectile hands but this trio usually saves the day. It does become clear there might be a spy within the clan though and the attempts at sniffing the one out results accusations directed towards the wrong person...

In the best of ways combining a first half with non-stop swordplay and a second of mystery and intrigue, director Chen Chi-Hwa (Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin) isn't providing newly thought of material but the simplicity of the beats is a great tool. It just goes to prove that if you put effort in aspects outside of production- and action-design, you can make this often made genre stand out quite a bit. Combining the excellent presences of its trio of stars is a major factor as well, with top honors going to Lo Lieh.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Fairy, Ghost, Vixen (1965) Directed by: Tong Wong

Based on the famous ghost stories by Pu Songling translated as 'Bizarre Tales' and 'Strange Stories From A Chinese Studio', it's the Cathay studio that produced three of them within Fairy, Ghost, Vixen (later movies such as A Chinese Ghost Story drew from the collection of stories as well), Starring in each of the stories named 'Marriage With A Vixen', 'Yingning' and 'Hua Gu' is Tang Qing who in the first plays a scholar who moves into an old house in the countryside to study. Visited upon by a woman (Bai Bing) open about the fact that she's a vixen (described as fox spirit that can take on the form of a female to seduce men), the scholar falls head over heels in love and when given wealth and a newly renovated house, the enchantment has begun. Rumour starts circulating in society of his undeserved status however. The second story has similar content although the marriage between Tang's Wang Zifu and cousin Yingning (Zhang Huixiang) comes with no ghostly angle... until strange sights of Yingning having no shadow starts the ball rolling here.

Finally, 'Hua Gu', sees the following events set in motion a ghost story. The scholar saves a rabbit from being attacked by a fox, seeks refuge with a family during a storm and falls in love with the daughter Hua Gu (Chen Fang). However the discovery of family graves reveals she's a fairy. The two can fall in love and live together if the scholar can wait 10 years but the other animal in the struggle in the beginning is also a fairy who now wants revenge.

Beautifully photographed and costumed, the storytelling of its time is very reliant on static dialogue scenes and certainly a Chinese traditional score doesn't seem suitable for scary scenes. But taking into account it's an early example of the ghost- and fantasy story, it's easy to take in in particular the first part and amidst primitive but creative special effects, there's recognizable elements a modern audience could be on board with. Interest decreases in the last two stories that seems like rehashes of the same theme and not in a welcome way. Content-wise they are spot on and charming but the trek to get to the center points of each is a little frustrating.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Faithfully Yours (1995) Directed by: Victor Taam

Wing Cheong (Emil Chow) and wife Kitty (Cecilia Yip) are planning migration, she more intensely than him and the pressure is on to make career out of his dubbing job before following her move to Canada. Trusting her husband of course, he relives pressure (not necessarily sexually) from all hassle, bureaucratic or otherwise, when he engages in an affair with his new boss (Christy Chung)...

Wearing its 1997 concerns on its sleeve, Faithfully Yours is a case of sound, current issues turning into just a better acted soap opera. Emil Chow is fitting as the slightly lowly and not very career-driven Wing but his affair with Christy Chung's character reeks more of someone's dream coming true rather than being a true fit for the story. Neither actor is embarrassing, just the pieces are and they are ringing false. Cecilia Yip is a terrific actress and probably a fair fit as well for the self-demanding Kitty but several outbursts into tears cracks the surface of the film in a bad way, reducing it again to that better than average soap status. When writer/director Victor Taam also ties up the film via a Canto-pop montage and an all too neat ending, his Faithfully Yours ends up merely speaking but not well. An odd device is featured near the end where the actors turn to camera to explain their characters. In case we slept through the flick... Lau Siu-Ming, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Bowie Lam and Kingdom Yuen also appear.

The Falcon (1989) Directed by: Cheung Hing-Lung

No one would mistake The Falcon for a gem even if it had better subtitles but fact of the matter is, this Taiwan cheapie got such an incoherent subtitle-job that it is almost impossible to even latch onto the basics. Almost. Criminal Hsiao (Eddie Chan) is being hunted by the cops but he connects with a witness to one of his murders. A girl who's the father of the cop hunting him. While it does try, drama is of no high standard but brevity plus appealing squib work during the gunplay sequences acts as a nice distraction. The finale-setting at what looks like an amusement park can be seen in Thunder Cat Woman (or at least its ninja-version that IFD presented as Golden Ninja Warrior). Wu Ma also appears.

A Family Affair (1984) Directed by: Dean Shek

I guess it makes sense that Dean Shek directing a drama would somewhat equal the manic energy he puts forth when on-screen. While no one can claim he's not being sincere in this story about children wanting to reunite their parents, every single mood is in typical Hong Kong cinema overdrive to the point of being genuinely irritating. One half of the kids is so obnoxious you want to strangle him, Dean Shek's supporting role as the warm grandpa generates annoyance instead and the melodramatic turns in the story are on the verge of hysteria so it's really hard to feel when everything is right up in your face. Still, it's a recipe of its time and A Family Affair became another success for Cinema City. Best part for the rest of us is another fine Sam Hui theme song and Olivia Cheng in a bikini. Melvin Wong co-stars.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Family Affairs (1994) Directed by: Cheung Ji-Kok

The two sons, Big But (Kenny Ho) and Small But, of a father in the bra business decides to revolt in order achieve freedom and independency away from their family. Without an heir to the business therefore, the stern father disowns their sons but complications doesn't stop there as the entire family seems to be falling apart. Big But teaches his brother his knowledge about wowing women, making him act as a movie producer in order to get somewhere with a colourful, spunky and aspiring actress (Karen Mok). Meanwhile Big But's girlfriend (Vivian Chow) fails in her singing career and their unsteady relationship may lead her to try her luck in Category III films...

There's some warmth and heart amidst the rather standard comic complications that occur but while Family Affairs is pretty much safe, non-offensive material, it doesn't grow out of its premise at all really. Frankly, it's a bit of a bore that happens to move fast enough by you.

Family Honor (1990) Directed by: Norman Law

A family of firm and loose connections as well as bad and poor influence is bound to begin sliding down the spiral at one time or another. Director Norman Law (A Hearty Response) makes sure the cop of the family (Wilson Lam) understands the bad lottery ticket he has drawn in regards to this as well as how much appreciation he should have towards his wild triad brother (Shing Fui-On).

For what it's worth, Law does create a fairly watchable family drama from this template, focusing more on Lam and Shing's characters but still with worthwhile content to carry it. Joey Wong is pretty much haphazardly inserted into the narrative as the image of love besides the honor theme so obviously sloppiness exists. The film is otherwise also not at all your most originally scripted triad actioner from this era but changing perspective, all of the above can be viewed upon as a springboard for action director Tony Leung's work. In that regard, Family Honor is a rousing success. Having displayed signs of being a master of hard, gritty violence, Leung doesn't disappoint and is a major contributor to the dark atmosphere that escalates throughout. All culminating in a hard hitting warehouse finale where we might not care about themes or drama but just the rush of seeing Hong Kong cinema at its tough as nails best. Also with Dick Wei, Miu Kiu-Wai, Richard Ng, Max Mok and Chiao Chiao. Brief appearances by Ben Ng, Ronald Wong, Lam Chung, Barry Wong and Lo Lieh.

Famous Swordsman (1969) Directed by: Siu Sang & Law Kei

Yu Chiao (Maggie Li) flees her wedding with swordsman Meng (Kenneth Tsang) as she believes he's the masked rapist she's previously come across in the woods. Seeking a more suitable husband in the world of swordsmen, there are wicked forces out there and Yu Chiao is soon in need of help from the likes of Meng. Although threatening to be an early Wuxia piece flirting with exploitation as we get gratuitous nudity at the start and the plot seems simple enough, Famous Swordsman is quickly buried under an avalanche of huge disinterest. The twisty-turny plot, multiple characters isn't something even two directors can juggle either. Kenneth Tsang in a variety of disguises is fun sporadically. Paul Chun Pui and Kwan Hoi-San also appear.

Fangs Of The Cobra (1977) Directed by: Sun Chung

The flipside of The Killer Snakes, Sun Chung's Fangs Of The Cobra instead sets up its animal star as a hero. An almost well treated one too as there's only one scene of mild animal cruelty. Which is little and almost considerate CONSIDERING what we've come to expect of Hong Kong and Taiwan cinema. Siu Yu is a village girl who's grown up with her pet snake Xixi and once a suitor, the character of Shi-De (Chung Wa) comes knocking, there might be separation between the two friends looming. The duo of Wai Wang and Dana (cast for her willingness to go nude in a rather transparent move) are making plans behind the scenes of the company Shi-De is working for and will go to the lengths of staging accidents. Something Xixi won't accept easily...

Equally a rather sweet tale of human and animal friendship as actress Siu Yu is frequently interacting with the well trained animals, you expect something darker from Sun Chung as well. But thankfully the most threat is about separation and the more deadly aspects of the plot take center stage only when logically needed.

The Fantasy Of Deer Warrior (1961, Chang Ying)

A low budget novelty out of Taiwan. An adaptation of a fairy tale featuring forces such as a deers and wolves clashing, good versus evil... all re-enacted by actors in pajama-style costumes. Mostly aimed at children, although some harsh language as well as an erotic and violent tone is present, no one would claim this is premium storytelling but for what it's worth, it's supposed to be a simple template to connect to. That then leads to wrestling between "deers", a fox (dubbed the Erotic Fox) trying to manipulate the situation at hand for her own selfish needs, singing-numbers, further and external fairy tale references etc. Although pretty slow and very basically crafted, the fairly charming staying power having to do with that that this was made THIS way runs through the entire movie. The location shooting in the forest is a low budget solution but a logical one and The Fantasy Of Deer Warrior represents another side to Taiwanese cinema that is worth checking out and knowing of. Starring Ling Yun, future Shaw Brothers player at that point.

Fantasy Romance (1991) Directed by: Taylor Wong

Back in human-ghost romance territory for Joey Wong for the umpteenth time since a certain classic called A Chinese Ghost Story, look for the pairing of her and lead Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in the third installment in the classic series instead. Taylor Wong's modern day take on matters is largely useless thanks to his trademark tedious direction rearing its head again. It's the commercial machine at work and failing (box-office figures were low at the time), thinking that echoing worn genre themes and using acclaimed leads will mean automatic work done. If work done equals a boring feature done, Fantasy Romance thoroughly succeeds. Leung is a comic book artist acting all wacky along with supporting characters essayed by Wai Lei and Paul Chun. Therefore ejecting all form of star power, charisma and attraction, merely Joey escapes unharmed by the virtue of being her beautiful self while acting as the rather playful spirit. Merits like that can't add up though to an experience worth noting in the wake of a classic film. Although the ending takes place within the animated confines of Leung's comic book, an unusual step like that barely registers as a footnote in moving pictures-history. Besides, Norweigan pop sensation a-ha made it a lot more fun in their famed music video using the same tool. Also with Deannie Yip.

Farwell My Dearest (1995) Directed by: Chan Hon

Not surprisingly, the critical and financial success of Derek Yee's C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri triggered this production, centering on terminal disease. Writer/director Chan Hon gives us a well performed package in Farewell My Dearest though. Achieving excellent chemistry between stars Simon Yam and the luminous Alice Lau is a big key to make this epic 100 minute drama come to life for one. Starting out in the 70s, we're "treated" to a not so convincing youth version of Yam's character (patterned after Sam Hui at this point) but Alice pulls off the youth and gradual aging with aplomb. Emotional to a pretty high degree but deservedly so, some missteps are taken as Chan punishes all too much but in the end, he bounces back and nails his heartfelt message concerning persevering and making sure what's best for your perfect love. It takes something to avoid failing with a storyline and message like that. Chan Hon certainly does not. Appearing in support is Lau Siu-Ming and Ann Mui, who like her sister Anita Mui also tragically past away after losing her battle to cancer (in 2000).

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

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