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Hong Kong Godfather (1991) Directed by: Hoh Cheuk-Wing

Hong Kong Godfather is another cops- and triads flick with a cast of comforting faces that does not surprise in the least. Arguably a comfort in itself, in this case much is made muddled aside from a fairly refreshing relationship between a cop (Roy Cheung) and the newly appointed triad head (Andy Lau). Memorable it is though, thanks to another person providing comfort: action director Stephen Tung. Choreographing fun chopper brawls and heavy duty gunplay, it represents a person and aspect that in 1991 Hong Kong cinema could do better than anyone and do it eerily effective. The fine cast includes Tommy Wong, Jimmy Lung, Joey Wong, Lo Lieh, Lam Chung and Lau Kong.

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Hong Kong Nocturne (1966) Directed by: Inoue Umetsugu

Musicals in Hong Kong cinema had by this time taken on a Hollywood style and there was no better place than to provide colour and lavish sets to the various numbers than at Shaw Brother's. Japanese director Inoue Umetsugu was drafted in to helm, and remake his own Odoritai Yoru, his first of many features at Shaw's in this story of three dancing sisters (Cheng Pei-Pei, Lily Ho and Chin Ping) and their hardships trying to make careers for themselves. Despite a colourful and sometimes goofy surface, it comes as a surprise that Inoue sets out to depress the hell out of us throughout. He really punishes our main characters and the main theme about families torn apart doesn't so much resonate greatly but proves to be engaging emotionally nonetheless. Not always on the money with his character-drama and throughlines to each and every one of them, Hong Kong Nocturne is a minor delight thanks to a trio of actresses that light up the screen. None more so than Cheng Pei-Pei who simply radiates during this high point in her career.

The musical numbers themselves (including a fair amount set in fantasy land) feature very little to almost no fancy choreography which may seem surprising considering the industry this comes from and the performers involved. However Inoue again injects his so much flair into his images that you're swept away suitably that way instead rather than by some Gene Kelly-esque put together number.

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Hong Kong Superman (1975, Ting Shan-Hsi)

An anonymous first half with Bruce Leung as a bodyguard for aspiring politician Dr. Chan (Stanley Fung) and how he squanders his friendships because of his job leads to a vigilante thriller! With a dark and melodramatic streak ignited as Dean Shek's girlfriend is raped, Leung (working with Sylvia Chang's character) goes out to clean up Hong Kong (and leaving little plastic figures behind, leading to him being identified as the titular superman). The drama and darkness is nothing new but goes for the jugular in an unexpected fashion and really does create more interest in the movie. From this point carried fairly well by Leung's extraordinary kicking, Hong Kong Superman becomes passable eventually. Featuring all too brief fights with Leung, Sammo Hung and Bolo Yeung.

Honor & Glory (1992) Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Released the same year as Ho's Undefeatable (also starring Cynthia Rothrock, John Ritz Miller and Donna Jason in a small role), at best Honor & Glory has sporadic fun when embracing the b-movie area of action cinema it does reside in but Ho doesn't make sparks fly to an enough extent mixing the Hong Kong style and making an English language film. Undefeatable earned its stripes by being cartoony but Honor & Glory aims for a more grounded feel and the action choreography also comes off as rather stiff and limp. Also shot and released in a version for the Hong Kong market called Angel The Kickboxer, this features cut out subplots to make room for new scenes with the likes of Yukari Oshima, Waise Lee and Pauline Chan but not much is improved. More fun can be had thanks to awful Cantonese dubbing of the Western actors and pretty atrocious subtitles.

Horrible High Heels (1996) Directed by: Chow Keung

Credited to another two directors, this mish-mash of genres and moods would've been far more acceptable had the movie decided not to put all into the mix. The key to a bit of a downfall for Horrible High Heels is subsequently the running time and main interest dying out a reel before the end. A worker in a small shoe factory brings some top of the line leather that becomes an instant seller at the shoe shop the company co-operates with. The key to success in that leather? Human skin.

A VHS release called it a "A Chinese Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and it definitely holds true for a few minutes as the opening murder and skinning contains elements of darkly comedic scenes from the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Cutting to essentially a small drama about a missing father, jealousy and conflicts spiced up with gangsters and cops, it literally feels like three different directors handling their own segment. The Shing Fui-On and Billy Chow scenes may have shoes IN them but are the ones that feel the most out of place (especially when the gangsters re-emerge during the end) while Dick Wei investigating the case has one action scene and very sporadic presence. More so than prior mentioned cast members scenes because eventually the cops are going to get a whiff of the crime by sheer logic. Horrible High Heels is pretty low class filmmaking with some welcome nasty sting to it though, decent gore but two bizarre moments makes it an eyebrow raiser. One is the main villain (whose identity is revealed pretty early on) having a fantasy that his rape victim is a swan or a goose while Dick Wei's tactic to disarm the second villain towards the end literally consists of him faking her out by saying: "Look behind you!". Low level fun that should've ended at the 80 minute mark but while I welcome the closure needed (but I don't welcome the attempted grave seriousness to the film), the aftermath with personal revenge, gunplay, fight scenes makes the movie overstay its welcome.

The Horse Thief (1986) Directed by: Tian Zhuangzhuang

Although requiring some better tuned spirituality than I have myself, the visual splendor combined with quite a minute but tragic story makes Tian Zhuangzhuang's (The Blue Kite) introspective tale quite the experience. Shooting in Tibet, casting untrained locals and highlighting as much of Tibetan culture as he can, the scope frame is incredible, with Tian's cinematographers Hou Yong (The Road Home) and Zhao Fei (The Emperor And The Assassin) capturing vistas of unparalleled beauty. It's not hypnotizing enough however to make us forget there's a largely non-dialogue based plot revolving around Nowre's (Gaoba) fate as a horse thief caught, banned from his town and struggling on the cold plains of Tibet. Tian rarely highlights the why's of Nowre's initial reasoning to actually betray Buddhist learning's but human nature isn't always written in the clear, concise reasoning. What's clear though is that Nowre enters a hell that can't be escaped from, no matter what right steps are attempted after sin.

Host For A Ghost (1984) Directed by: Ding Sin-Saai

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Nat Chan collaborated on the script as well as starred in this excessively uneventful and dull ghost-comedy. Directed by Ding Sin-Saai (The Beheaded 1000), the opening murder leading to fairly dopey behaviour with Nat Chan's Ah Nak is classic Hong Kong cinema in the way the mood changes. Especially illogical it seems when we during the opening credits hear the great song about Ah Nak and see how rich he is. Yet he's not and Ah Nak the journalist also engaging himself in an apartment-war resembles little of our expectations if you will. It's a late plot as it turns out, which is no excuse, but when his flatmate Mimi is possessed by a female ghost that gives him horse racing tips and a dead writer pays him a visit, director Ding will get the audience to go aha as he connects the dots. Despite, the whole affair is a missed a train and even though lead Chan plays underplays his annoying-factor, Host For A Ghost can't nail the finer points of how to make a ghost-comedy. Also with Melvin Wong.

Hot Blood (1977) Directed by: Richard Yeung

A full on boring, embarrassing to even decent cop-thriller from the early days of Chow Yun-Fat's (unsuccessful) career on the big screen, he's credited here under his old English name Aman and paired up with Mark Cheng Lui (whose character is ALSO called that conveniently enough). Ah Cheng (Chow) is the calm civil servant while Cheng Lui is the hothead getting increasingly frustrated about the lack of appreciation from the citizens. All while they're also a hunting a pair of very dangerous thieves (Fung Hak-On, the co-action director of the film, and Lu Chu-Sek)...

Uneventful and episodic, Hot Blood at times feels like a PSA for the struggling police force who strive to do their best and will help out all walks of life including gambling- and drug addicts. The message is way on the nose at times, especially when portraying the media yet probably not at all untrue which is a sign of director Richard Yeung (Seeding Of A Ghost) improving as he goes along. Achieving fair viewer-immersion and getting us to buy this gritty world (thanks to a bunch of shooting on location), Hot Blood is way too basic to matter but unexpectedly effective at times during the latter stages. Unexpected because it's plodding along aimlessly otherwise. Especially when it gets pre-occupied with pratfall comedy and the sound effects that go with it. A young Simon Yam can be spotted during the latter parts of the film.

The Hot, The Cool And The Vicious (1976) Directed by: Lee Tso-Nam

Being well versed in making low budget martial arts action with enough filmmaking- and story-drive, it shows up here in Lee Tso-Nam's cheap frame as well. While not creating a rare thriller within the confines of the martial arts genre, it all is treated very seriously as Dorian Tan's police captain wants to bring down the town's counterfeit king that has a killer for hire (Don Wong) on his side and the rest of the sideplot involving revenge flows well into a cohesive whole that delivers on the action front as well. Tan is magic employing his trademark kicking here and while Don Wong has some trouble standing out in comparison and especially when Tommy Lee's madly designed fighting villain comes into the frey, the trio delivers under Lee's and obviously Tommy Lee's action direction to make more than enough of The Hot, The Cool And The Vicious stand out as a minor winner among Taiwanese kung fu pictures of the time.

The House Of 72 Tenants (1973) Directed by: Chor Yuen

A defining and important work of Hong Kong cinema, this Chor Yuen helmed (the director being hot property after the classic and classy exploitation vehicle Intimate Confessions Of A Chinese Courtesan) star-filled Shaw Brother's comedy was an immediate success at the time of release (even beating the then recently deceased Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon at the box-office). Much having to do with its introduction of the local Cantonese dialect into a pre-dominantly Mandarin language movie scene. That choice struck a chord with the local moviegoing audience in combination with the portrayal of the working men and women they knew, a theme later to be taken to new comedic heights at Golden Harvest by a then Shaw Brother's contract player called Michael Hui. Suffice to say, without The House Of 72 Tenants, the development that Cantonese comedy went in might've been delayed or gone very different routes.

Based on a stage play and having been shot before in China during the 60s, this adaptation seemed like a fit for Chor Yuen due to the fact that he had not only shot Mandarin language movies but several Cantonese ones prior as well. The success of The House Of 72 Tenants is also much due to Chu's audience friendly material that he'd rewritten for the screen. Taking a bunch of social issues that the everyday man and woman could relate to such as the need for the Hong Kong people to unite, the shortage of money during the undisclosed depression time period of the film where even the firemen demand cash on site (their very funny chant goes: "you pay, we spray"). The main focus of the very episodic narrative remains the tenants vs. the landlords fight though (a plot device echoed recently in Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle) and Chu presents very much noisy Hong Kong comedy, something that can take a few movies to get used to as a newcomer. However, locals eat this noisy dialogue exchanges up and despite the visual style of the film being very stagy for periods of time, there's ample colourful characteristics of the tenants to be engaged in. At times, Chu also showcases terrific depth to the set design as well as some visual trickery (including the very opening shot where, true to the stage roots, the lights go up).

But obviously all the attention of the filmmakers are directed towards the local audiences so how does the film fare in Westerner's eyes today? Knowing the history and its place in the Hong Kong cinema timeline is more than enough for one to venture into the film and the end result is not side splittingly funny no but very entertaining, pleasant and amusing. While characters are excessively broad, the film can easily be looked upon as a product of its time, for the people it was close to and outside eyes looking in should have no problems relating. Eventually Shaw Brother's faded out in favour of comedy/kung fu staples set in stone by such filmmakers as Lau Kar Leung, Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan but there's no doubt Shaw Brother's sow a very important seed in 1973, one that blossomed into what is now a worldwide phenomenon; Cantonese comedy.

Featuring Shaw Brother's established and up and coming talent pool in large to walk on roles, the cast is headlined by Yueh Hua, Ching Li, Hu Chin, Tin Ching, Lau Yat Fan and Hoh Sau San. Finally, I thoroughly recommend Yves Gendron's, of Hong Kong Cinema - View From The Brooklyn Bridge, breakdown of the film. An extensive piece that also includes a helpful cast gallery.

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