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Scared Stiff (1987) Directed by: Lau Kar-Wing

80s/up till mid 90s Hong Kong cinema is like a box of chocolates... you most definitely don't know what you're going to get. While magical in some respect this disregard for audiences need for rhyme, reason and logic, Scared Stiff takes a long while to warm up to even if you're into this abuse Hong Kong filmmakers put one through. Starting very strangely with Halley (Eric Tsang) as the object of desire for women due to him trying to keep his virginity or being chaste in general, best friend Miao (Miu Kiu-Wai) doesn't mind stepping in when Halley won't perform. It seems that way anyway because I'm not sure what is reality sometimes in the earlier stages of the film. But best friends they definitely are as Halley even dresses up as a house robot so Miao can impress his date. Then slowly darkness creeps in as the car the two are in gets overtaken by robbers and Miao is injured in the subsequent car crash. The doctors notices his brain waves are unusually strong and possibly ESP is being heightened in Miao. Doctors (played by Wu Fung and Emily Chu) take Miao on an experimental journey where he's forced to enter the dreams of madmen in order to further the study of what makes madmen. Being reluctant over and over again, Miao hangs on so that he can score with Emily Chu's character and then Chow Yun-Fat turns up as a knife wielding killer who is also a cop...

The identify of the murder is secret for about 5 minutes (and we figure it out 5 minutes earlier) and up till this energetic, insane turning point, Scared Stiff doesn't have any spark. Neither broad or contrasting elements reach out of the dull pit they're in and unfortunately Eric Tsang is in his annoying stage as a broad, comic actor. When matters turn downright slasher movie-like in nature where anyone in the way of Chow Yun-Fat is bound to be horribly hurt (including lead actors), director Lau Kar-Wing shows he's more comfortable doing this kind of excess. Having done well in the horror-comedy Till Death Do We Scare before, at least certain parts of Scared Stiff amuses in its exaggeration. Especially in the finale amidst cars slated for demolition where Chow's team of killer cops (Phillip Ko and Yuen Wah) take on Miao and Halley and structurally Lau Kar-Wing remembers to pay off the ESP angle. The more amusingly evil Chow Yun-Fat becomes, the more reason there is to follow through on the film. A long trek but 3-4 quotable moments seems rather enough. Also featuring brief appearances from Wu Ma and Anita Mui. Produced by Sammo Hung.

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Scarred Memory (1996) Directed by: Raymond Leung

Doctor Ivy (Veronica Yip) can't maintain her relationship after being raped and scarred emotionally. In the midst of this, she neglects a patient that ends up receiving brain damage. Ivy takes refuge in Macau where she one day bumps into that very patient, Lung (Simon Yam), now in a child-like state and she decides to make up for what errors she committed. A friendship turns into romance but ahead lies scars that no one would like to have healed...

Raymond Leung (Angel) directs with confidence and style this drama of redemption and, believe it or not, scarred memories. Giving the impression that we're looking at a Category III sleaze romp initially (the stylish workings of cinematographer Tony Mau is employed here), it's a fairly clever stepping stone into a well-performed and harrowing package. Script is often thoughtful without going to deep places although the film becomes a little too much of a triad movie by the end, albeit with better lyrical imagery than the likes of Andrew Lau probably ever achieved. Simon Yam and Veronica Yip perform as they should when they're trying, meaning very well and this was actually Veronica's sayonara to Hong Kong cinema before retiring. Leaving behind her a career of explicit Category III movies (Pretty Woman) but also highly distinguished performances (A Roof With A View, Call Girl 92), Yip's beauty and dedicated acting is highly missed.

Scheming Wonders (1991, Norman Law)

The buddy cop comedy and action formula suits 80s and 90s Hong Kong cinema well... when they can deliver both action and comedy. Conan Lee was part of one (Tiger On Beat) that got the balance right but Scheming Wonders barely registers. The team up with Shing Fui-On is fun on paper because he could (and did) always bring energy but being absent for large portions of the film is a misstep from director Law. While Ben Ng (another dependable performer) and his henchmen makes noise in the action scenes, the switch to bufoonery and a chase scenario does not entertain. Very anonymous without being offensively bad. Also with Gabriel Wong and Barry Wong.

Screaming Tiger (1973) Directed by: Kim Lung

KENNETH'S REVIEW: An unusually busy plot with character connections left and right plus some re-thinking of Jimmy Wang Yu's revenge motives, muddled is the word on Kim Lung's direction. It's admirable to make more out of a genre vehicle, its straight story and to re-locate to Japan but for advancement and excellence in filmmaking within the genre, turn to other Jimmy Wang Yu vehicles such as One-Armed Swordsman, Golden Swallow and The Sword. Screaming Tiger ain't it division-wise but excels in action, providing the viewer with intense brawls with both sumo wrestlers but topping it off best with the Jimmy/Lung Fei end duel that takes place both on a moving train, in water and near a waterfall.

Seaman No. 7 (1973) Directed by: Lo Wei

Also known as Wang Yu's 7 Magnificent Fights, this Lo Wei/Jimmy Wang Yu effort does no service overall to the former's reputation as a boring director and the latter as a kickass star but bright spots do crop up. Brightest being James Tien with blonde hair and pink pants! Before we get to that, Wang Yu is the titular seaman fleeing to Japan (a country he he dislikes) after killing somebody. Getting slightly involved with smugglers but also trying to make a living as a waiter, taking Judo classes and sightseeing, eventually there's dark turns involving bloody murder so on to pieces of classic celluloid involving Wang Yu fighting underwater, hanging onto trucks while smoking and taking on the badass James Tien (who never had a more inspiring character design in films) plus sumo wrestling henchmen. HUGE stretches and reels of boredom and uninspired fight choreography take center stage and Lo Wei seems more interested in sightseeing in Japan through the lens. Eventually all crap that doesn't matter (including murder because by the end, characters are pretty upbeat) gets pushed aside in favour of the sparse moments that do work and fun, mainly involving Wang Yu on the truck versus Lam Ching-Ying and mentioned finale.

Secret Lover (1995) Directed by: Cha Chuen-Yee

Akin to the zaniness and living cartoon nature of Stephen Yip's I Love Miss Fox, Cha Chuen-Yee's (The Rapist, Once Upon A Time In Triad Society) late Category III era contribution is valuable as a comedy and one of those rare Shing Fui-On starring vehicles to boot. He plays Ng who's married to Lee Man (Lily Lee) but sex life in the marriage is frozen and he thinks he's impotent. That all changes via the sight of actress Chin Gwan (played appropriately enough by the actress too) and he goes on a quest to conquer her and win back his manhood. Wife however, via her mother's (Kingdom Yuen), influence opens a restaurant where the menu is presented on her body so when fooling around doesn't work out, Ng sets his irrational sights on whoever MIGHT have slept with his wife. Incredibly broad and at times surreal with its gags, Cha Chuen-Yee has a fine command on the material and doesn't just deliver one well timed gag but several. With a totally game and shameless Shing Fui-On at his disposal, it's a wonderful director-actor relationship resulting in the rare example of a well thought out comedy using the Category III rating. A well-thought out comedy period. Kingdom Yuen steals every scene she's in as the sexually aggressive mother-in-law.

Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger (1982) Directed by: Godfrey Ho

A terrific pick-up from the early days at IFD (Filmark's Tomas Tang was still at the company even!) when distributing in particular Korean martial arts movies internationally was their game, Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger is according to Hong Kong Movie Database originally called "Injamunsalsu" (translated as "Duel of In-ja Hall") and was directed by Kim Si Hyeon (whose movies often was often distributed by IFD, only replaced by Godfrey Ho as director in the credits instead). Lam Chi-Foo (Ninja Terminator), Dragon Lee and a mysterious woman dressed as a man are off on a journey to free a millionaire's daughter from the grip of Tiger So (Hwang Jang-Lee) and his ninja sect. A few dips into comedy with Dragon Lee at center further cements his complete lack of talent in this area but most of Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger competently follows formula straight faced. The performers are inspired, with the acrobatic and overall physical abilities coming through in a very crisp manner. In particular Hwang Jang-Lee is in fine form in one of his neglected villain roles. The film even indulges in a few raunchy and supernatural aspects, ranging from Hwang Jang-Lee in a steamy sex scene, whipping of a nude woman and said woman flashing Hwang Jang-Lee to break his fighting spell towards the end.

Secret Of Chinese Kung Fu (1977) Directed by: Sung Ting-Mei

Newly arrived kung fu fighter (Sze Ma-Lung) takes on evil foremen and ruthless big boss (Lo Lieh) in this low budget, outside set Taiwanese kung-fu movie. Echoes of The Big Boss are present but barely standard story telling, not as much of a compelling hero and largely weak action makes it one for the bottom of the bin only. Having Blackie Ko and Lung Fei present brings some power to the martial arts but the flat outdoor locations fail to make even compelling concepts like action choreography in the mud stand out. Hard to believe the director of The Deadly Silver Spear made this.

The Secret Of The Shaolin Poles (1977) Directed by: Ulysses Au

Also known as The Prodigal Boxer 2 (same director and lead cast) as well as Bruce And Shaolin Poles despite having zero hints to Bruce Lee, it's not story revolution director Au helms here. But what it is is as well produced martial arts movie with unusually strong camerawork at points, an even tone (mostly dark) and excellent action from Lau Kar-Leung with every scenario on top of the titular poles being rather exhilarating. Lau Kar-Wing and Mang Fei's early fan-fight is an intricate piece of work as well and special mention goes to Dorian Tan immersing himself well into the role of a crippled fighter.

Secret Police (1992) Directed by: Heaven Yiu

The material for a slightly stronger and dramatic Moon Lee/Alex Fong vehicle is there but certainly not assured filmmaking to deliver such so any hopes of something different with Secret Police diminishes fast. Still, one can't complain about director/action director Heaven Yiu's work in the latter department as it's a fairly competent mixture of fights and gunplay, with Moon Lee sadly not given much to do though. Ku Feng, Shum Wai, Billy Chow and Lung Fong co-stars.

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