# 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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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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House Of Flying Daggers (2004, Zhang Yimou)

Two police officers, Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau) set off on a mission to kill the leader of rebel group The House Of Flying Daggers. Finding a young blind girl (Zhang Ziyi) at the local brothel who may be able to lead them to the rebels, Jin aims to seduce her but in the process falls in love and find out along the way the facets of the mission and alliances are not what he thought they were. Being very comfortable making an elegant Wuxia in Hero 2 years earlier, its problem was translating the visual splendor into an affecting story. House Of Flying Daggers is refreshingly straightforward in this regard without Zhang Yimou stripping his famed frame of colors and inventive visuals. Because while this is the martial world with its enhanced techniques and powers in swordsmen and women, Zhang Yimou eventually takes the narrative onto the countryside devoid of conflicts tainting the land. His characters behave more naturally as a result and while it's more of a classic romantic setup against this backdrop rather than terribly deep, admittedly these stories within this costume design and eye popping colours has a hypnotic effect. After it overcomes Takeshi Kaneshiro's rough transition from Casanova to committed to love, the actors all respond to the simplicity. Especially Zhang Ziyi is alluring and emotionally engaged despite her changing allegiance strand of the plot being nothing new. But it all also leads to a coherent storytelling experience where you can easily invest in the stripped down storytelling despite a hyper stylized look at points. Ching Siu-Tung's action choreography is often inventive with the bamboo forest battle being a standout and while it does struggle to get the scenes with the non-martial artists to register, Zhang Yimou steps in with his storytelling contribution and the merger becomes more effective the longer they keep pushing the drama into the sword clashes.

The movie is dedicated to the memory of Anita Mui who was originally cast but passed away from cervical cancer before filming any scenes.

How Deep Is Your Love (1994) Directed by: Andy Chin

Ken (Charlie Yeung) returns to Hong Kong from Los Angeles to clear up among other things insurance issues surrounding her brother David's death and learn more of him. Asked to seek up David's friend Joe (Max Mok), Ken shacks up in the apartment complex that has a central shared room filled with many walks of life. Foreigners, drugs, a single mother, aspiring singer, not only is the living room culturally diverse but these particular Hong Kong streets are as well. Including the look at the gay community which Joe is said to be very much part of. Yet, him and Ken fall in love...

A cheesy setup for sure but Andy Chin (Call Girl 92 and yet being a director favouring shooting in synch sound) doesn't bring How Deep Is Your Love into offensive territory. Since he doesn't push for plot matters until very late either, the agenda is indeed to offer up something culturally diverse and meeting our different characters with aspirations (or not), the feel is certainly interesting. Chemistry between leads Yeung and Mok remains solid as well but when unearthing his final plot strands late, Andy Chin simply doesn't know what to do with a movie that has been different up to this point. So he opts for something easy and gets no stirring emotions going in the final moments. Also with Vincent Wan, Kenneth Chan, Joe Junior, Kingdom Yuen and Wu Chien-Lien.

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How To Meet The Lucky Stars (1996) Directed by: Frankie Chan

A benefit movie for director and producer Lo Wei but he reportedly passed away before the completion of this resurrection of the Lucky Stars-series. Back on board are everyone except Charlie Chin and Sammo Hung merely appears briefly (despite having two roles). Left are Stanley Fung, Eric Tsang, Richard Ng, Miu Kiu-Wai and Vincent Lau as a Buddhist monk who are called in to be taught gambling skills in order to assist on taking revenge on lesbian gambling champion Sheung Kun Fai Fa (Gung Guet-Fa). She drove the King Of Gamblers (Chen Kuan-Tai) to suicide after losing to her and the daughter (Francoise Yip) along with inspector Wah (Walter Tso in his regular outfit playing an inspector) are behind the plan for revenge...

Overlong and unfocused, of course the movie has the traits of a quickie made for a cause. Occasionally the banter between the lucky stars work but it's often only Richard Ng coming away with any laughs. The rest of the movie is devoted to the gambling training and the borderline sex criminal antics of the gang (they are pushing to get Francoise Yip drunk in order to take advantage of her). It seems wilder than it is but on the bright side, Gung Guet-Fa is smokin' as our lesbian villain and Sammo's interactions with Diana Pang Dan are very enjoyable. The long cast list help entertain also despite the running time. Some of those that are appearing are Nat Chan, Cheng Pei-Pei, Jimmy Lung, Nora Miao, Mars, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Lowell Lo, Tai Bo, Shing Fui-On, Kingdom Yuen, Mark Houghton, Gabriel Wong and Ricky Yi.

Human Lanterns (1982) Directed by: Sun Chung

Shaw Brother's Wuxia/horror hybrid made at a time when horror/comedy was the norm. Because of this, actually, daring move by Shaw's, Human Lanterns was a box office failure but a film that will find a new life now when it's finally available on dvd (in full Shawscope to boot). This revenge tale isn't the most involving, mostly due to the fact that main characters are very much anti-heroes but director Sun Chung (heroic bloodshed fans will recognize him as the man behind, the also dark and grim, City War with Chow Yun-Fat & Ti Lung) manages to bring the movie to a good level thanks to his good eye for horror. From a studio with less resources than Shaw's, the horror imagery could've ended up being unintentionally cheesy but the high production values instead gives us surprisingly effective and grueling scenes. Sharing the spotlight with the horror is the action choreography by Toong Gai and Wong Pau Gei. The weapon's fights are impressive, fluid and Chung's times the use of slow motion at key moments to great effect. Lo Lieh steals the movie from everyone else with a wicked, evil performance. Lau Wing (The Big Boss) and Chen Kuan Tai (The Blood Brothers) also appear.

Sadly, the current print available feature a few heavily truncated scenes but I believe the footage is forever lost making Celestial/IVL's remastered dvd the only choice currently.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Human Pork Chop (2000) Directed by: Bennie Chan

In an odd move, at the end of Bennie Chan's (not to be confused with Gen-X Cops director Benny Chan) Human Pork Chop, the filmmakers state that events and characters are fictional. While that may apply to the characters somewhat, the template for the story is straight out of our grim reality. It concerns the torture, rape and subsequent dismemberment of single mother/prostitute Fan Mei-Yee. One of the grisliest aspects of this criminal case was the disposal of the body parts, in particular the skull that was found inside a Hello Kitty doll. The reason for this severe punishment inflicted upon Fan was due to a debt of only a few thousand Hong Kong dollars, believe it or not. In the end, the loan sharks who held Fan captive received life sentences and Hong Kong Category III exploitation filmmakers saw their chance to put the events on film, TWICE. Yes, premiering on the same day as Human Pork Chop was There's A Secret In My Shop, starring Michael Wong. We at least know who came up with the more caring title, if there ever was such a thing.

Having said that, Bennie Chan's vision is quite chillingly effective as he uses the low-budget to enhance a grittiness and realism that showcases man at its very worst. There's more emphasis on ugliness rather than gore but that is equally hard to take so be prepared. Even with the film's most disgusting scene, involving feces, being heavily censored, Chan's direction is still punishing to a large degree. Nothing is redeemable although no person deserves that kind of punishment, making the movie rather heartbreaking at times.

On a side note, the corporation behind the Hello Kitty doll obviously wanted nothing to do with the film, which led to shots of the doll being pixellated in There's A Secret In My Soup. However the shots of it in Human Pork Shop are not manipulated. There is the possibility that a redesign of the doll was made for film purposes but nonetheless, those familiar with the case and product won't mistake it for any other.

Emily Kwan is simply terrific as Grace, one that is on the downslide of life with no apparent ambitions to better her situation. Not even being a single mother stops her from committing the wrongful act that ultimately seals her fate. Wayne Lai, a rather underrated and talent chameleon of an actor provides the chills but can't really make his stone-cold character lift out of the basic template of the writing. Helena Law Lan and Amanda Lee co-stars.

Being shot so short after the case was wrapped up, this movie obviously hit a few nerves but then again, this is what exploitation filmmakers lived and breathed on back in the Cat III heyday of the 90s, real life crimes. It could produce lasting profound effects and while Human Pork Chop won't stand next to the best works of people like Billy Tang, aficionados will surely study, not admire, this vision of the bleakest of the bleak side of society and humanity.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Hunting Evil Spirit (1999) Directed by: Fong Yau & Fong Yuen-Shing

A re-thread of sorts of Fong Yau's own Devil Of Rape, Charlie Cho stars as the head of a underwear- and bathing suit designing company who falls in love with designer Pauline (Pauline Chan). Despite being the boss and otherwise having no problem getting sex out of his employees, he thinks different of Pauline... so he goes to a Taoist Priest (Fong Yau) for a little black magic touch and out of his body he proceeds to rape helpless Pauline. Once is not enough but the second time around, she's employed magic assistance and thus begins a battle between priests as well...

This production might as well have been a leftover from about 1993, 94 or 95 because it has the exact feel of the assembly line Category III filmmaking of that era. Not a thoroughly bad thing if you tend to agree with even the cheapest concoctions. Hunting Evil Spirit falls into that category and does have the right attitude about what it's doing. Initially it seems very off and cartoony when we see other clients of the priest being re-united but then The Cho enters. Establishing his business via WAY too long scenes of models posing, posing and also posing, a fairly explicit sex scene later and we're into Cho's giddy out of body rapist part of the film. You can if you want extract a bit of commentary when looking at the business Fong Yau's priest runs but that would be too kind. No, this is unashamed, cheap stuff with quite a lot of energy to give via a short running time, big animated special effects and a lead actor who never apparently said no to anything in this genre. Bless him... kind of. Pauline Chan seemingly did not want to expose anything else but her breasts as evident in a tacked on shower scene where she has underwear on. Yep, it's shameless filmmaking but it's overall the cheap, supernatural shenanigans that matter and they deliver quite well. A disappointingly short climax ruins a lot of momentum however.

The Hurricane (1972) Directed by: Lo Wei

KENNETH'S REVIEW: From back when the Golden Harvest logo/intro was literally a shot of golden harvest followed by "presented in Dyali Scope!", comes this Lo Wei (Fist Of Fury) directed Wuxia. Trying to make his audience captivated by the secretive plot of what a particular message carried by the Hurricane (Patrick Tse) contains, there's little excitement or coherency in his story anchor so the flick goes little refined places. By turning off and just watching, you get a view of some nice outdoor scenery (there's little indoor sets used), decent action for its time that gains more momentum when it's intense and in a way I personally like the feeling of these low budget genre vehicles. It's tough to explain but it's a favourable response despite watching a weak film. Something to write a paper on one day perhaps. Also starring Sek Kin and Nora Miao.

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