Hong Kong sexploitation epic isn't very good, but give it credit for ripping the scab off a historical wound.
Above is a poster for the sexploitation flick Nu ji zhong ying, known in English as The Bamboo House of Dolls, and to get right to the heart of the matter, this one must have set Sino-Japanese relations back a few years. The film stars Danish actress Birte Tove as a nurse in Hong Kong who during World War II gets corralled along with her co-workers into Japanese Women's Concentration Camp 13, there to undergo various indignities before finally deciding that escape is her only option. You know the drill. Tove is the marquee attraction, but the film is largely cast with Hong Kong actresses such as Lee Hye-Sook, Hseih Wang, and others, which means that while the movie resembles entries in the women-in-prison sub-genre—with the scheming wardeness, lesbian sex, group showers, and half-cocked escapees made into examples of what not to do while in a tropical women's prison—the obvious historical context of Japan actually sexually abusing Chinese women during the war gives it an underlying grimness that's hard to ignore.
We suspect that if this were made today it would spark an international crisis, insults traded by high ranking officials on Twitter, and possibly diplomats kicked out of China and Japan, but 1970s filmmakers did not shy away from uncomfortable subject matter—and this is about as uncomfortable as it gets. That isn't the problem, though. Well, that isn't the problem for us. The objective problem is the movie is just bad. Legendary Hong Kong producers the Shaw Brothers (and by legendary we mean Run Run Shaw would be knighted in 1977) wanted to copy Jack Hill's women-in-prison movies The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House, but possibly overlooked the fact that setting such films in imaginary Central American hellholes as Hill did was worlds away from making the Japanese villains in a historically laden sexual abuse epic. But what do we know? Run Run got knighted, not us. In any case, Tove's escape plan runs into some snags, but we won't reveal what those are, just in case you're in the mood for politically explosive titillation. Our advice? Give it a pass. Nu ji zhong ying premiered in Hong Kong today in 1973.
I get the feeling there's history here. Since I'm from Denmark, maybe I can I just leave?
There's no kung fu like topless kung fu.
These Italian posters were made for the sexploitation/kung fu flick Schiave nell'isola del piacere, originally released in Hong Kong as Yang chi, and known in English as The Bod Squad, or alternatively, Virgins of the Seven Seas. This is a Shaw Brothers production, and when a company makes forty films a year not all of them will be scintillating. What you have here are five western women, all allegedly virgins, who get kidnapped by Chinese pirates. They're to be sold for big bucks to a brothel, but only after some training in delightful and arcane sexual arts. The plan to remake these inexperienced white girls into perfect carnal receptacles goes pear-shaped when an unexpected ally also trains the women in martial arts, and the five end up fighting alongside downtrodden locals to help take down an organized crime cartel.
Some of the things the squad learn—both sexually and for combat—are pretty funny. Like when they're taught to spit olive pits at lethal velocity. Or when they get a lesson in Chinese sex techniques—knowledge which is of course derived from a crinkly old parchment. There's also quite a bit of slapstick humor. The entire point of the movie, however, is to show five women going through various contortions in their undies, and on that score the movie is a slam dunk. The five squad members, Sonja Jeannine, Diane Drube, Gillian Bray, Tamara Elliot, and Deborah Ralls, give the physical acting their all, and in the end confirm that toplessness—like red sunsets, fine wine, and good music—makes everything better. After premiering in Hong Kong today in 1974, Yang chi reached Italy sometime in 1975.
His martial arts are lethal and his wardrobe is killer.
Above is a poster for the Hong Kong actioner Quan Ji, aka Duel of Fists, which, based on the placement of the English text, you'd actually expect to be called Duel of Nuts. Or are we the only ones seeing that? Anyway, what you get here is the story of a nerdy engineer slash ace martial artist who learns from his ailing father that he has a long lost older brother, the result of a whirlwind affair with a Thai girl. Sent to Bangkok to find his sibling, geek boy eventually discovers him in a fighting ring. A series of circumstances that begins with big brother beating the local crime syndicate's champion brings the wrath of the bad guys, and the brothers have no choice but to go medieval on the entire mob.
This movie is worth watching for two reasons. First, some of the fighting is Muay Thai, which was obscure to westerners back then and makes Quan Ji one of the first films to showcase that particular discipline. And second, David Chang plays the unsophisticated younger brother while wearing a series of gaudy outfits that you'd absolutely love to have for your next ’70s party. Chang has made more than a hundred movies and was still active just a couple of years ago, but we doubt he ever surpassed the discofied wardrobe he wore here. Despite the Rick James flavor he brings to the party we'd describe the movie as merely adequate. But it did make us want to listen to "Super Freak." Quan ji premiered in Hong Kong today in 1971.
I've met so many girls. Then I come to Bangkok and meet one who sees as much value in primary colors as I do. What are the odds?
By the way in Hong Kong one of our official languages is English, and in English Bangkok sounds like... Well, I'll explain it in detail later.
I told her what Bangkok sounds like and she loved it. Total keeper.
I know every dojo in the Far East and I've never heard of your Studio 54.
You wouldn't shoot the best electric slider in all of Thailand, would you?
I'm going to demonstrate this one more time. It's called the hustle and I learned it in the East Village.
Everybody was Muay Thai fightin'.... HUAH! Those kids were fast as lightning...
You better run, losers and haters! Come back when you learn how to dress!
Depending on the opponent's particular style and what the deejay is spinning these dance-offs can get pretty violent.
Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to fuck with!
The Hong Kong actioner Shao Lin da peng da shi, aka Return to the 36th Chamber, is part of a trilogy of films that inspired the legendary U.S rappers Wu Tang Clan, and as such is as famous for its musical influence as its place in cinematic history. Wu Tang must be the only hip hop group—probably the only music group of any genre—whose entire schtick revolves around Hong Kong chopsocky. But forget the music. We're about cinema today, though to reiterate—Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to fuck with!
In Return to the 36th Chamber a group of fabric workers scam their evil bosses into backtracking on a pay cut by having a Shaolin monk with invincible kung fu take up their cause. Problem is the monk is just a regular Joe named Chao Jen-Cheh and he knows no martial arts. When the ruse is exposed, Chao is humiliated and roughed up. But at that point he goes to the shaolin temple where he learns real kung fu. Well, sort of. He learns how to build bamboo scaffolding, but in true zen form he realizes the skills are transferrable. He returns to the place of his humiliation armed with his bamboo-fu, and this time he aims to make the bad guys pay.
Basically, the movie follows the predictable Hong Kong martial arts formula of early defeat of the good guy, followed by rigorous training with a tough-but-inscrutable master, capped by redemptive kicking of evil guy asses. But even with its standard plot—not to mention bad make-up, silly wigs, rough prosthetics, and cookie cutter plot—the movie is still fun. The fight scenes are of course amazing and the comedic elements are lowbrow but effective. Too bad guys like Chao Jen-Cheh don't exist in real life. There are a lot of workers that could use an ass kicker like him these days. Shao Lin da peng da shi premiered in Hong Kong today in 1980.
Being on the Lam doesn't sound so bad after all.
Chinese actress Lam Fung, aka Patricia Lam Fung, came to international notice by starring, beginning at age sixteen, in the films of Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brothers. Working with them she became known as the “Jewel of Shaw,” and many of the movies she made until her surprise retirement at age twenty-seven were huge hits, including 1960's Lian ai yu zhen cao (Love and Chastity), and 1961's Yuan yang dao shang ji (The Mandarin Swords). Fung died in 1976 from an overdose of sleeping pills, a sad end often speculated to be suicide. No date on this awesome image, but figure around 1965.
Promo shot of Chinese actress Betty Loh Ti, or Loh Tih, who starred in numerous Hong Kong films by the legendary Shaw Brothers, seen here circa early 1960s. Loh Ti died young, aged 31. Most western websites, nearly all of which have pasted their Loh Ti bios directly from Wikipedia, say suicide is rumored to be the cause but that the truth of this is debatable. It took us perhaps three minutes to find recollections online from people who actually lived in China or Hong Kong at the time, and they all confirm suicide.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
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