Films Which Helped Define Hong Kong Before 1997
RETURN TO THE 36TH CHAMBER (1980)
Director: Lau Kar Leung
Starring: Gordon Liu, Kara Hui Ying, Wang Lung Wei, Kwan Yung Moon
This Shaw Brothers classic starring Gordon Liu, has an unusual kung fu training method. The monk played by Gordon initially rejected by the temple, is given the task of fixing the walls and roof which he does by assembling bamboo scaffolding whist using Kung Fu, which he copies from what he witnesses from the roof top.
This movie reflects how big scaffolding was to Hong Kong life during the expansion of the high rises. All over Hong Kong bamboo scaffolding could be seen and was generally accepted as part of the landscape. The tradesmen were exceptionally skilled and the technique is still used to this day.
Director Lau Kar-Leung not only gives us his trademark fantastic Kung Fu scenes, but also displays an awareness of life beyond film making an extremely entertaining and masterful piece of film making.
BROTHERS FROM THE WALLED CITY (1982)
Director: Ngai Kai Lam
Cast: Chin Siu-Ho, Phillip Ko Fei, Johnny Wang Lung-We
A movie set in Kowloon’s infamous walled city which no longer exists other than a few remnants that have been preserved. The movie reflects the lawless nature of this city within a city which was once run by local triads who ran gambling dens, prostitution houses and dealt drugs, leading to a crime filled claustrophobic environment.
This was one of Lam Nai-Choi’s early Shaw Brothers films and shows a desire to break out of the convention of the traditional Shaw film. The performance of the actors who are better known for their Kung Fu skills, show more versatility than they would usually be required to use. Brothers from the Walled City makes for compelling viewing.
POLICE STORY (1985)
Director Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk
In the beginning of the movie there is a huge stunt which involves driving through a shanty town and partially destroying it in the process. This is reflective of a time when Hong Kong had a large amount of squatters and not enough public housing. Although not a commentary on this socia crisis, you get an idea of how some people would have survived through this unfortunate era.
This film represented a change in Hong Kong movie making. Suddenly, there was a big shift to modern day action movies and audiences found they had a large appetite for Kung Fu in a more contemporary setting. Influences from this film can be seen in many Hollywood movies, such as Stallone’s Tango and Cash and Brandon Lee’s Rapid Fire. To this day, this is still regarded as one of Jackie Chan’s best.
THE LUNATICS (1986)
Director: Derek Yee
Cast: Stanley Fung, Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung
Derek Yee directs this film which stars Stanley Fung as a social worker for the mentally ill. During his monthly round of the street he takes a reporter (Deanie Ip) with him and introduces her to his patients who choose to live on the streets. This is a tragic film which reflects a certain lack of resources to deal with these types of problems in the social sector at the time. This is a career defining performance for Fung and a powerful role for Paul Chung, who plays a struggling patient. These actors who usually star in lighter hearted roles, really dig deep for what is a very important Hong Kong film and essential viewing.
This unusual drama also has Hong Kong mega stars Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. This film can be recommended not only for Hong Kong film fans but fans of hard hitting dramas in general.
Thanks to Hong-Kong Blu Ray for the great work in curating this list.
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