Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold

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“Do not confuse with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

In the 70’s, Shaw Brothers hooked up with Western studios, to various effect, e.g. the inept Dracula and the Seven Golden Vampires, made in conjunction with Hammer. Co-production works rather better here, lending genuine exotic locations, and an endless array of stuntmen, prepared to hurl themselves off things. Jones heads to HK after a couple of her minions are captured by the evil, lesbian, sword-wielding Dragon Lady (Stevens), intent on bringing down the operation, with a little local assistance.

We wondered if her astonishingly bad make-up – for which Dobson received a separate credit – was an attempt to distract from other aspects of the movie. In the end, however, we decided that in the 1970’s, everyone applied face-paint by dangling upside down and dipping their head in a vat of mixed cosmetics. It redefines “undercover”, though when you’re a 6’2″ black woman in Hong Kong, you might as well flaunt it. Between her make-up and her dress sense, Cleopatra Jones certainly does that.

Stevens provides a better nemesis for Jones than in the first movie, though everything takes a while to get going. Jones’ hench-girl (“Tanny”, aka Tim Lei – unlike the now-vanished Dobson, she was acting as recently as 1994) provides useful feistiness, despite opening the front-door before having a shower, letting the bad guys in. You just can’t get the sidekicks these days… The finale, however, is mad, with much destruction of property and extras. The sort of film that could only be made in Hong Kong, where stunt-men are cheap.

Interestingly, the HK Movie Database reckons one of them was Yuen Wo-Ping, of The Matrix fame, though there’s absolutely no bullet-time here. But at the start, when the boat is boarded, check out the first guy to climb on – is it Jackie Chan? It’s possible: at the time (1975), he wasn’t a big star. Against this, he was more associated with Golden Harvest than Shaw Brothers and…well, you think someone else would have noticed by now! But take a look.

Dir: Chuck Bail
Star: Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens, Tanny, Norman Fell

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