“So glad to have missed the seventies.”
Dear god, this is awful. The only reason this 1974 film manages the dizzy heights of 1 1/2 stars, is the finale, which is actually a pretty decent burst of comedy action, highlighted by the heroine receiving inspiration from a poster advertising a Peking Opera production of the Mulan legend. Up until then, it’s a rancid piece of film-making, wasting the talents of those involved. Well, the actresses anyway, since Lui Kei provides no evidence, in either his direction or script, that there was any talent present to begin with.
The gang in question are five female pickpockets, led by Ra Liao Liu (Danish actress Tove, whose presence in Hong Kong at the head of these thieves is never explained). When engaged on a job, they cross swords with a pair of bumbling male pickpockets, and inexplicably decide to join forces, even though the men are incompetent perverts. Cue the kind of behavior which would get you arrested these days, played by the movie in attempts at comedy which fall utterly flat. Man, if this is really what the decade was like, it must have been hell to be a woman. The rest of the film is filled with similarly “amusing” high-jinks, along with other scenes which serve little or no dramatic purpose, like the one where the good heart of Ra gets her deceived by a pair of con women, or an extended sequence where the whole gang pretend to be hookers. Oh, hold my aching sides, for I fear they may split.
Eventually, what passes for a meaningful plot finally shows up, as the gang rescue a woman from being forced into prostitution. Of course, the morality on view is a bit dubious, when their rescuee is then made pregnant by one of the men, who refuses to ‘fess up until he is made to believe he had sex with a leper. Yes, the laughs just never
stop start in this Shaw Brothers production. Subsequently, her pimps come after them, and that’s what leads to the inadequate redemption of the big final battle, as well as an ending which offers no resolution, consisting entirely of the gang yelling out “We are the weird and crazy thieves!” Maybe that line lost something in translation from Chinese.
I thought my loathing might be strictly personal, but the first review I found called it, “The worst Shaw Brothers film I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen over 200 of them.” So, not just me, then. Any screen presence Tove and her co-heroines possess, is almost entirely countered by the crude and largely incompetent approach, resulting in a mix of comedy and sexploitation that is neither funny nor sexy. Maybe times have changed, but if this ever seemed other than creepy, change can only be a good thing.
Dir: Lui Kei
Star: Birte Tove, Chen Ping, Nancy Leung, Lee Fung-Laan