HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Morfalous, Les
Dreambuilders
Everything Went Fine
Lux AEterna
Rum Runners
Fairy and the Devil, The
Mad God
Outside the Law
I Remember Mama
Superman Unbound
Lawrence of Belgravia
House Across the Lake, The
Wonder Park
Hornsby e Rodriguez
Operation Mincemeat
5 Kung Fu Daredevil Heroes
Scoob!
Earwig
Offseason
Peau Douce, La
Double Indemnity
Na Cha and the Seven Devils
Deep Murder
Superman vs. the Elite
Adam Project, The
Osamu Tezuka's Last Mystery of the 20th Century
Horse, La
Buffaloed
Train Robbers, The
Let Sleeping Cops Lie
Abominable
Funeral, The
Burning Sea, The
Godzilla Singular Point
Ace of Aces
Innocents, The
Beast and the Magic Sword, The
Last Hard Men, The
Found Footage Phenomenon, The
Night Trap
   
 
Newest Articles
3 From Arrow Player: Sweet Sugar, Girls Nite Out and Manhattan Baby
Little Cat Feat: Stephen King's Cat's Eye on 4K UHD
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
   
 
  Singing Killer, The Don't belittle him
Year: 1970
Director: Chang Cheh
Stars: David Chiang, Wang Ping, Chan Sing, Tina Chin Fei, Dean Shek, Ku Feng, Fung Sui-Fan, Ti Lung, Yeung Chi-Hing, Wong Chung, Lau Gong, Yip Bo-Kam, Lee Sau-Kei
Genre: Musical, Action, Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: “The Singing Killer - that’s me! When it comes to fighting and other daring acts, don’t belittle me!” croons pop star Johnny (David Chiang), drumming up a storm while limber guys and gals shake their groovy stuff on the dance floor. Catchy lyrics supplied by director Chang Cheh. That’s right. This finger-snapping youth musical comes from the actor-director team that spilled more blood and intestines onscreen than your local butcher. And no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That really is kung fu icon Ti Lung playing Rickenbacker guitar onstage in a brief cameo.

Of course, as a Shaw Brothers stalwart, Chang Cheh had directed musicals before. In fact, The Singing Killer is an instant remake of his earlier hit The Singing Thief (1969) starring singing sensation Jimmy Lin Chong, except this time the campy song-and-dance numbers sit alongside bloody violence and kung fu action. Teen heartthrob Johnny is determined to distance himself from his criminal past. After wowing the crowds, he takes it down a notch with a treacly ballad on electric piano. Girls go wild as Johnny zooms off in his E-type jag, en route to a rendezvous with his long-lost love, Lily (Wang Ping), for whom he’s been searching these past few years. Unfortunately, the love letter he got is a fake, arranged by his onetime criminal cohorts, Brother One (Ku Fei) and sexy vixen Ho Man (Tina Chin Fei), who aim to lure Johnny back into his old wayward ways. Unless Johnny steals and copies the key to a safe owned by sleazy nightclub manager/fight promoter Old Fung (Chan Sing), they threaten to force Lily into prostitution. It’s all lie. Neither they nor police detective Wang (Fung Sui-Fan) have been able to locate Lily ever since she vanished after being accidentally disfigured during one of Johnny’s criminal misadventures. All this time, he’s been saving his earnings to pay for an operation to remove her scars.

Johnny steals the key, only to discover the real mastermind is Old Fung who caught his crime on a hidden 8mm camera. He now blackmails Johnny into raiding a jewellery store, using his pop star fame to get past the guards. Unbeknownst to everyone, this is the same store where Lily works, having somehow eluded her ex-lover despite being literally across the street from the club where he sings every night.

Stylistically, this kitschy kung fu melodrama bears a strong Seijun Suzuki influence, circa Tokyo Drifter (1966), though its plot shamelessly steals elements from varied sources including the superior Elvis Presley vehicle King Creole (1958) and the Douglas Sirk classic Magnificent Obsession (1954). However, Sirk made a lot more out of his hero’s guilt over blinding the heroine than Chang Cheh does here. Indeed, when we finally glimpse Lily she seems scar-free and the film quietly drops this angle thereafter. Still, one wonders whether Chang’s famous protégé John Woo sought to improve on this flawed effort when lifted parts of its plot for his masterpiece: The Killer (1989). Chang’s usual heavy-handed moralising is in evidence but tempered by an empathy with lowlife outsiders and the misunderstood, not just the tortured hero but the complex femme fatale played by the ever-glamorous Tina Chin Fei. Her malicious minx turns out to harbour a heart of gold. She scolds Lily for being overly judgemental, helps Johnny flee the cops, and even sells her body to a dirty old man to buy the young lovers some time.

Of course, being a “fallen woman” in a Chang Cheh movie, she still bites the bullet and expires poignantly whispering “I loved you more than Lily” in Johnny’s ear. By contrast, Lily proves somewhat whiny and bland. Adding to the annoyance is the daytime soap opera organ music that underscores every romantic moment. Actress Wang Ping was far more engaging as the resourceful blind heroine in Shaw’s haunted house murder mystery thriller: The 5 Billion Dollar Legacy (1969).

Early into his career Chang Cheh was a much more stylish director. He stages the song-and-dance and the action sequences with equal panache, with the final shootout a brilliantly chaotic set-piece quite distinct from John Woo’s celebrated bullet ballets. Although the film gradually settles into a more sedate style, viewers are liable to cherish the surreal musical numbers notably one sequence with Johnny chained inside a giant birdcage while refugees from the cast of Hair groove around with wild abandon. Eye-catching costumes and set-design add to the fun. Who else but David Chiang could cut such a masculine figure bedecked in gold trousers, white shirt, black gloves and a yellow silk scarf?

Chiang broods charismatically, but even his no-nonsense heroism can’t obscure the gay subtext. Comedian Dean Shek, most famous in the west for his dramatic turn in A Better Tomorrow II (1987), plays a gay gangster named Fairy who - despite his crass nickname and grisly demise - is portrayed quite sympathetically. Also, given the way Old Fung repeatedly rebuffs slinky, miniskirted Ho Man and leers at Johnny, it is implied he wants our dashing hero as something more besides a mere criminal cohort. Nevertheless, the film ends as it began with girls going wild and pastel-shaded dancers swaying while Johnny sings his heart out. Several years later, Chang Cheh and David Chiang reteamed for an even more unorthodox Shaw Brothers musical, the frankly insane Heaven & Hell (1978).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2586 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Mary Sibley
  Desbris M
  Sheila Reeves
Paul Smith
   

 

Last Updated: