Friday, November 25, 2016

The Man From Hong Kong

THE MAN FROM HONG KONG is one of the least seen and most underrated action pictures of the 1970s. Golden Harvest co-financed this Hong Kong/Australian production shot in Sydney and Hong Kong. Brian Trenchard-Smith (DEAD END DRIVE-IN), who had primarily directed documentaries about stunt performers, brought in ace stuntmen Grant Page and Peter Armstrong, while Golden Harvest’s main contribution was leading man Jimmy Wang Yu, then known as Hong Kong’s Steve McQueen. THE MAN FROM HONG KONG is a crackling action flick demonstrating what would happen if a Chinese Dirty Harry traveled Down Under to shake up the bad guys.

Wang Yu is Hong Kong detective Fang Sing Leng, who arrives in Sydney to extradite a drug courier (played by a 22-year-old Sammo Hung), but stays in town to battle Mr. Big—a particularly nasty kingpin named Jack Wilton and portrayed by former 007 George Lazenby. Lazenby was no stranger to Hong Kong filmmaking, having starred with Angela Mao in Golden Harvest’s STONER, which didn’t play in the U.S. THE MAN FROM HONG KONG received only slightly more respect in America, playing dates under the 20th Century Fox label as THE DRAGON FLIES with Jigsaw’s “Sky High” as the theme song.

Trenchard-Smith really pours on the action setpieces (he has claimed only 18 minutes of dialogue are in the film, which sounds low, but his point is well taken). The action highlights include a kung fu battle atop the historical Ayers Rock, a lengthy chase and fight between Wang Yu and Page in a restaurant (watch for Page’s pants to split), and the climactic fight between Wang Yu and Lazenby that goes so far as to set a game George on fire! In addition to the wild action sequences, THE MAN FROM HONG KONG raises eyebrows in its love scenes, which pair Wang Yu with Caucasian actresses Rebecca Gilling and Rosalind Speirs. Rarely did Asian men and white women get it on in films, then or now. A treacly romantic montage featuring Deena Greene’s silly “A Man Is a Man Is a Man” is the film’s biggest drag, but it’s over fairly quickly and lets Wang Yu get back to the car chases and karate battles.

THE MAN FROM HONG KONG is not exactly an actor’s picture, but Trenchard-Smith does well to surround Wang Yu, not a native English speaker (he’s dubbed on the soundtrack anyway), with solid veterans. Hugh Keays-Byrne (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) and Roger Ward (TURKEY SHOOT) carry much of the humor as cops working with Wang Yu. Frank Thring from BEN-HUR and KING OF KINGS plays a member of Lazenby’s organization. Reportedly, Trenchard-Smith and Wang Yu did not get on well, but they managed to create a fun action picture that has aged quite well and is more exciting than almost every American action picture that followed it.

1 comment:

Fred Blosser said...

Played Stateside (at least in D.C.) as "The Dragon Flies." Frank Thring was also in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome."