This Time I’ll Make You Rich [Questa volta ti faccio ricco!, 財星高照] (1974)

Starring Antonio Sabato, Brad Harris, Karin Schubert, George Wang Chueh, Danny Lee, Gianni Rizzo, Lam Yi-Wa, Ko Hung, Tony Ching Siu-Tung

Directed by Gianfranco Parolini

Expectations: Low. I almost skipped this, but what the hell.

This Time I’ll Make You Rich is one strange movie. I expect no less from Italian comedies of the ’70s (which I’m not fond of), but this one seemed especially odd. A few months ago I reviewed Supermen Against the Orient, and while that one was weird, it also had a fair amount of Shaw charm to hold my interest. This Time I’ll Make You Rich doesn’t really have anything in it that resembles a Shaw film. Shaw actors are present: Danny Lee is around and there are a number of smaller roles/cameos for character actors like Lam Yi-Wa, Wong Ching and Pang Pang. Even Ching Siu-Tung shows up for a bit (making me wonder if he choreographed the uncredited action). But simply casting Shaw actors and using them effectively are two very different things, and in This Time I’ll Make You Rich the Chinese actors are there more to mine Chinese stereotypes for jokes than to do anything else.

The film opens with Italian-American Joe Esposito (Antonio Sabato) flying a plane dropping money stamped with the word “Spaghetti.” He then skydives to the ground, and upon landing he gets into a van that says “Cheng Cheng Spaghetti” on the side. This is all an advertising scheme for his fledgling Hong Kong spaghetti business, and you might be inclined to think that said fledgling spaghetti business would figure into the story, but you’d be dead wrong. In fact, we never hear of it again, and the skydiving stunt is merely there to introduce us to the extravagant methods that Joe will go to in order to make money (and potentially get rich).

As the title suggests, Joe has a partner in his schemes, Scottish-American Brad McCoy (Brad Harris). I couldn’t really tell what his place in the schemes were other than to look ripped and argue with Joe when they went sour, but logic is not something that holds sway over This Time I’ll Make You Rich. Anyway, these guys get involved with a rich Greek gangster, who asks them to transport some sensitive packages across town for him. For this he offers $3000 a job, per person. The boys see their problems melting away with such money at hand, and their dream of opening up a brewery is one step closer.

This Time I’ll Make You Rich is basically just a series of schemes gone wrong, so you really have to like the film’s brand of hijinks or else it will be a real slog. Usually in a co-production with the Shaw Brothers you can at least depend on some fights, but this film’s definition of fights is incredibly loose. There are a fair amount of them, but they all boil down to the Americans comedically beating up waves of Chinese with little to no effort or struggle. Some moments of this are enjoyable, but anyone interested in seeing traditional fights — comedic or otherwise — will be sorely disappointed with the offerings.

The comedy is very broad and mostly slapstick, and it landed far less than I’d have liked. Perhaps if I was a fan of these ’70s Italian comedies, I’d have enjoyed it, but who knows. It’s my guess that it’s not a very good film, even within the genre. Anyway, what isn’t slapstick is mostly just a bunch of good ol’ fashioned ’70s racism. Danny Lee wears the traditional Chinese garb of big, round glasses and he continuously spouts old Chinese proverbs and squints his eyes. His character randomly pops up in scenes (it’s not worth explaining) and every time he does, he is accompanied by the most cliched “Oriental” music you can imagine. Surprisingly there aren’t any Asian driver jokes, but there is one about all Chinese looking alike.

Given that the film is a co-production with Shaw, I was pretty surprised that they helped produce something like this. I can’t imagine the movie playing well with Chinese audiences, so I have to guess that it was produced to primarily appeal to the Italian market. They’d have a far less informed viewpoint on Chinese culture, so the comedy was probably more on par with that mindset. I can definitely see some of this stuff working in an American film of the same time. In any case, they also call Joe’s character a “thieving Brooklyn wop” numerous times, so it’s not all jokes at China’s expense.

This Time I’ll Make You Rich is by far the worst Shaw co-production I’ve seen yet, but hopefully it’s uphill from here. This is a fairly rare film, so if I’ve intrigued you to see it you’ll have to hunt it down. But just to be clear: it ain’t worth it.

Also of note: some behind-the-scenes footage of This Time I’ll Make You Rich (and other films like The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) is featured in the British TV documentary on the Shaw Studio, Fists of Fire, and I recommend watching that instead!

Next up in this chronological journey through the Shaw Brothers Martial Arts catalog I will kick the door down on 1975 with Ti Lung’s second and final effort as director: The Young Rebel! See ya then!