A Tale of Three Cities (2015)

A Tale of Three Cities [三城記] (2015)

Starring Lau Ching-Wan, Tang Wei, Qin Hai-Lu, Boran Jing Bo-Ran, Huang Jue, Elaine Kam Yin-Ling, Li Jian-Yi, Jiao Gang, Phillip Chan Yan-Kin, Wang Zhi-Xuan, He Ya-Fei, Xiong Ao-Yu, Yuan Wei-Xuan

Directed by Mabel Cheung

Expectations: Moderate. I’m curious to see the story dramatized.


After watching Mabel Cheung’s 2003 documentary, Traces of a Dragon, about Jackie Chan’s parents and their wartime struggles before arriving in Hong Kong, I was immediately intrigued to see A Tale of Three Cities, Cheung’s 2015 feature film version of the story. Like everything with me, though, “immediately” turned into 16 months later, so the true story of the documentary wasn’t quite so fresh in mind. This probably worked out for the best, allowing A Tale of Three Cities to exist a bit on its own, although I was also surprised just how many events in the movie I do remember from stories in the documentary. The question of which one better tells its tale is one I’m not entirely sure I can answer, although for me I’d lean towards the documentary. Regardless, it is quite the incredible story that you’re not likely to forget however you take in its specifics.

Our story begins during the Second Sino-Japanese War, with a series of events showing us the food chain of war. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the world generally exists on the principle that everyone is out for themselves, and only the strong survive. The context of war adds a huge amount of chaos to the mix, changing circumstances in a moment, for both good and bad. This is communicated expertly by Cheung in these opening moments, and in terms of the film’s plot it eventually introduces us to Chen Yuerong (Tang Wei), a mother of two young girls who has just become a widow. Cheung chooses to introduce the male lead, Fang Daolong (Lau Ching-Wan), many years later, in the early 1950s when he is working in the kitchen of the US consulate in Hong Kong. We don’t know of his struggles to get there, but the depth of his experience is easy to spot in his eyes and the way he carries himself.

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The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 94 – Cops vs. Thugs

This week on the Silver Emulsion Podcast, Stephen and I are talking about our first yakuza film on the podcast: Kinji Fukasaku’s 1975 classic, Cops vs. Thugs! Listen and enjoy! 🙂

Watch Cops vs. Thugs along with us on Blu-ray/DVD or Amazon Prime!

Also: the show is on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Stan Bush – Fight to Survive (End Title)

Outro:

  • Freddie King – Going Down

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

The Sentimental Swordsman (1977)

The Sentimental Swordsman [多情劍客無情劍] (1977)
AKA Sword of Emotion

Starring Ti Lung, Ching Li, Derek Yee, Yueh Hua, Candice Yu On-On, Fan Mei-Sheng, Ku Feng, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Ngaai Fei, Yuen Wah, Ku Wen-Chung, Cheng Miu, Yeung Chi-Hing, Ku Kuan-Chung, Chan Shen, Wang Sha, Shum Lo, Lee Sau-Kei, Fung Hak-On, Alan Chui Chung-San, Chiang Nan

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: Been looking forward to this one for a while.


Partway through The Sentimental Swordsman, I thought about how it was Chor Yuen’s fourth film of 1977 (of five total). To craft one film of lasting appeal in a single year is a commendable feat, but to make at least four of them is truly incredible. I’ve written similar things about the high standards and prolific genius of Chang Cheh, but not until encountering this period of Chor Yuen’s output has any director come close to replicating Chang’s feat. The Sentimental Swordsman isn’t my favorite of Chor’s 1977 films — that honor still rests with Clans of Intrigue — but I do feel it’s the most well-crafted of the group, with Jade Tiger a close runner-up. They’re all made with a similarly high level of quality, though, allowing fans to endlessly debate which wuxia should be crowned leader of the Chor Yuen martial world.

The film opens with our hero, Li Xunhuan (Ti Lung), traveling by horseback across the snow-covered landscape, accompanied by his trusty servant Chuan Jia (Fan Mei-Sheng). They have lived peacefully outside the martial world for the past 10 years, but are returning upon hearing the Plum Blossom Bandit is back to his old tricks. Things get interesting when Li meets Ah Fei (Derek Yee), a wandering swordsman, and the two strike up a fast friendship. While these new friends dine at an inn, the feared swordsman duo of Black Snake (Alan Chui Chung-San) and White Snake (Fung Hak-On) attempt to rob another set of diners: a security bureau entourage transporting the Gold Threaded Vest, an item promising immunity from the Plum Blossom Bandit’s deadly darts. Ah Fei thwarts them and takes the vest, sending the martial world into a frenzy to identify the Plum Blossom Bandit and recover the vest.

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Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)

Starring Thomas Lennon, Jenny Pellicer, Nelson Franklin, Charlyne Yi, Michael Paré, Barbara Crampton, Udo Kier, Alex Beh, Matthias Hues, Skeeta Jenkins, Anne Beyer, Victoria Hande, Betsy Holt

Puppet Cast: Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler, Torch (as Kaiser), Amphibian, Mechaniker, Grasshüpfer, Mr. Pumper, Junior Fuhrer, Autogyro, Money Lender

Directed by Sonny Laguna & Tommy Wiklund

Expectations: Low, but it’s getting some good reviews.


The idea of a Puppet Master movie without the input of Charles Band was probably great news to many fans. Band’s films have always been low-budget, but Full Moon’s recent output is noticeably more threadbare and trashy than anything from their ’90s heyday. Their last Puppet Master film, 2017’s Puppet Master: Axis Termination, was a great step in the right direction, but I can’t argue that anyone other than die-hard fans will get much out of it. That being said, a Puppet Master film without Band seems weird to me, as Band’s wacko sense of lighthearted macabre is an integral part of the foundation to nearly every Full Moon film. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich has its own style and tone, which introduces its own problems and shortcomings, and as such it is likely to split both fans and newcomers alike.

Edgar (Thomas Lennon) is a 40-something comic book creator returning to live at his parents’ home after his recent divorce. Nearby a puppet auction is set to happen at the Toulon Mansion, once home to the Nazi puppet maker who died in a stand-off with the police. Edgar still has a Blade puppet found by his brother when they were kids, so he decides to go sell it at the auction. There’s a bit more to it, but that’s all that matters for my purposes here. It’s a ridiculously simple set-up, and not a very elegant one. The film is truly not concerned with telling a story, though; it’s nothing more than an excuse to bring a bunch of people to one location so the puppets can wreak havoc on them. If that’s all you want out of a Puppet Master movie, then this one definitely delivers. That has never been the focus of Band’s Puppet Master movies, but this is a parallel series so that’s not entirely surprising.

Continue reading Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) →

The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 93 – The Super Inframan

This week on the Silver Emulsion Podcast, Stephen and I are talking about the first superhero film to come out of Hong Kong: 1975’s The Super Inframan, directed by Hua Shan! Listen and enjoy! 🙂

Watch The Super Inframan along with us at Amazon or iTunes!

Also: the show is on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Freddi Henchi & The Soul Setters – Funky To The Bone

Outro:

  • Ennio Morricone – Intermezzino Pop
    • Le foto proibite di una signora per bene (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (iTunes, Amazon)
      • AKA Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970), directed by Luciano Ercoli

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

The Battle Wizard (1977)

The Battle Wizard [天龍八部] (1977)

Starring Danny Lee, Tanny Tien Ni, Lin Chen-Chi, Shut Chung-Tin, Chiang Tao, Keung Hon, Wai Wang, Si Wai, San Shu-Wa, Gam Lau, Teresa Ha Ping, Leung Seung-Wan, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Yeung Chak-Lam, Ko Hung, Hung Ling-Ling, Hao Li-Jen

Directed by Pao Hsueh-Li

Expectations: Excited because that title is fantastic.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Some titles evoke worlds of wonder, others are dull and inspire confusion, but The Battle Wizard brings about very specific expectations of a magically adept sorcerer casting furious spells. Much to my delight, that is pretty much exactly what the film delivers (within the context of how magic is portrayed in the wuxia genre). Wuxia comes in varying degrees of fantasy, and The Battle Wizard is full-on, balls-to-the-walls fantasy. If that’s your thing, you will be hard-pressed to find a better example from this particular era. Chor Yuen’s The Web of Death comes to mind as a similarly well-realized vision of wuxia fantasy, but The Battle Wizard is much more wild and over the top. For me, this is a recipe for my new favorite wuxia, but your particular tastes and tolerance for late ’70s Hong Kong FX will dictate whether the film hits for you in the same way.

The Battle Wizard is based on the Jin Yong novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龍八部), originally serialized from 1963–1966. Both works share the same Chinese title, which has apparently given translators a rough time over the years, with one alternate translation reading Eight Books of the Heavenly Dragon. No matter what you call it, The Battle Wizard runs a very slim 73 minutes, so it may come as a surprise that the novel is actually Jin Yong’s second longest work, only just shy of the character count of The Deer and the Cauldron. This is somewhat misleading, though, as Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is broken into three separate, but interwoven stories, and The Battle Wizard is only attempting to adapt the first of these. Also, like previous Jin Yong adaptations, The Battle Wizard feels closer to a comic book than to traditional wuxias or Chor Yuen’s Gu Long films.

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The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 92 – Gunslinger Girl (Season 1)

This week on the Silver Emulsion Podcast, Stephen and I are talking about the 2003/2004 anime series Gunslinger Girl. Listen and enjoy! 🙂

Also: the show is on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Lalo Schifrin – Bullitt (Main Title)
    • Bullitt (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (iTunes, Amazon)

Outro:

  • Weird Al Yankovic – Hardware Store

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

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