And now for something utterly different. A complete camp classic from 1969, with Shaw Bros. showing there is a lot more to their oeuvre than Kung Fu. To be honest, I have been punishing myself with some pretty average 9at best) fare recently, and I thought I would take a little punt on something that looked just a tiny bit unusual. And so very glad I did!
In “Temptress of a Thousand Faces” Hong Kong is suffering a crime spree organised by our titular villainess. No-one knows who she is, but her mastery of disguise and signature calling card is confusing the Police, including feisty (and lets face it terribly sexy) detective Yi-jing (Tina Chin-fei). When Yi-jing makes a TV appearance denouncing the Temptress, she finds herself kidnapped by the villain, and eventually set up to be the prime suspect. Even when Yi-jing escapes, and with the help of her boyfriend Yu Ta (Liang Chen) proves her innocence, the Temptress decides to take further revenge by seducing the boyfriend disguised as Yi-jing. Can Yi-jing save the day? I have said this before… but wacky hi-jinks certainly ensue!
Right, this is not a film to be taken seriously. It is the height of late 1960’s camp, with fantastic outfits, stacked hair-dos, lurid colours. It is inspired by “Mission Impossible”, “James Bond” and the “Batman” TV show. It’s tongue is firmly in its celluloid cheek. And boy what a fun ride it is.
Briskly paced, it crams a lot into its 75 minute running time, it is a film that grabs you and does not let go until the closing credits. Is it ridiculous? Does it make much sense? Do you even care?
It is actually kind of risqué too – the is certainly a menacing lesbian overtone to the Temptresses incarceration of Yi-jing – full of skimpy costumes and panty shots. Yet at the same time, the female characters are definitely the protagonists here – they are in charge. The boyfriend is the unwilling victim in an interesting reversal of roles. In fact he only shows any kind of gumption when he cross-dresses to give Yi-jing a false alibi.
Don’t come here if you are looking for realism – the Temptress has an array of amazing gadgets and a underground lair that would put many a would-be world conqueror to shame – yet despite these at her disposal, along with gun toting females and a handful of Ninjas, it seems she does not want to conquer the world. Nope she is happy with jewel thievery and messing with one individual’s life. And all because of something about men using her in the past, which really is not explored. Thing is though, it really does not matter a jot – you just need to sit back and enjoy this guilty pleasure.
I didn’t even mind the downbeat ending. The final reveal of the temptresses identity was a bit of a “so what” moment (and really doesn’t make an awful lot of sense with regards to the rest of the film, whilst also being the only obvious candidate), and the odd way someone is killed in the final scene, and then left to lay there in the dirt while protagonists from all sides just walk off laughing in the sunset together is in keeping with the whole surreal nature of the film.
In short – on the face of it this is just high camp and silliness. But by golly did it cheer me up this week. And therefore – Highly Recommended!