The Greatest Lover

Three ill mannered rubes from the Mainland say goodbye to their loved ones and set on their journey to illegally cross into Hong Kong. Their master plan consists of tiger dung. Apparently, tiger dung odor throws off the border dogs and so they first go to a zoo and slip a tiger a laxative and then sing lullabies to it in order to quicken the dung making process. Unfortunately, on the way to the border one of the fellows gets hungry and mistakenly eats (and likes!) the tiger dung paddies – but all turns out fine as his breath becomes a lethal weapon.
Eric Tsang, Chow Yun Fat and Shing Fui On, Elizabeth Lee
Once across the border this same fellow mistakenly ends up at the swank Peninsula Hotel as opposed to the low end Peninsula Tearoom where he is suppose to rendezvous with his two comrades. Here he is assumed to be the paid escort of a gay gweilo fellow and is force fed chicken tails by the kitchen staff in order to tenderize his bottom and get him ready for his assignation! He runs away and hides under a table in the ballroom where he is discovered hours later asleep with his face covered with assorted food groups.
Anita Mui, Chow and Elizabeth
You may be getting the feeling that this is not exactly sophisticated comedy. You would be right. You might be thinking that this is not very good comedy. You would be wrong – because as silly and low brow as much of this film is, it is quite funny at times. It goes on perhaps a bit long – 154 minutes – and a pair of cutting shears would have helped tighten it up and edited out some of the slower parts – but generally it’s constant lunacy or make that idiocy is pretty amusing.
Chow Yun Fat (who plays the dung eating character) is often compared to Cary Grant for his smooth and suave manner – but in a number of his 1980 comedies a more legitimate comparison might be Jerry Lewis. His manic out of control characters often come across as slightly mentally disabled and are as far away from his “The Killer” image as one can possibly imagine. A number of HK film fans don’t react very well to this side of Chow Yun Fat – but I find them fairly amusing even if I find it ridiculous and absurd at the same time.
Pauline Wong, Nina Li, Elizabeth and Wong Jing
This film is a take on the Pygmalion story – as Chow goes from total hick to total hunk under the tutelage of Anita Mui.  Nina Li and Pauline Wong concoct a mean spirited prank on a wealthy nerd – Big Mouth Sze -  by pretending that Nina is willing to marry him. At the engagement party, they reveal that it is all an April Fools joke. Sze is crushed and upon discovering the slobbering mess under the table decides to get his revenge by passing Chow off as a wealthy tycoon and having both Nina and Pauline fall in love with him. He takes Chow to the foremost image consultant in HK – Anita.
Anita initially thinks Chow is a hopelessly drooling idiot – but plunges ahead and attempts to make him into a playboy. This consists of teaching Chow elegant manners, how to slow dance, how to smile (there are the cold, narrow, sly, broad, chilly, obscene, seductive and delicious smiles to learn), what wines to drink with which meals, English phrases (“I love you”) and how to kiss by sucking quarters out of an artificial mouth.
Elizabeth, Rebecca Pan, Chow and Shing Fui On
It doesn’t come easily – in fact this section should have been cut down a fair bit – but eventually Chow becomes the classy Chow that we all love. A wealthy and beautiful heiress – Elizabeth Lee – becomes enchanted with him – but Chow has become enamored with Anita. At the same time, Chow has to deal with his two comrades - Eric Tsang and Shing Fui On who would like a piece of the HK pie as well.
Anita and others
It is all silly beyond belief – no one acts like anyone that you and I have seen in real life  - the comedy is very hit and miss low brow nonsense – but somewhere along the way I really began to enjoy this foolish little foible.

A large part of this admittedly had to do with the stunning women within – any film with Nina Li, Anita Mui, Elizabeth Lee and Pauline Wong is a feast for the male eye. But the look of the whole film is absolutely gorgeous with fabulous sets (the rich live so damn well) and a luscious cinematic glow to it. Director Clarence Fok brings a wonderfully stylish sense to this film that he perfected a few years later with Naked Killer. It is all lovely pastels and limes, soft focused lighting and marvelous fashions. Anita Mui goes through a myriad of clothing changes in the film (click here to see them). This film has a very different look than anything I have seen before.

As an additional bonus, there are cameos from Wong Jing (as a rival image consultant), Sandra Ng (as Anita’s pupil who wants to be the next Miss HK!), Yuen Wah (as the Communist watcher), Helen Law Lan (as Sze’s mother) and Rebecca Pan (Days of Being Wild - as Elizabeth Lee’s mother).

My rating for this film: 7.5



DVD Information:

Distributed by Universe

The transfer is for the most part quite lovely. Not having seen it before though I am not sure if some of the scenes were intended to be so light or if the transfer was a bit washed out. My copy also had nearly 10 instances where the film stopped for a split second before continuing.

Chapters - 8

Letterbox

Trailer

No other previews.

Written information on Chow Yun-Fat, Anita Mui and Clarence Fok

Easy to read subs

Subs in Chinese, Korean, Japanese,  English, Bahasa Indonesia and French.