This 1960 production from director Wang Tianlin
is somewhat off the Cathay beaten path as it diverges from their typical
family oriented film into something more akin to the dark shadows of film
noir. The premise is intriguing and in noir tradition the main protagonist
is of less than stellar character, but unfortunately the direction has
little snap to it and there is no suspense or tension created whatsoever.
Helen Li Mei who was so good as the older unmarried woman in “Between Tears
and Laughter” is poorly used here as are a few of the other actors with
overacting being the word of the day. Part of my dissatisfaction with this
film also revolves around the “helpless woman” syndrome – something that
you don’t really see a lot of in Hong Kong films – especially from the
main character – but this film sadly reeks with it.
Jieyun (Le Mei) has a hobby as she terms it –
the rest of us would call alcoholism – which she picked up during her years
as a hostess in a bar. She basically prefers seeing the world through bleary
eyes and never met a drink that she didn’t like. Nevertheless she has managed
to attract the love of nice guy architect Shouli (Roy Chiao), but he wants
her to stop imbibing every night before he proposes to her. It gets a little
tiring having to carry her home every night. So one evening he very cleverly
(or so he thinks) puts on a show with another woman named Meigui (Ouyang
Shafei) to make Jieyun think that he is leaving her because of her little
hobby. So her answer to this – get stinking drunk.
In this very inebriated state she bumps into Mr.
Cai in the parking lot and he persuades her to come home with him because
she is in no shape to drive. Knowing that Mr. Cai isn’t exactly a boy scout,
she proposes that he kill this other woman or as she slurs any woman that
marries Shouli and writes him a check for $2,000. The next day she wakes
up with a monster headache and a faint memory of hiring Mr. Cai to kill
someone - something that must happen to everyone at least once in
their life I am sure. Most of the time though it’s just your cab driver
and he isn’t listening to you anyway – but in this case Mr. Cai is a dangerous
man and Jieyun can’t find him - of course she could have just put
a stop on that check but she didn’t think of that. Near deadly accidents
begin to happen to Meigui – but then Shouli tells her it was all a joke
– ha ha – and proposes marriage – and she accepts. Oops. Soon a man (Tien
Ching) in a low brim felt hat and sunglasses seems to be everywhere she
is – even when she goes to Macau. And where better than Macau for a film
noir to play out.
This is a pretty good plot (and somehow reminiscent
of an old American film that I can’t recall the title of) if done with
some edge and nerve plucking tension, but there is none of that here. Everyone
acts rather stupidly – gee there has been a man standing across the street
watching the house for hours – maybe I should call the police – or at a
minimum not leave my wife alone. Jieyun spends much of the film looking
scared and biting her fingers, but won’t tell anybody about her little
contract. It all feels poorly stitched together like a cheap “B” film that
is not helped by a fairly beat up and at times washed out print source.
A couple plusses about the film – there are some nice location shots of
Macau and this certainly posits a new solution for drinking problems –
just hire someone to kill you and see if you feel like drinking – just
be ready to duck.
My rating for this film: 3.0