Tropicana Interlude

There really is no earthly reason for this film to exist. It puts fluff into a whole new ballgame. There isn’t anything here other than some inconsequential songs, changes of clothes and sightseeing tours, but perhaps back in 1969 that was enough. I have to admit just watching Lily Ho go through an ever changing fashion parade was almost enough for me. Still the real weakness of this film is simple – too much Jimmy Lin Chong and not enough Lily Ho. What were the Shaw studio heads thinking? Lin Chong comes across as a cut rate Bobby Darin (who was a cut rate Frank Sinatra), while Lily is a radiant explosion of bright colors, large hats, over-sized sunglasses and infectious dimples.

These two had also paired off in the same year in Chang Cheh’s most out of the closet film, “The Singing Thief”, where Jimmy is the one parading around in slinky silk clothes. There isn’t a lot of chemistry between these two – Jimmy always looks like he would much rather be making love to himself than to Lily. The Shaw Brothers were constantly looking for a successful romantic pairing for their fashion screen queen, but never found anyone that she didn’t leave in the dust looking like a little boy. As an article in “The Shaw Screen” says, her best romantic pairing was the equally sleek Betty Pei Ti in “Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan”. When the two of them come together sparks result.

Jian Ren (Lin Chong) returns to Singapore from a two-year absence studying at school in Italy. The fact that the actor is well into his thirties at this time and looks it doesn’t add much credence to the film. He greets a ravishing Lan (Lily) accoutered in canary yellow with matching yellow sunglasses at the airport and they still profess their love for one another. He next goes home to mom and dad and tells them that while away he realized he could sing and so switched his major from business (to someday take over the family business) to vocal music – mom (Ouyang Shafei) faints as all good Chinese mothers would at that point. But he tells dad that he never cashed his checks and so didn’t waste his money. The fact that dad never noticed this in two years speaks to an underlying theme in the film – overseas Chinese live very well with large houses and larger swimming pools and that if you are still in Hong Kong eking out a living it’s time to move away.

So you might think at this juncture that the film will be about his making it in show business to prove his parents wrong – nope – instead Lan in a lovely pant suit and matching shoes gets him a job as a tour guide around Singapore. Having been to Singapore a few times, this seems rather pointless – it’s sort of like being an admiral in the navy of Hungary. Still he gets his first assignment – the lovely Yun (Essie Lin Chia), a school teacher from Hong Kong who has brought four of her female students along. Ah ha you think – there is going to be a tense romantic triangle here – nope – instead he introduces Yun to his uncle (Lin Chih-yung) and the two of them are goggly-eyed about each other in no time. One of the students is the adorable and cute as a cashew Lily Li who develops a school girl crush on Jian – but she of course comes to her senses and wishes the best for Ren and Lan. All ends happily except I guess for mom because her son is still a tour guide at the end of the film.

But the plot just doesn’t matter – Ren takes them on a picturesque tour of Malaysia – through Jopur, to Kuala Lumpur and on to the jewel of Penang where they visit many sites and watch a Malaysian wedding. All along the way I should mention Ren sings – and sings - and sings – some ten songs in total. Lin Chong was a singer from Taiwan and so I assume this was his real voice. Lily changes clothes about the same amount of times – from two bathing suits to silver evening gowns to lime green casual wear. It is quite a collection. The film was directed by another one of Shaw’s Japanese imports – Koji Shima (a.k.a. Shih Ma-shan) who was approaching sixty at the time and had an impressive Japanese filmography behind him. He made four films for the Shaw’s before returning to his home country. This isn’t exactly scintillating stuff, it’s a travelogue with a soundtrack - but it’s kind of quaint and cute. It also contains one of the bigger bits for my favorite Shaw and Cathay bit player, Tsang Choh Lam, who usually is only seen as a waiter – but here begins a big nightclub brawl after trying to hit on Lily Li. Oh and before I forget, a pillow fight also breaks out to add to the excitement.

My rating for this film: 6.0