Wo Ping Films, 1994, Color, 93 mins.- Tai Seng DVD
Scholar Wong: She dresses like a man but she is
True enough, when youre talking about Asian action star Michelle Yeoh, who can kick butt with the best of em. If you were intrigued by Yeohs performance in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and would like to see her in another action-laced period piece, this film is fairly easy to get ahold of. But if youre unfamiliar with Chinese films, Ive got to warn you- the culture shock is pronounced. You must be prepared for cheesy production values, a meandering plot, childish and cruel humor, and performances broad enough to carry six lanes of traffic. But if you can get past all that, youll get a good dose of the wild, undercranked, acrobatic, wire-rigged style of master action choreographer and director Yuen Wo Ping.
Best known in the West for his work on Crouching Tiger and The Matrix, he gives Yeoh a real workout here, as she makes use of fists, feet, swords, poles, soybeans, a huge spear, and even a fireball aimed at the crotch of one of her opponents! That those opponents are a bunch of male chauvinist pigs determined to put her in her place only adds to the fun.
The plot, such as it is, involves Yeoh- whose fighting skills
have made her a spinster- and her friends tangling with some local bandits,
with a lot of time out for various romantic complications. In the end, it all
comes down to a battle between Yeoh and the bandit leader, who could be the
one guy in China able to kick her butt. The action is a blast to watch- just
remember that getting through the rest of the movie can be a bit of a chore.
Warner Bros., 1954, B&W, 92 mins.- Warners DVD
Edmund Gwenn: No, we havent seen the end of them. Weve only had a close view of the beginning of what may be the end of us.
Thank goodness for the objective scientific viewpoint- tempered, of course, with wry understatement. That mixture of portentousness leavened with humor is characteristic of this film as a whole, and is a prime factor in creating its good, old-fashioned fun. New Mexico Cop James Whitmore has a mystery on his hands, what with a couple of isolated structures ripped open, some people killed or missing.....and to top it off, a bunch of missing sugar(!).
Soon FBI man James Arness and scientist Gwenn have joined the investigation, the latter accompanied by his attractive daughter, who despite her smarts has no problem tromping around in the desert in a tailored suitcoat, skirt and high heels (well, it was the Fifties). It doesnt take long for the troublemakers to rear their antennae-waving heads- yes, that darned radioactivity from the first A-Bomb test has created humongous mutated ants! Fortunately, while Gwenn may be a little absent-minded, hes also a knowledgeable exterminator. But some new queens escape from the nest, and the race is on to find Them before they ring the dinner bell on mankind.
Given the subject matter, this picture is surprisingly well-made and effective. Its campy, of course, but thats part of the appeal- right down to the hokey mechanical ants. So pop this disc in and have your own Creature Feature matinee! Extras are minimal but include some behind-the-scenes footage.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY
Columbia,1940, B&W, 92 mins.- Columbia Classics DVD
Rosalind Russel: I am fond of you, you know. I often wish you werent such a stinker.
Ace newspaper reporter Russel has returned to Chicago to inform her old editor- and ex-husband- Cary Grant, that she is going to remarry and settle down to a nice, homespun life away from the crazy news business. But Grant has other ideas- he immediately starts scheming to keep her around, and before long hes convinced her to stay just long enough to cover an important story. Before the night is out, Russels fiancee will wind up in jail, a poor wretch who is scheduled to hang in the morning will try to escape, corrupt and venal politicians will be exposed, and all manner of chicanery will take place. Oh, and the characters will exchange some of the fastest, funniest dialogue ever filmed.
Director Howard Hawks idea to put a screwball spin on
the classic newspaper tale The Front Page, changing the sex of one
of the main characters, pays off in spades. You could probably write a doctoral
dissertation on the flip-flop of late-1930s gender roles in this film.
Russel is a woman who can make her way in the mans world of the newspaper racket, and the conflict between her desire for a Normal life and the excitement of matching wits with Grant and the others in that world drives the story. Its obvious that Russel and Grant are a perfect match, for better or worse, and her fiancee- the decent but hardly exciting Ralph Bellamy- is out of his league in their company. How it all shakes out is a delight to watch, especially on this restored disc. Extras include audio commentary and some featurettes.
© Melt Magazine 2002