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Connie Chan: Movie Fan Princess
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Girl in Red (1967)
Director: Hoh Gin-yip
Cast: Connie Chan, Chow Chung, Sek Kin
Publisher: Winson; Format: VCD, DVD (Region 0)
English subtitles: No
Full credits and synposis from the HKFA online catalog

Girl in Red greets you with a blast of surf guitar and the sight of sharp-suited, shade-wearing goons in a classic Citroen, letting you know right out of the gate that it’s going to be serving you up with a generous helping of everything there is to love about Connie Chan’s contemporary action thrillers from the sixties. That it goes on to distinguish itself by being one of the very best of those films is a welcome dollop of ultra-mod icing on the cake.

Professor Kam is in possession of a mysterious painting that is, for reasons unknown, highly coveted by the crime boss Sze-To Ming (Sek Kin), so he hires Fong Leung (Chow Chung) both to protect the painting and help divine its secret. No sooner is Fong Leung on the case than an enigmatic woman begins a series of attempts, by means of a variety of guises and ruses, to assert herself into the Professor’s life and get her hands on the painting. This woman is Hung (Connie Chan) and she is an employee of Sze-To Ming. Of course, this shadowy woman in red is not all bad, for, as Fong Leung will learn, she harbors a tragic secret that has forced her to bend to the crime lord’s evil demands.

Girl in Red in many ways echoes that earlier Connie Chan hit from 1965 The Black Rose. Once again we have a conspicuously pretty male protagonist whose relationship with a mysterious female outlaw goes from adversarial to romantic—and once again that pivotal transition is marked by a clandestine meeting set in an expressionistically rendered ruin. The major difference, of course, is that, while Nam Hung portrayed that mysterious outlaw in The Black Rose, she is here portrayed by Chan, and with a mature gravitas that provides a stark contrast to the spunky teenaged sidekick role she played in that earlier film just two years previous. By inviting this comparison, it’s almost as if Girl in Red seeks to highlight—and celebrate—Chan’s successful transition from juvenile roles to those that utilize her sophisticated, full-blooded womanhood. In these times when young actresses struggle to maintain a death grip on the glow of adolescence—like the career lifeline it undoubtedly is—that’s something very refreshing to see.

With its stylish sets, dramatic cinematography by Lam Chiu and deft direction by Hoh Gin-yip, Girl in Red stands out as one of those examples of Cantonese cinema whose high level of craft renders its meager budget completely irrelevant. Further setting it apart are its action sequences, which are choreographed—by the masters Lau Kar-leung and Tong Kai—and shot in a manner that gives the film a distinctly modern edge. Martial arts fans who find these older films wanting for their overly stylized, slow moving and statically shot fight sequences will, I think, be pleasantly surprised by the dynamically lensed, bone-crunching brawls that are on display here. As such, Chan’s considerable athleticism and fighting skills are made advantage of to an extent that would have greatly benefited some of her other, more conservatively staged action films.

Also given a fitting showcase here is Sek Kin, the Dick Dastardly of Canto cinema, who menaced the beloved Ms. Chan on screen so often that you have to wonder if he was safe walking the streets of Kowloon. As Sze-To Ming, Sek lords over a subterranean villain’s lair complete with Star Trek-style sliding doors and an acid pit for underperforming minions. While still exhibiting the mugging that makes a lot of his other villainous portrayals a bit on the cartoonish side, the actor here manages to imbue his character with a real and consistent menace—and, as a result, you never lose sight of exactly what’s at stake for the protagonists.

Though the currently available version of Girl in Red is marred by some film damage and missing scenes, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it—along with The Black Rose and I’ll Get You One Day—to anyone looking for an introduction to these films. If its combination of swinging tunes (The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” is a recurring theme), fast paced action and slick sixties style don’t get you, then I’m afraid you just can’t be got.

Reviewed by Todd Stadtman of The Lucha Diaries
Connie Chan in Girl in Red (1967)

Connie Chan in Girl in Red (1967)

Connie Chan in Girl in Red (1967)

Connie Chan in Girl in Red (1967)

Connie Chan in Girl in Red (1967)

Connie Chan in Girl in Red (1967)