|Girl in Red
Director: Hoh Gin-yip
Cast: Connie Chan,
Chow Chung, Sek Kin
Publisher: Winson; Format:
VCD, DVD (Region 0)
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.
by Todd Stadtman of The Lucha Diaries