|A Romantic Thief
Cast: Connie Chan,
Cheung Ching, Kenneth Tsang Kong
Publisher: China Art; Format:
English subtitles: No
If you want to see the roots of Hong
Kong comedy, A Romantic Thief is a
good place to start. Whether you find it funny or not depends on how
much you enjoy nonsense and slapstick. If you are a fan of Wong
Jing’s films, chances are you’ll get at least a few chuckles from
this Cantonese quickie about two virtuous thieves trying to recover
a diamond from a crooked businessman.
Director Luk Bong (who also made a few
equally ridiculous films starring Josephine Siao the following
year) deftly creates an alternative universe governed by the
laws of the absurd. How else can you explain the jail outfitted
with leather couches, a piano, and two guitars?! Whatever the reason,
it comes in handy when Connie and her girlfriends make their escape
while distracting the guard with a rendition of the Beatles’ “Eight
Days a Week.” Luk Bong also loves disguises, not so much as plot
devices, but simply because they are funny looking. This fondness
for visual humor also shows up in his casting, a veritable who’s who
of Cantonese character actors. From the inherently hilarious combo of
short and fat Ai Tung-kwa and seven-foot-tall Siu Kam to the exaggerated
tics of Ko Lo-Chuen and Cheng Kwun-Min, these unsung heroes of Hong
Kong cinema serve as foils for the trio of stars—but truth be told—they
practically steal the show. Cheung Ching and Kenneth Tsang Kong are only
able to save (their comic) face by dressing up in drag! As for Connie,
she is the unflappable and charming beauty at the center of this comedy
of chaos. And let’s not forget Connie’s gang of sassy girlfriends!
They not only get back at the bitchy girl who insults her (with a taunting
song set to “Do-Re-Mi”); they also play backup when she sings in the nightclub.
For more of the wonderful and wacky world
of Luk Bong, check out the must-be-seen-to-be-believed
Prince of Thieves (1958), a Cantonese opera
based on The Arabian Nights. Luk Bong
specialized in these bizarre hybrids which combined Chinese singing
and music with Western costumes and sets. In 1959 and 1960 he made
several more for Shaw Brothers: among them Glass Slippers, starring
Patricia Lam Fung as a Cantonese Cinderella.
Charming Connie sings her way
out of jail.
With police officers like these, you
can be sure that our thieving heroes will prevail.
Cheung Ching, under cover and in drag,
resists the advances of an officer guarding the diamond.