Connie in flower frame
Connie Chan: Movie Fan Princess
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A Romantic Thief (1968)
Director: Luk Bong
Cast: Connie Chan, Cheung Ching, Kenneth Tsang Kong

Publisher: China Art; Format: VCD
English subtitles: No
YouTube clip

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
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Reviewed by Dave Wells
Connie Chan in A Romantic Thief
Charming Connie sings her way out of jail.

Ko Lo-Chuen, Ai Tung-kwa, and Siu Kam in A Romantic Thief
With police officers like these, you can be sure that our thieving heroes will prevail.

Cheung Ching in A Romantic Thief
Cheung Ching, under cover and in drag, resists the advances of an officer guarding the diamond.