The Lizard



Reviewed by YTSL

In the original trailer of this 1972 Shaw Brothers production, the fact gets triumphantly heralded re that which has a masked do-gooder as its center featuring then teen idol Connie Chan Po-Chu’s first movie appearance in two years.  Unfortunately for that charismatic lady’s fans (who, post her maiden sighting of this leading actress by way of the Hong Kong Film Archive’s screening of “She’s So Brave” in the summer of 2002, might be said to include this reviewer), this Celestial Pictures re-release also ended up being the final film of a still much adored individual who decided to retire from acting at the grand old age of twenty five years.

Although the original trailer additionally makes it seem like Connie Chan’s Xiao Ju character could be the generally entertaining offering’s “rob from the rich (and often foreign) to give to the (usually Chinese) poor” principal personality, it soon becomes clear enough that -- for all of her possessing fairly formidable martial arts abilities (and being involved in all three of this effort’s three main set pieces) -- she is but THE LIZARD’s primary female admirer and love interest.  Something else that might be best for people to realize in advance is that at least one, maybe two, of this period action work’s other cast members also have more screen time than its first billed actress; and that both the Everyman looking -- and sometimes representing -- Yueh Hua and the archetypally villainous Lo Lieh turn out to be good dramatic plus action foils for each other.
As I see it, one of the problems with filmic offerings that have a masked personality as its central figure is how to make it seem plausible for those who know the character when (s)he’s unmasked to be patently unable to recognize the person even when (s)he is in a not all that heavily disguised form.  The makers of THE LIZARD look to have, at least initially, sought to account for how this could be in their picture by suggesting that the offering’s titular character hardly ever gets seen by anyone, including the local hero’s deserving victims as well as the area constabulary (who come across as almost entirely composed of bumbling and/or corrupt personnel).  Consequently, even this individual’s specific gender, never mind general physical build, appeared to be a mystery to the majority of the populace -- one which, BTW, includes characters played by a guest-starring Wu Ma and Lydia Shum -- for a time.
Another way which this relatively linearly structured effort’s makers sought to obscure the identity of the titular personality from friends plus admirers as well as foe is by providing the movie’s protagonist with an unassuming seeming everyday personality (that prompted a chum to (prematurely) proclaim to the individual concerned that “I’m a dinosaur if you’re THE LIZARD”!).  At the same time, even those have seen this offering’s likeable leading man in just a handful of Celestial re-releases -- like myself -- may well have little difficulty realizing, and post getting a few choice glimpses of his half-obscured face early on in the movie, that Yueh Hua it was whose Cheng Long Ge (AKA Brother Dumb!) character had chosen to lead a risky Robin Hood or Iron Monkey type double life.
In any event, at the stage in that which probably ought to be looked upon as only a minor Chor Yuen helmed cum scripted effort whereby Lo Lieh’s crooked Chief Investigating Officer Chen Can sought to trap, capture and get THE LIZARD out of his hair once and for all, the more covert portion of idealistic hero’s identity already was known by his feisty lady love.  After the no longer always stuttering Mr. Cheng gets put behind bars, Xiao Ju reveals his secret to her actually not as clever as he thinks he is grandfather (Mr. Yo, AKA Chin Biao Tien) and another friend cum junior member of the much criticized local constabulary as a prelude to enlisting their assistance in springing him out of jail.
Initially, this triumvirate’s plans -- one which involves the spiriting away of a treasured item from the Japanese consul’s residence to the gambling den operated by Chen Can’s main lackey (a sleazy individual known as Mr. King who also holds the official position of translator in a society that is, pointedly(?), shown to not be solely made up of ethnic Chinese) -- looked to have been carried out without any hitches.  As the subsequently freed Mr. Cheng quickly suspected though, further complications and problems would ensue from it.  Consequently, THE LIZARD’s viewers get treated to at least one more one-on-one confrontation between Yueh Hua and Lo Lieh’s characters plus an appropriately climactic battle in a picturesque setting involving the movie’s key supporting as well as main personalities.

My rating for this film: 7.