The Golden Buddha

Generally, when you come across the name of Lo Wei (the director of this 1966 Shaw Brothers film) in various writings regarding Hong Kong film, the descriptive term “hack” is usually buried in there somewhere like a rotting corpse. This aspersion came about primarily for his films starring Bruce Lee (The Big Boss, Fist of Fury) and particularly the six early Jackie Chan vehicles he directed. Though the Bruce Lee films have become classics of a kind, the direction is fairly plodding and the lack of style palpable. The Jackie Chan films (New Fist of Fury, The Killer Meteors, To Kill with Intrigue, Magnificent Bodyguards, Spiritual Kung Fu and Dragon Fist) have suffered even more at the hands of critics and fans – and in hindsight it is obvious that Lo Wei really had no idea how to utilize Chan and simply stuck him in traditional low budget kung fu films hoping that lightning would strike again as it did with Bruce Lee.
Paul Chang Chung. Jeanette Lin Tsui and Lo Wei
I am not entirely sure the term “hack” is completely fair though. His filmography stretches back to 1953 (as an actor even longer) and he directed over fifty films in his career – many of them for the Shaw’s - and though most of these are still unavailable at this time – others that are (in various formats) such as The Shadow Whip, The Comet Strikes, Back Alley Princess, Chinatown Capers and Naughty Naughty are fairly entertaining if far from being groundbreaking films. Interestingly, while he is credited for “discovering” Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, he was also one of the first directors to showcase Angela Mao and Sam Hui – and gave Polly Shang Kwan some of her best roles.
Ku Feng, Paul, ? and Fanny Fan
The Golden Buddha is in style completely different from his later kung fu films – it has a very sleek, colorful and sophisticated look as it was to a large degree attempting to imitate the James Bond films that were all the rage at the time. It looks great – the hero in tight buttoned up suits, the vamps in seductively revealing open backed dresses, the villain’s underground lair an art deco explosion and some terrific location shots in Thailand. Still the film does have its share of problems. Though the action scenes are plentiful, they are admittedly poorly executed by today’s standards and the hero was certainly no martial artist. The film could also have used more sizzle and been edited with a tighter eye with the first half particularly feeling sluggish, but overall it is an enjoyable old-fashioned adventure romp.
Paul (Paul Chang Chung) is flying to Singapore on business and runs into his friend Chung on the plane who is getting off at the first stop in Bangkok. Bad weather forces Paul to stop over for the night in Bangkok and once he gets to his hotel he realizes that he and Chung have picked up each other’s briefcases in error. He takes a cab to his friend’s house only to find him murdered and soon realizes that a gang is after a small Golden Buddha that was in the friend’s briefcase. Inside the Buddha is a set of written instructions – that when added to the instructions in two other similar Buddha’s held by his friend’s brother (Lo Wei) and his sister (Jeanette Lin Tsui) will lead them to a buried treasure.
The film quickly turns into a near non-stop chase around Thailand through the streets of Bangkok, high voltage nightclubs, massage parlors to the ruins of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. He meets up with Jeanette and the two of them are soon on the run while trying to elude the Skeleton Gang that tracks them everywhere they go. Fortunately, Paul’s hobby is kung fu and karate (!) and he fights them off in somewhat stiff fashion utilizing the phantom punch quite frequently (i.e. his punches look to miss his opponents by the width of a Tolstoy novel). Along the way, he also runs into the near non-stop curves of a purring Fannie Fan who never tires of attempting to seduce him in order to discover the secret of the Buddha. This film gave quite a boost to her career as well as to her bust line that looks to be hiding twin rocket launchers underneath her brassiere. If she tried boarding a plane today, she would be arrested by airport security for attempting to bring on a concealed weapon.
The film turns especially fun when the duo are captured and brought into the hideout of the head of the gang. Like all evil masterminds’ dwellings it is very techno with automated sliding doors and elevators everywhere and a swishy style that is pure eye candy – where do they find their interior decorators? It also comes equipped with a gaggle of beefy henchmen in motorcycle leather, compliant henchwomen in low cut halter tops and the big baddie himself looking like he escaped from a Flash Gordon serial. I can’t say the film is especially good, but it is rather fun in a retro sort of way.

My rating for this film: 7.0