Isle of Fantasy
Admittedly, this is not one of the great films
of our time – or any time for that matter. Most people should probably
avoid it like a bad cold. And I suppose that I should be embarrassed to
reveal that I even sought out a film that is reviled by so many. In the
two reviews in the HKMDB phrases such as “This could be the worst HK comedy
I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of bad ones” or “More cheapo product
from the movie mill at Cinema City” are used to express their disdain.
Film critic John Charles in his masterful compendium Hong Kong Filmography
1977-1997 dismisses the film with a cruel but fair “Strictly for the kiddies,
this feeble effort (lensed in Thailand) is yet another would-be comedy".
And yet I come forth to offer evidence of the charms that lie within this
These charms come in the names of Loletta, Fennie,
Bonnie, Charine, May and Ann. The Happy Troupe Girls. All together in one
place. With that sort of charm power emanating from the screen, is it really
important to have a good movie too? It might be nice, but it’s not absolutely
necessary – as in a four star restaurant – sometimes the ambiance is more
important than the food. Here it is all about the ambiance. Cinema City
producer and star Raymond Wong discovered all of these young actresses
and helped start them on the road to different degrees of fame. At the
time of this film in 1985, all these actresses were just at the beginning
of their careers.
A quick and indulgent recap of their careers.
Loletta was perhaps the most popular of the Happy Troupe Girls. She was
a major cutie pie (and still is) – who went from doing a number of
teen and family comedies during the 80’s to some revealing Cat. III films
in the 90’s. It was quite shocking and unusual for a mainstream actress
to go that route in Hong Kong and especially one with her film resume.
Though her career has slowed down the past few years, she surprised nearly
everyone by first changing her name to Rachel and then appearing in the
serious drama Ordinary Hero in which she received much critical praise.
Fennie was the one with attitude – a little chip
on her shoulder – and her sleek shorthaired look made her appear very modern
and stylish. She had perhaps the most varied film career of the group as
she took on some fairly challenging roles from her early comedies to the
martial arts of the Swordsman films (Blue Phoenix) and Tai Chi Master (Little
Melon) to the purging drama of School on Fire and Pedicab Driver. These
days she is primarily doing television and breast enhancement commercials.
With a professional ice skating background,
Ann was usually the athletic one – tall and leggy like a skittish colt
– and many of her roles had her displaying her physical skills. After her
time at Cinema City, she was to move into the comedic “girls with guns”
films for a short while, before her most famous role as Chow Yun Fat’s
girlfriend in Full Contact. Not long afterwards she married and retired.
The careers of the other three never really broke
out. Bonnie appeared in less than ten films before retiring. Recently she
was again in the press when her husband got into trouble with the Triads
and she just made her first film in more than a decade – reportedly to
help pay off debts her husband incurred. In her early Cinema City films
Charine was often the ditzy one and looked slightly plump in comparison
to the others – but by the 90’s she had lost this baby fat and was quite
attractive with fabulous dimples. She too retired in the early 90’s and
there were rumors that she became involved with a member of the triads.
May Lo had a very solid acting career from the mid-80s to the early 90s,
but her biggest break may have been when she caught the eye of Jacky Cheung.
They were married in 1996 and she recently had their first child.
In truth, Isle of Fantasy is a trifle – sort of
Swiss Family Robinson wrapped in pink chenille. Teresa Carpio is taking
her troupe of Girl Guides to London when the plane crashes and they end
up on a deserted island along with Raymond Wong. I suppose this is the
fantasy of the film – one man – seven women – but since six of them are
underage and Teresa is a pit bull, there are no romantic overtures taking
place and hopefully not too many fantasies. The girls all take on different
personas – Ann is the suck up apple polisher with some kung fu moves, Loletta
spends most of the film running and screaming, Fennie is the tough little
warrior, Bonnie goes into shock and thinks she is a kitty cat, Charine
is inept in everything she does – in particular in throwing home made bombs
and May Lo is Fennie’s comrade in arms.
They all eventually start working together – having
some fun – singing a few songs (The Happy Troupe Girls actually put out
a record) and fending off crocodiles and gorillas. The gorilla turns out
to be the pet of a fellow who is on the island and it develops a crush
on Teresa. It’s that kind of movie. Some pirates drop off Mark Cheng on
the island in a state of near death and the girls nurse him back to health.
Both Ann and May develop a crush on him, but interestingly he is most attracted
to May – though in real life he and Ann were an item. Eventually the pirates
come back and the group has to fight them with assorted weapons – booby
traps, arrows, bombs, a catapult and some Preying Mantis kung fu provided
by Fennie. It’s all quite silly but surprisingly violent.
The VCD does not have sub-titles, but the video
My rating for this film: 5.5