Guess Who Killed My Twelve
With a song seemingly every five to ten minutes
this 1969 Shaw Brothers film may make many people quickly run out of the
room screaming in agony, but I found this inoffensive and admittedly pointless
film to be an unexpectedly charming delight. Pointless may be a bit harsh
because there is clearly one and only one main reason to have made the
movie – but what a reason. Jenny Hu. She was one of Shaw’s most stunning
leading ladies and this strikes me as a little present and thank you to
her fans. And since I happen to be one of those, I appreciate it very much.
Known perhaps more for her dramatic turns in films like her debut “Till
the End of Time” or her remake of “Love Without End”, here she turns
her hand to light comedy and spends much of the film with an ear to ear
smile pasted on her face like Mona Lisa being tickled on her feet. It seems
that every film industry has to have at least one actress compared to Audrey
Hepburn, but few remind me of her as much as Jenny does with her classy
appearance, elegant demeanor, radiant smile and slim looks.
Six college students (one of them being a very
young Dean Shek) are boating when they hear over the radio that a strong
typhoon is headed their way and so they are forced to make for the shore
at Lantau Island. Thankfully they brought their guitars and the three young
men and three women happily break into song and do a little twisting while
waiting on the beach. Another report comes through on the radio – back
in Hong Kong a woman is reported to have killed twelve men while apparently
in a very bad mood and she has escaped in a small motorboat and is wearing
an orange bathing suit. Right on cue a motorboat comes into sight and runs
out of gas. A woman jumps out and swims to shore and when she rises out
of the surf it’s our Jenny looking like a wet orange dream.
Apparently Lantau Island had no lodging back then
and so Jenny – and her character’s name also just happens to be Jenny Hu
– bumps into a local yokel (Li Kun playing a good guy for a rare change)
who is not surprisingly bedazzled by this barefooted beauty walking about
town in a form fitting bathing suit and he helps her sneak into a home
where the owners are away. It is being care tended though by Chin Han and
he soon discovers her taking a bubble bath and jumps to the obvious conclusion
that she is a ghost – maybe Chinese ghosts like being clean since there
was of course Joey Wong’s famous bathing scene in A Chinese Ghost Story.
In fact, there is lots of mass confusion all around this film – the six
youngsters think she is a mass murderer (and perhaps she is) and that Chin
is her intended thirteenth, Chin Han’s fiancé (Irene Chan) thinks
he has fallen for this shameless city girl and everybody thinks they can
sing whenever they darn well feel like it. Throw in a playful female duel
to the musical accompaniment of “Golden Swallow” and the slowest shark
attack in recorded history and you have a mildly amusing film that is all
fluff and no fiber and but easy to digest fluff for sure (if you like this
kind of thing of course!).
Wu Chia-hsiang, who was a character actor in many
of the Cathay and Shaw films, directs this with an easy going hand and
doesn't even try too hard to inject any real drama into it. He was born
in Beijing in 1919 and first began acting on the stage during the war.
He moved to Hong Kong in 1945 and began working for a number of small film
companies until he joined Cathay in 1957 where he became one of their more
familiar character actors. He had tried his hand at assistant director
a few times, but his director debut was “Father and Son” in 1963. He joined
Shaw Brothers in 1965 as both an actor and director. He died in 1993. He
shows up as a film director near the end of this movie.
The music is really quite enjoyable if you are
at all inclined towards the Mandarin pop of that time – a mix of ballads
and more up-tempo songs that have a definite Western influence. None of
them are choreographed beyond a few hip shakes and a little twisting away.
I lost count of how many songs there were because they break out constantly
– there is a fish song when they eat fish (“steam fish, fried fish, fish
soup”), a break-up song, a what a wonderful town this is song, a aren’t
you so cool song – instead of talking, people prefer singing and I am quite
glad they did. Jenny Hu appeared in a number of Shaw musicals but I believe
her singing was always dubbed. I only wish some of these Shaw and Cathay
musical soundtracks were coming out on CDs because I'd love to own a few
- this being one.
My rating for this film: 7.0