Director: Chang Cheh
Producer: Runme Shaw
Writer: I Kuang, Chiu Kang Chien
Cast: David Chiang, Ti Lung, Wong Ping, Tina Chin Fei, Guk Fung, Chan Sing, Stanley Fung (Sui Faan), Dean Shek Tin, Yeung Chi Hing, Wong Chung, Lau Gong, Yip Bo Kam, Lee Sau Kei, Nam Wai Lit, Pao Chia-Wen, Wong Pau Gei, Lau Kar Wing, Lo Wai, Wong Ching, Fung Hak On, Tino Wong Cheung, Yuen Wo Ping, Yen Shi Kwan
Running Time: 105 mins.
By Mighty Peking Man
The more I watch these obscure Chang Cheh flicks (and thanks to Celestial, we can now enjoy what we never knew existed), the more I realize that “diversity” is not the word that best describes this movie-making genius. “All over the fucking place” is more like it, and in this case, these words are a good thing. How does Chang Cheh jump from a legendary tale of a “One-Armed Swordsman” to the kung fu cult spectacle of “Five Deadly Venoms,” and still have an eye for the ultra violent mayhem of “Five Element Ninjas,” the coming-of-age street tales of “Delinquent,” and the Scarface-like gangster saga of “Chinatown Kid?”
Sure, there have been many filmmakers who tend to try something new or tackle different genres, but with Chang Cheh, the high notes are usually hit no matter what he’s experimenting with. In all the years, which the Shaw Brothers pumped out hundreds of films by hundreds of filmmakers, it’s no wonder why Chang Cheh’s name stands out from the rest.
With Chang Cheh’s “The Singing Killer” we have a film that’s part noir, part musical, part heist, part love story, and part action.
Johnny (David Chiang) is a famous pop star who attracts hundreds of fans at a busy nightclub where he sings his heart away on a stage filled with extravagant props, groovy dancers, and a full-scale band. He’s so popular, that everywhere he goes, he’s mobbed by giddy fans i.e. “A Hard Days Night.” However, there is a dark side to Johnny. Years earlier, he was connected to a group of criminals where he, for obvious reasons, was given the nickname “The Singing Killer.” Now, his old friends are back and they’re forcing him to take part in a million-dollar heist that can not only ruin his career but also send him to prison. Using different methods such as blackmail, getting to the woman he loves, and his celebrity status, they send Johnny back to a world he wish never existed.
Though not as bloody and violent as I’d like it to be, it still packs a share of brawls and shoot ‘em up bloodshed. This is especially apparent in the film’s second half when things start to heat up. The martial arts choreography by Lau Kar Leung and Tong Gaai never really stand out. The problem is they suffer from the typical swingy-arm syndrome that is usual in most early 1970s kung fu films. Once again, this is another acceptable flaw because with its solid plot holding up the movie, the martial arts and action sequences are less of a priority. Hell, there’s not even a one-on-one duel with the buff Chan Sing who plays the main bad guy who’s just begging to get the shit beaten out of him.
The songs that are performed in this movie are pure 1970s cheese, which is more of a treat than a negative thing. Most of them are unintentionally hilarious, as were most pop acts around the world, during this time. I doubt David Chiang is really singing. Most of the time they didn’t even bother to match his lips with the words. There are certain instances where it’s even several seconds off. The dated performances may raise a brow on people’s faces but walking into a film called “The Singing Killer,” none of it should come as a surprise.
Like most of the early Shaw Brothers flicks, look out for a handful of pre-stardom cameos and co-starring roles (like Yuen Wo Ping, Wang Chung, and most notably, Dean Shek, mostly known to the Asian cinema fans for his roles in “Drunken Master” and “A Better Tomorrow II”). Ti Lung shows up for a few seconds of screentime as a guitar player for David Chiang’s band.
Overall, “The Singing Killer” is a well-done movie that tends to feel more like a Hollywood heist film than a Shaw action fest. It’s not as brutal as you’d expect but if you’re open to explore different genres, you’ll find it entertaining. Besides, it’s a fucking Chang Cheh flick. When was the last time he let you down?
Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 7/10