Finished the 40-episode TV version of Wing Chun with the ultra-attractive Nicholas Tse, an extended telling of the famous Prodigal Son movie, to which I have referred previously, mostly because of the enchanting kung fu calligraphy scene with Sammo Hung. I don't have a lot to say about the series except that Sammo's son Sammy is fabulous, like an evil Donnie Yen, in a role like Al Pacino's in Scarface. Nicholas Tse is very pretty to look at and probably added a lot of sex appeal for younger audiences (well, me too), but the original Prodigal Son actors, Lao Sammo and Yuen Biao, brought to the series some continuity from the past, and great elegance and credibility.
|Sammo Hung, Nicholas Tse, Yuen Biao|
But what's with that big cucumber? Pigua fist? Pickle fist?
|Deadly Cucumber Fist|
Next on my viewing schedule was The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, something that turned up in my Netflix DVD queue. I don't remember selecting it. But... Tony Randall as a 7,000-year-old Chinese sage! (Best role since the beatnik in Bell, Book, and Candle. Except that wasn't Tony Randall, it was Jack Lemmon. IMDB is such a great resource. But really, Jack Lemmon, Tony Randall, and even Peter Sellers...they're all the same. Great!)
An MGM film from 1964 (the Wizard remembers it but I don't--ta shi lao, buguo, wo shi bu lao) this film, a strange combination of The Music Man, Seven Samurai, Godzilla and maybe Wall Street, is the best Tao-themed movie I think I've ever seen. It would have been cool to have Bruce Lee playing Dr. Lao (or Lo, as the character calls himself, Canto-style), or even David Carradine...no, I take that back, Tony Randall was exquisite. (Although apparently there was an idea that Peter Sellers should have done it...but really, Tony Randall is an American Peter Sellers. And Peter Sellers is an English Jack Lemmon.) The Grasshopper here was a cute little haole boy named Mike who received the sage's lesson.
Based on a novel, the film, a classic period American Western, is about evil landlords/developers/speculators and peasants; honest but lonely journalists and librarians; vain and stupid ordinary people; the idea that what's old is new; that ancient Chinese wisdom (and magic) prevails, and that the world has some sort of mythical continuity. Oh, and redemption, although that apparently wasn't part of the novel. Tony Randall plays not only the clever Chinese "fakir" (clearly Lao Tzu), but also Appolonius of Tyana, Merlin, the Medusa, the abominable snowman from the Himalayas, Pan, and a big talking snake. Dr. Lao/Lo keeps a pet fish in a bowl which, if exposed to air, turns into the Loch Ness Monster--a dragon really, but one that has to be appeased, or at least calmed and shrunk by a rainmaking machine, a device constructed of bamboo with fuses that need to be ignited with his long Chinese pipe.
In one scene, on the site of Dr. Lao's circus, the sage is fishing (anachronistically with a rod and spinning reel) in a totally dried-up creek bed. The sceptical journalist there to interview him points out there's no water in the creek. Dr. Lao (or perhaps Chuang Tzu) points out he's not using any bait. Then he catches a really big fish. "A tlout, a tlout!" he exclaims with delight.
Got Netflix? Get this film. It's a delight.