Friday, April 29, 2011

In PURSUIT of Mou Tun Fei

by András (Deliria)

Mou Tun Fei (aka. T.F. Mous) needs no introduction here, but his Shaw Brothers days are still overshadowed by his better known MEN BEHIND THE SUN. Not helping matters that his major work at Shaw Brothers, called BANK BUSTERS (1978) is unavailable on video.

The success of that film (a story about illegal immigrant criminals in Hong Kong) led to LOST SOULS, a kind of semi-sequel to BANK BUSTERS and one of the most extreme productions of the history of the studio. LOST SOULS was also a box office hit, so Shaw immediately signed Mou to do another modern exploitation (they called it "socio-realism" back then), this time on the subject of death penalty. The upcoming film, entitled THE STING OF DEATH was heavily promoted in Shaw's own magazine, Southern Screen.

Then - either in the middle of shooting or post-prod - Mou got in disagreements with the Shaws regarding his contract, left the production and travelled to communist China, where he started making movies again, including MEN BEHIND THE SUN. THE STING OF DEATH was left unreleased for four years, until 1985, when Shaw Brothers got two of the original film's stars Lo Meng and Pai Piao (both of 5 VENOMS fame) back on board, and assigned director Taylor Wong (BUDDHA'S PALM, SENTENCED TO HANG) to finish it up, using as much of Mou's footage as possible. With the help of overdubbing and newly shot footage, the story has been altered in such a way that it was no longer about death penalty, more like a gritty crime thriller with a warehouse-set action-scene to top it off. They called the result PURSUIT OF A KILLER and released to cinemas in September of 1985. The film did very poorly.

Contrary to the poster art (which is one of the worst I have ever seen coming out of HK) PURSUIT's story is not about a razorblade wielding woman in high heels who faces off a gweilo guy holding a gun to a sexy woman's head. I wish! Rather, it is about three mainland refugees/low level triads, who are arrested during their robbery job in HK. After serving their sentence, they are killed one by one by an unknown assassin. The last remaining convict (played with over-the-top enthusiasm by Lo Mang) is bailed out by the police and used as a bait. In its current form (available on VCD from Celestial, HK), the movie includes about 70% of Mou Tun Fei's work. I took these on-set pics from an 1981 issue of Southern Screen (thanks to Lynn Haynes Memorial Collection) accompanied by matching screenshots from PURSUIT.

It is not that easy to spot the new footage, unless you concentrate on Lo Meng's ever changing hairstyle. The major problem that the filmmakers (in '85) faced was that they couldn't bring back the actor who played the assassin in the original footage.

Luckily for them, Mou shot the murder scenes in the style of a giallo (these are the best bits in the film, btw), so the face of the actor only shows up towards the end. You may then notice that the character is in fact played by two different actors. All the scenes featuring this guy (Michael Tong) was shot later:

What is interesting here is how Taylor Wong tried to ape Mou Tun Fei's style, so the result wouldn't be a total mess. There are a couple of sleazy sex scenes so Wong does one as well, but in more flashy way (shot by the great HKSC cinematographer, Arthur Wong). And no Mou Tun Fei movie would be complete without sodomy. Surprisingly, this sequence (which looks toned down) was mainly done by Wong, but at least one differently lit shot crops up from the original, and I'm sure Mou's version was the more extreme.

While far from a great film, the production history of PURSUIT OF A KILLER makes it an entertaining curiosity-piece, its thankless cut and paste job can either be seen as a cynical attempt by the then failing studio to release a product, or as a testament of the editing skills of HK filmmakers. Both points are valid.

Big thank-yous go out to András for this feature on Mou Tun Fei's (aka. T.F. Mous) "lost" film. I own the Celestial video-cd and wasn't even aware that it's (mostly) directed by Mou! Check out András' own cool blog here and (and bring a Google translator for Hungarian!). His latest entry is on the grim HK flick INTRUDER!

Messy mess

No, this isn't from a book store as Resonator Chris so kindly asked. It's from my lounge room! And yes it's a bloody mess. I've got too much stuff and so last week I got some more book cases to put it all on (or some of it anyway) but instead of making room for the new cases I decided to just put them in the middle of the apartment! No, I probably didn't think it thru properly. Then the idea was to load stuff onto them and in the end get the rest of my mess sorted out as well after which hopefully I'll be able to move it all to where ever I want it (preferably not in the middle of the fucking room!). Argh. Sorry the lousy mobile phone pix, I couldn't find my camera (obviously). I've got the camera now but I still haven't located the fucking cord to connect it to the computer and upload pix! And this isn't even all, I've still got a new couch sitting at my dad's place + some more cd jungle men and a new big TV set. This needs true organisation and it's probably gonna be like a cave here when I'm done. Oh, did I mention the 3 big removal boxes I've got sitting with ex-rental tapes + one double size huge (as in fucking huge) box full of more tapes - and I still need room for that as well. Argh. But I'm so not gonna do like my silly cousin and put any of it in the basement. He put most of his huge comic book collection in his basement room (he lived in an apartment building) and some derelict kids started nicking them. After the first ones disappeared I said to him: "Why don't you move them into your flat?" to which the dumb bastard replied: "I've got a new lock for the basement door now". Well, you know what happened don't you? Yeah. Later he didn't pay his rent for months on end, the cops came around but at that time he'd flown the coop and disappeared for a good number of years. And he even had one of my books! >_<

MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED on dvd in May and it includes THE MUTHERS!!!

[Click the scan twice to see in it in all it's full glory]

Simon over at EXPLOSIVE ACTION just shot me an email saying MACHETE MAINDES UNLEASHED... i.e. the cool documentary film on American-Filipino co-productions made in the Philippines (and the sequel to NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD - The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!)... is going to get a DVD release from Umbrella in OZ in May.

And get this: as a *small* extra feature the DVD is also gonna contain Cirio H. Santiago's THE MUTHERS from 1976!!! The film stars Jeannie Bell who was also in T.N.T. JACKSON which I've written about before.

This is certainly good news. There's more info on the Twitch site and it states THE MUTHERS will be anamorphic 16:9 format!! Awesome!!! My old Danish VHS is fullscreen and way too dark so an upgrade is highly welcome.

Special features:

-Audio Commentary with Director and crew
-More stories from the cast (including Mitchum, Landis, Haig, Dante & Arkush) (60 min)
-Filipino exploitation trailer reel (65 min}
-The Oath of green blood
-"Up From The Depths" monster test footage
-Fantastic Fest red carpet featurette
-Fantastic Fest Q&A with Roger & Julie Corman, Hartley and Tim League
-Poster and stills gallery (100 images)
-Behind the scenes gallery (100 images)
-Theatrical trailer
-Easter egg.

Disc 2

-Cirio Santiago's THE MUTHERS (16:9 transfer)

And big thanks to Simon! Chick his site and he's on YouTube here.