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催命符 (1967)
Summons to Death

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 03/20/2015
Summary: What not to do when you wake up in a box.

While it does have its moments of interesting scenes, unintentional camp and is semi-competent it is a bit sluggish in its plot and pacing. It reminded me a bit of Our Man Flint (1966) which probably inspired it somewhat (though takes on the Bond/spy formula were in vogue as Mission Impossible and Matt Helm in The Silencers also came out in 1966 and the Shaw Brothers had already had a couple of spy films directed by Lo Wei.) Though apparently the main source for it was a book by Fang Lung-hsiang which I am curious about but have not been able to find.

It starts off with shapely Ying Nian (Fanny Fan Lai in a variety of splendorous sartorial styles) seducing a warlord who happens to have a treasure map hidden in his locket. However, she only steals one of the maps when there was actually two. Why the warlord keeps both of them in different compartments in his locket and why when she steals she does not close the locket? We will ignore that and go on. They later get attacked by other pirates. These pirates have to be the cleanliest and most un-pirate pirates I have ever seen led by the director Lo Wei as Gin Te-biu. They have matching uniforms (well so do the warlord’s cronies.) How smart was it to raise pirate flags before attempting to attack a ship? I guess there is no coast patrol around to see those flags or the exploding artillery. Anyways, Gin Te-biu gets the second map.

A few years later Gin comes back to Hong Kong to visit his cronies (get the gang back together), find his sister Mei Li (Tina Chin-fei) who is in a circus and get the treasure. However Gin is double crossed by one of his associates and ends up in jail. In one of the more unbelievable plot points: Mei Li ends up thinking that Tang Liu aka The Owl (Tang Ching) has an item for her at the Blue Pool Night Club (guess who owns this place – Ying Nian who has the other map.) This starts a cat-and-mouse game of both sides trying to get both maps to find the treasure with a few additional people interfering as well. Interesting note (to me) all three main actors here and the director Lo Wei earlier worked on another spy thriller Angel with the Iron Fists (1967).

The fight scenes shown here are a brawling type, especially earlier on between the pirates, but nothing special. Some fisticuffs (sometimes under-cranked) and Judo from Tang Ching (who being a feminist has no problem fighting a woman) and some Judo from Ting Chin as well that I liked more than the earlier mass fight. There is something hilarious about standing wrist-locks that result in the other combatant to flip to the ground. It is telling that the action scenes are more influenced by James Bond movies than anything else like wuxia or Kung Fu.

The set design and its use of color are some of the high points of the film. When Shaw Brothers did stage work at this time period it looked great. The interiors of The Owl’s abode especially reminded me of Our Man Flint with hidden compartments to help with dressing, though the most memorable aspects are the head massaging real arms in the wall and him French-kissing the face-statue to get a cigarette. I also liked the amount of exterior shots of Hong Kong. The acting was fine. But overall, especially when you watch the film more than once the amount of plot problems are noticeable. It has the typical Bond mistake where you wonder why put the protagonists in an escape predicament, reminding me of Oldboy, when you could have just killed them. I will forgive them for that though, especially compared to the end where they just kicked out the box which they could have done in the first place. But ultimately I found too many mistakes and a story that was too languid in its pacing and a lackluster ending to recommend this to too many people other than Shaw Brothers fans. You would be better off seeing a James Bond movie or the first Flint film.

The back description of the R3 IVL is misleading. The image on the back is not in the movie so it’s most likely a still and/or from the lobby card. Special Features are Trailers: Angel With The Iron Fists, The Singing Killer, Temptress Of A Thousand Faces and The Black Butterfly and Movie Information with Movie Stills, Original Poster, Production Notes (which is mostly worthless) and Biography & Selected Filmography. There are subtitles for both English and Traditional Chinese. The Mandarin track is mono and the picture is anamorphic.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: sharkeysbar
Date: 07/31/2005
Summary: A classic 1960s thriller

Yet another great Lo Wei directed late 1960s movie. It has the lot, great fashions, psychodelic music, pirates (!), buried treasure, a treasure map in 2 parts, lots of fights, car chases, intrigue, double crosses galore, repeated throughout.
It stars Tina Chin Fei and Tang Ching in the leads and they perform wonderfully. This 98 minute movie runs along at a cracking fast pace, it is just superb! If you like early James Bond then I guess you'd like this little pearl (pardon the bad pun).

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 03/02/2003

Based on a novel by Fang Lung Hsiang, Lo Wei then took the story and adapted it for the Big Screen. The story is about a hidden treasure that was stashed somewhere by some pirates that requires a map to locate it. The map has been divided into two parts. Due to certain events that occurred, two groups each have a half of the map and are trying to locate the other half. One group, consisting of the suave Teng "the Owl" Lei (Tang Ching) and one of the pirate's daughters, Julie King (Tina Chin Fei), manage to get both parts of the map. With the map in hand, The Owl and Julie, head out for the stash.