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F]F (1976)
Love Swindler


Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 03/27/2007

“Love Swindlers” is made up of four segments—three of them concentrate more on the swindler aspect than on love—or sex to be more accurate. Some of the humor comes from double meanings or puns in Cantonese, unexplained in most cases in the subtitles, but enough of the action involves venal, stupid or silly (or all three) people getting cheated so it can be enjoyed (or at least understood) by anyone.

The first segment might be a bit of a shock to Western viewers—it was to this one. Two men strut through a busy city street. One carries a banner while the other bangs a gong and shouts that they have cures for any disease that anyone has. The mother of a seriously ill young girl summons them to the girl’s bedside. She has been diagnosed with smallpox and looks it with pustules covering her face and body. The chief practitioner a most cursory examination (beginning by trying to take the child’s pulse from the wrong side of her wrist) and tells mom that her daughter actually has a venereal disease that she inherited from her father and that if she is treated for smallpox she will die. He does a very hard sell of his skills as an acupuncturist with key phrases echoes by his assistant and strikes a deal with the mother.

He then selects a needle from his kit, pokes the child just above her navel and she dies instantly. They try to flee but are caught by other residents of the apartment house who decide not to call the police but to take all money that the murderous charlatans have and force them to parade through the streets in white sackcloth, shouting that they killed the child and carrying her body.

Everything up to this point has been to set up the last line of the segment—the death of the child is only mentioned once more and then obliquely. The two are back in business and are consulting with a husband whose wife eats nothing but burned candle wicks and suffers from narcolepsy. I will leave the description here since I don’t want to disclose the ending.

The second segment, “Counterfeiters”, is a straightforward lesson regarding things that seem to good to be true. Dana and Siu Yam-Yam are accompanied to a hotel room by Chan Shen. They are dressed as hookers—hot pants, vinyl boots, revealing tops—and he looks like a pimp. He introduces them to an Australian businessman telling the guy that they are from fine Hong Kong families. The Australian has a magic printing press, one that prints real money—like a spinning wheel that turns straw into gold, this machine takes one HK$ 500 and turns it into ten HK$500 with consecutive serial numbers. The girls are suspicious so they give the Australian a postdated check for HK$50,000 and get that much in notes straight from the press.

The four of them hit the streets so that the girls can see that the notes actually work. The go to a small business and deal with the owner and a sidewalk currency exchange, two businesses that have to be very careful of counterfeit money. After these transactions are accomplished without a hitch they go for the big time, the casinos in Macau where no one ever gets away with passing phony money. With the Macau stamp of approval the girls are ready to do business but the Australian has to return to his homeland and knows his magic machine will never make it past customs. So they agree to buy it from him only to find out that.....

Chan Shen’s character is a pimp or at least acts like one. When Dana and Siu Yam-Yam ask where they are going to get money he tells them it will be easy. In American English he would say that they are sitting on a fortune.

Linguistic confusion is part of the next two segments. “Social Disease” opens in a jewelry store where a beautiful woman drives a hard bargain buying jade, saying she is sister of well known doctor in same neighborhood. She arranges for the jewelry to be delivered to the doctor’s office, then goes to there with tale of cousin who has VD but is embarrassed to do anything about it. The confusion starts as soon as the delivery guy arrives with the jade. She arranges for the doctor to examine her “cousin” (she pretends to the doctor that she is his third aunt while telling him that she is the doctor’s third sister). When the guy from the jeweler tells the doctor that he “delivers goods” the assumption is that he is talking about sex. “Jewels” are testicles; “opening shop” is having sex; when he tells the doctor that he set off a lot of firecrackers during New Year at the shop—you get the idea.

The jeweler’s representative, thinking he is there to collect on a bill, is mystified when he is told to give a urine sample, have a nurse take a blood sample and to strip. That is finally too much and he and the doctor finally realize that each has been set up but while the doctor has been annoyed and has wasted some time the delivery man’s employer has lost some very expensive jade. When they figure things out the aunt/sister has long since gone.

“Social Disease” shows a bit of skin—a very attractive female patient is getting a pelvic examination—completely naked. Other than that there is a lot of giggling and winking about the putative sex life of the new patient.

The last segment, “Hire Purchase” is the one with a significant amount of nudity and a lot of simulated sex. Shirley Yu plays a newly hired sales rep for General Lighting who is able to outsell everyone in the store and fool around with the store manager. The boss’s wife (who is the owner of the store) arrives wondering why her husband hasn’t been home for lunch for a while. She walks into his office and almost catches the two of them in the act. The store manager, played by Yueh Hua, manages to slip away from his wife long enough to go to a nightclub with Shirley Yu’s character. He slips a drug into her brandy—hardly necessary it would seem based on her actions so far—and she drinks it even though she saw him drop the pill into her glass. They wind up in bed for some headboard banging sex. The new sales rep continues to sell like mad and the store manager has all but given up trying to hide their affair. His wife shows up with a posse of angry women and tells them to “wreck the place” (the sales rep’s apartment) which they do while also beating up the adulterers.

The next scene is the store manager, staggering drunk through a busy outdoor market, bewailing his fate and calling for a policeman or a judge to punish his wife for assaulting him. Yueh Hua does a good job as a drunk which is not an easy acting task to accomplish. The scene goes on for much too long—it would have been twice as funny if it had been cut by half—but he does get the attention of a police officer who takes him home where they find....

There is a pun in this segment on the English word “general”. When the store manager gives the newly hired sales reps (all women) a pep talk he tells them that they are all part of the “General Lighting family—they are the General”. Shirley Yu tells him there is a “rhetorical problem”—that while they may work for “General” they are not “general”, which is funny to the rest of the new sales reps. While I don’t get the joke on this one, there may be many other Cantonese puns or plays with language sounds that went right past me. “Love Swindlers” may be funnier than it seems from reading the subtitles.

Five points—six if one understands Cantonese

Reviewer Score: 5