Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Summary: "So I have no choice but to stab him."
This is an uncredited remake of Mildred Pierce with some key differences that hurt the film more than help.* Mildred Pierce is an important film noir and a must watch for film buffs. I feel that most can avoid this mediocre Shaw Brothers melodrama. I do not see any individual style from Lo Wei that separates himself from other directors, though I am curious on his other non-action Shaw Brothers films. He is competent, but too bland with the characters and the story (though the script writer might be at fault as well) as much of the flavor of the original is removed without adding anything of his own. Yes he directed early films by Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan (probably doing more damage to Jackies career than helping), but so far from his oeuvre I have not been enthusiastic. But to be fair his directed films were successful in Hong Kong.
Reviewer Score: 5
Witness Wang Xiu-mei (Diana Chang Chung-wen who would retire from acting later that year) kill a man who appears to be an attempted rapist. The man is Chen Shang-yung (Paul Chang Chung) who we later find out is an old schoolmate of hers. Wang readily admits to the crime but the detective too easily gets her to tell a long and winding story flashback first starting with her husband. Her overly lucky husband Xue-bin (played by the director Lo Wei) sold off his cotton mill two years ago and put all of his money into a commercial real estate venture. Never trust a movie character that states he or she is always right, especially in the first act. In Hong Kong there was a collapse of the real estate market in 1964 followed by bank runs in 1965 which this movie shows a headline. Soon their bourgeois life is going to be in turmoil.
Wang has two daughters: Yu-lan a sickly one (Yip Ching; I think we know what is going to happen to her soon though you might be slightly surprised on how) and an elder one Lilian (Jenny Hu Yan-ni) who is a spoilt but otherwise a decent kid -- until. Forced to live in a smaller apartment (not bad by Hong Kong standards) with her eldest daughter and maid sans husband who has taken off. She accepts a waitress position to help pay for his remaining kids tuition while avoiding grouping gweilos. Seriously too much melodrama is made of this position which really was not that bad for the mother. Plus it leads to her opening up her own nightclub the Plums Bar (this story arc is paralled in Mildred Pierce and strangely enough in a novel I read recently Jeffrey Archers Only Time Will Tell) where you can see the latest dance craze the epileptic monkey or the mashed potato.
Enter in Shang-yung the antagonist playboy. A former classmate she has not seen in 20 years (a weird mention of the daughter being 19 possibly hints at something) happens to know she is separated from her who-knows-where husband. He is a man who does not take no for an answer. He is a creep, a pretty big one if you get through watching the film where his creepiness seems to expound exponentially. Xiu-mei is a little at fault because she puts herself in situations she could have more easily avoided. But Xiu-mei constantly says no, so the next best thing for Shang-yung is the eldest daughter. The main question remains is did Xiu-mei kill him or at least why not earlier?
Unless you are a Shaw Brothers and/or Hong Kong completest or want to see a pre-Bruce Lee non-actioner from Lo Wei than there is no real reason to see this movie unless you have already bought it. The sets are nice looking as well as the costume design where Diana Chang is dressed in an assortment of lovely cheongsams and other attire (though you may wonder what they were thinking about some of the daughters outfits), but especially if you have seen Mildred Pierce you will view this as an inferior remake that fails to capture what made that film noir a classic. There is very little ambivalence with the characters here and the movie suffers for it. Though if you have not seen the original than you might enjoy this movie more.
Do not look at the back cover. First there is a picture that gives away a spoiler to the film (and even more useless trivia, if you look hard at the picture it is different than in the film, it is one of the stills.) Second the synopsis is wrong about the film about several key points including describing this as a murder-mystery in the vein of an old Alfred Hitchcock movie as well as giving away a spoiler and being completely being wrong about what could have potentially be a spoiler. Of course this description is copied on many places on the web including HKFA and HK Cinemagic. The R3 DVD is interlaced though anamorphic. There is a mono Mandarin track with Traditional Chinese, English and Bahasa Malaysian subtitles. Mine came with a slipcover. The extras are Movie Stills, Original Poster (Jenny Hu does not look right in the poster), Production Notes (this also has the wrong information about the film; did IVL even watch this movie) and Biography & Selected Filmography. The non-original trailers are of Madam Slender Plum, The Golden Buddha, Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers? [was it a STD?], A Cause to Kill and Torrent of Desire.
* Spoilers for Mildred Pierce: the older daughter is nicer here than in Mildred Pierce. The younger daughter dies by pneumonia which you would think would happen in this movie, but she dies differently. The husband is not a cheater here though he comes across as too annoying for leaving his whole family for losing the money and the house. However, the ending is the same where the estranged husband and the mother get back together after the daughter is found to be the killer. However, it is much bleaker ending for the daughter and the viewer in Mildred Pierce. With the vast amount of similarities Madam Slender Plum can easily be considered a remake.