Thursday, January 30, 2014

Men of the Dragon - Jared Martin (1974) - Palm Villa, Tai Tam

It wasn't just the various plot lines and characters that were pinched from Enter the Dragon, there is also a moment in Men of the Dragon when Martin and Ito go and see there wise master at his serene retreat in the countryside. The following will be more obvious to ETD fans but the fact is that the location used was none other than Palm Villa - the same place that doubled as Han's training grounds in Enter the Dragon.

Appalling quality screen grabs aside, you can see the upper garden with the tree and its doorway that Bruce Lee walks out of at the end of Enter the Dragon (the bit when he gives the thumbs up sign to John Saxon). Look carefully and I would venture that the gold lion statue by the door is the same one seen in Enter (and coincidentally, it is standing in the very same place.

It's quite possible some of the props were left lying around after the completion of Enter the Dragon in 1973, and it's not too far beyond the realms of possibility that the Men of the Dragon guys filmed there not long after...anyway, I'll let you be the judge.


Anyone who has read and understood my previous ramblings on this location (I do mumble quite frequently, so it's understandable if you didn't) will know that this tree (seen above) is the same tree that Lee magically leaps up into when he is about to be discovered by Han's guards on one of his night time recces in Enter, but that was pretty much all we saw of the place in that film. However, the arched stone doorway was seen quite a bit because it fronted the main fighting area. Here is a reminder where you can also see the gold dragon and all the black suits piling through the gap.


Sadly. that's all we get to see of the place in Men of the Dragon which is a big shame when you consider how iconic it has turned out to be.

Bruce Lee & I - Betty Ting Pei (1976) - Ma on Shan, New Territories

An absolutely ridiculous film on so many levels (but no more ridiculous than Game of Death) but contains some absolute nuggets in terms of film locations. One of the first is this shot of Ma On Shan from the old KCR train line on the opposite side of the Shatin Sea (now the Shing Mun River Channel). Have you ever wondered what Ma On Shan looked like before it became a 'new town'? Well, here it is.

Take a good long look at that pretty awesome view, it's been slightly squished by the lens of the camera, but it is quite easy to see that the mountain (Ma On Shan) which gave the name to the new town at the bottom of its slopes, is a fantastic sight to behold - especially in the 70's when clear days were the norm and not the exception.

Just to compare here is a quick grab from Streetview so you can see how much has changed.


Pretty amazing I would say, but not necessarily for the better, me thinks. I should just add that this Streetview grab was also taken about 100 metres closer as well due to all the reclamation that has also gone on on the west side (where we are looking from) as well. Plus, of course, when this film was made the KCR line - as it was known then and up until 2009 in fact - was still on a single track with diesel engines pulling the carriages.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Men of the Dragon - Jared Martin (1974) - HK Cricket Club, Central

Not many modern visitors, or even residents for that matter, realise that Chater Garden in Central (and the term 'garden' is applied in the liberal HK sense of the word here i.e. no grass, just concrete) was once actually a nice wide open cricket ground (with real grass!!) used by the HK Cricket Club. It's quite ironic that a large piece of grassy land should be need to be concreted over in order to get the name 'garden' bestowed on it, but I guess care of all things natural and green weren't (and still aren't) of great concern to those in Govt. 

The club moved up to its current location at Wong Nai Chung Gap Road ('The Gap') above Wanchai when its lease on the ground was not renewed by the Govt and the 'Gap' site was offered as an alternative. It moved pretty much around the time this film was made (circa 1974/75) so it is quite possible that the producers of MOTD caught one of the last games of cricket being played on this pitch.

Anyway, once again the grabs are not the greatest of quality but if you would like to see some better pictures of the ground, Gwulo.com has a decent selection here.

In the first picture below you can see Garden Road in the background where it hooks up with Queens Road Central. The building on the corner right there was the old Hilton Hotel - demolished around 1994 to make way for the Li Ka-shing monolith that is the Cheung Kong Centre. When I first visited HK back in 1995, I had just missed the hotel by a few months and the workers had started to do the pile driving for the new building.

As the camera pans from left to right across the pitch, the last two screen garbs show the side of the old Bank of China, and look carefully you can see a little bit of the decoration that adorned the front of the Hilton. Chater Garden was officially opened in 1978 and these days seems to be a focal point for protest march gatherings. It's named for the road it sits next to, Chater Road, which is itself named after Sir Paul Chater who was a central figure in HK development. Some of the businesses he founded or helped found are still around including Hongkong Land (now controlled by Jardines) and Hongkong Electric (now one of the Mekon's main cash cows).


Monday, January 27, 2014

Men of the Dragon - Jared Martin (1974) - Repulse Bay Hotel, Hong Kong

One of the nice surprises about the locations on this film is finding some footage of the old, original, Repulse Bay Hotel.

Sadly, this hotel was demolished in 1982 to make way for the not so great 'hole-in-the-middle' Repulse bay apartments. Later on a replica of the hotel was built as a mall (The Repulse Bay Arcade) and I heard rumours it was a scaled down version of the older building. However, someone recently commented on Gwulo.com that the front of the replica was built at the same scale, so perhaps it was just the rest of the building that had to be shrunk due to space purposes. Anyway, it's a pretty crappy (i.e. standard Hong Kong) way of trying to preserve the memory of something quite historical. 

Built in the 1920's, it saw many famous visitors over the years before becoming a focus of bitter fighting between allied defenders and Japanese invaders in December 1941. The Japanese renamed the hotel during their occupation and called it the "Midorigahama" until they surrendered in 1945. I also heard from Chaplin Chang that the hotel was popular with the cast and crew of Enter the Dragon during breaks from filming around the corner in Tai Tam Bay.

Well, here are the screen caps anyway.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Golden Needles - Joe Don Baker (1974) - Nathan Road, Kowloon

Thanks to Thomas' confirmation of the fact that we can see the Sun Ya Hotel in the following screen capture, it means that this was filmed where currently stands the "One Grand Tower" at 639 Nathan Road. Between Shantung Street and Argyle Street in Mongkok. The One Grand Tower that now sits here pretty much fills up the whole block, so I'm not so sure what number the Sun Ya Hotel was positioned at (probably easy to check but can't muster the energy right now...). What I can say is that the current building was opened in 1986, so I can imagine the hotel was around in one form or another until the mid-80s. 


Here is an approximate modern day comparison, as usual courtesy of Streetview.

Actually, it looks as though this location was used twice but from two different angles. If you look on the top right of the first picture you can see the bottom of a sign with pink neon writing. Well, looking at the picture below, it would seem that the sign was somewhere on the opposite side of Nathan Road near to the junction with Shantung Street - around where the current Good Hope Building stands. I think therefore that the "President Silk Company Ltd", seen in the shots below, would have been opposite the Sun Ya Hotel in what is now the King Wah Centre. The King Wah Centre was built in 2001, so I have no idea what was there before. But anyway, no matter, here are a few more grabs and a modern day comparison of the area.



Men of the Dragon - Jared Martin (1974) - Kai Tak Airport, Kowloon

Sometime just after the release of Enter the Dragon, someone in a studio somewhere thought it would be a great idea to take some large parts of that film's plot and turn it into a made-for-TV movie starring Jared Martin and a certain Robert Ito (better known for his role as Jack Klugman's assistant in Quincy) as Kung Fu brother-in-arms on a mission to rescue Martin's on-screen sister from the nefarious clutches of the bad guy (played in this case by a very Mr Han-like Joseph Wiseman, he of Dr. No fame).

The result was a pretty terrible film rescued by the mere fact that the filming was conducted largely on location in Hong Kong and caught on camera some sights that have since been lost forever. So here we are, with a copy supplied by our good friend in the UK Mr AP (same person who was gracious to provide me with the many I Spy screen shots I have been using on this blog). I do remember being entertained by this film as a youngster, and have vague memories of watching it on TV with my Grandad on a Saturday afternoon once. However, when that was I can't remember, probably sometime in the early 80's and certainly after already seeing Enter the Dragon.

Anyhoo, what better way to start off than with a nice view of a plane coming into land at Kai Tak. Apologies for the low quality of the screen caps but as far as I am aware the DVD release of this film was taken straight of a VHS tape and no one has deemed it worthy of a bit of a clean up.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Golden Needles - Joe Don Baker (1974) Aberdeen Chinese Permanent Cemetery, Aberdeen

Okay, I will go out on a limb here because I can't confirm 100%, however I am 95% sure that I have the correct location here at the Aberdeen Cemetery. It's the scene when Joe goes to meet the daughter of his former partner to try and dig into a bit more about the mystery behind the golden statuette.


The cemetery is one of those few locations where very large plots have been bought by the wealthy and there are several of these scattered around taking up quite a large space. If you look in the top two pictures you can see an ornate wall behind Joe Don Baker which marks the back end of one of those plots. Without physically going there I can't check my hunch, but I'm fairly confident (famous last words...). 

Golden Needles - Joe Don Baker (1974) - Aberdeen Harbour, Hong Kong

Another one that has made it into just about every film I have featured here. In Golden Needles the scenes are an almost exact replica of Enter the Dragon. Again, no surprise given that they shared directors as well as many local crew (including our old friend, Chaplin Chang, assistant director on ETD who pops up at the end of this film as well as serving as HK location manger - more on that later...). Anyway, on with the caps.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Golden Needles - Joe Don Baker (1974) - Lower Lascar Row, Sheung Wan

Seeing as the identification of film locations doesn't really happen in a nice order, I put them up as and when I find something. So here we are leapfrogging to the end of the film which involves a chase for the golden statuette between Joe Don Baker and the evil villain portrayed by our old friend Roy Chiao.

To be honest, many of the small streets in this part of HK Island are an absolute nightmare to identify (especially if like me, you are not familiar with the area). Luckily we are assisted here by the quick glimpse of a street sign revealing where we are.


To be honest, I didn't even know there was a Lower Lascar Row! I've been to Upper Lascar Row - also known as "Cat Street" - and it is a great place for picking up nick nacks and also, surprisingly, old photos and Bruce Lee paraphernalia. However, I didn't realise the street carried on as far as it does. Anyway. When the next opportunity presents itself I shall wander over again and get some photos of the street as it is today to see how much it has changed.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Golden Needles - Joe Don Baker (1974) - The Peninsula Lobby, Tsim Sha Tsui

A great hotel (I did stay there once in 2005 and had a great time - particularly impressed with the pool and the heaps of complimentary fruit each day...) that has featured in many films and shows we've looked at on this blog, such is its iconic status.

In Golden Needles we get a nice view from inside the lobby for a change and a nice shot of those famous bellhop suits (yes, you get a free bellhop bear when you stay there too!).