Tuesday, 13 April 2021

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong - Marrie Lee (1978) - Chung Yee Street, Ho Man Tin

The truck carrying the illicit cases of strawberry jam stops are a small timber yard at the top of a dead end. The dead end is still around and it is at the end of Chung Yee Street in Ho Man Tin. As the vehicles drive up the road, you can see the long low block of Kar Man House in the Oi Man Estate at the bottom of the road. The building at the back of the dead end would have been part of the old Valley Road Estate, since replaced by a private residential development called "Ultima".

Monday, 12 April 2021

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong - Marrie Lee (1978) - Chatham Road North, Hung Hom

As the truck carrying the illicit goods (strawberry jams jars packed with forged currency) makes its way towards its destination, Cleo follows behind in a taxi and we are treated to this view of the Hung Hom Interchange from either the King's Park High Level Service Reservoir (we shall come to that place separately in a couple of posts) or Chung Hau Street. For a comparison view taken some ten or eleven years later, you can see these screencaps from an episode of Yellowthread Street (posted way back in 2014).

Of course this area has changed vastly since then, and most recently with the opening of Ho Man Tin MTR station at the bottom of the hill where the camera is placed. Although the older tenement buildings seen in the last captures are still around for now. Here is a panorama I stitched together. It looks a bit messy because the camera pans down to the left as the truck goes by.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong - Marrie Lee (1978) - Connaught Road

Cleo gets into a cab to follow the strawberry jam truck as it heads away from the dockside. As the taxi follows the truck we get a couple of shots taken along Connaught Road. The first image shows the Rumsey Street carpark on the left, so we know that it was taken not far from the dock where the previous scene was shot. This is followed up in the next shot with a view looking back the other way along Connaught Road with Jardine House (the ex-Connaught Centre) on the right and Union House on the left - joined by the still-around pedestrian walkway that links both side of the road. Surprisingly there's still a few of those buildings around along that part of the road.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong - Marrie Lee (1978) - Sheung Wan Waterfront, Hong Kong

Cleopatra heads over to a working dock area where she has been given a tip off about some illicit strawberry jam. It turns out the fake money, or at least the Hong Kong dollars part of it, is being smuggled into Hong Kong via jam jars. She goes to meet her informant at the waterside. A couple of the background buildings, sitting along Connaught Road, are still around so it allows us to see that this particular stretch of waterfront was located between Queen's Street and Sutherland Street. The exact location of the truck would be somewhere around the southern edge of the soccer pitch at the east end of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park today.

Friday, 9 April 2021

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong - Marrie Lee (1978) - Victoria Harbour

To be honest this next shot would be better in HD, so I will keep my eyes peeled for one in the future. In the meantime it's a shot looking east through the harbour as Cleo rides atop a junk. The camera zooms in and in the background appears to be what I think might be the old Ko Chiu Road Housing Estate over in Yau Tong in East Kowloon.

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong - Marrie Lee (1978) - View of the Harbour

Next up is a Filipino/Singaporean co-production that filmed in the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong. Although the Hong Kong scenes are brief, at least the lead actor, Marrie Lee, was actually here rather than the film just being a bunch of stock footage establishing shots.

The premise is that Singapore's top female agent, Cleopatra Wong, is called back from her holiday in Manila to deal with a counterfeit money organisation that seeks to release forged money into the economies of the various ASEAN members. So she infiltrates the gang to find their secrets before heading off to Hong Kong and then finally back to the Philippines for the film's finale involving men dressed as nuns sporting assault rifles.

The opening Hong Kong scene is the usual view of the harbour from the Peak area, panning across Wanchai. Note the top of the old AIA building in the first image. This has recently been demolished I understand (remember, I have been stuck in the UK for almost 6 months so haven't had a chance to see what is still standing since the pandemic struck).

Or for those who would like to see all these images stitched together, here is a reasonable attempt courtesy of Autostitch.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - Queen's Road East, Wanchai

I think the final image for this film will have to be this nice colour footage of Queen's Road East. The camera pans from left to right at the junction with Wanchai Road. If you look carefully you can just about see one of the streamline moderne "fins" of the Art Deco Wanchai Market building at the very right of the last frame. The market area, surrounded by those glorious painted wall adverts, is where block 2 of "The Zenith" now stands.

For those who would prefer a nicely stitched panorama of these three images, here is one for your viewing pleasure (click on it for a better view).

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - Double Happiness Restaurant, Johnston Road

Don Benton (Richard Basehart) travels to Macau to investigate the mysterious passengers who were on board Jimmy's plane when they were shot down. Jimmy escaped but the American passengers, supposedly spies, were taken away by the Chinese. We are shown a brief clip of a ferry plying the waters between Hong Kong and Macau, however, the footage used is in fact a small clip from the previous year's Ferry to Hong Kong, complete with that big fake looking paddle steamer they cobbled together for that film.

So Benton heads to a casino where he knows a nefarious gangster, purportedly behind the kidnappings, is having a flutter, but the establishing shot for the casino is actually an image of a popular local restaurant that used to stand on the west corner of Tai Yuen Street and Johnston Road. It was called the "Double Happiness Restaurant" (雙喜大茶樓) and was around for a while before being replaced (circa 2001) by a residential building that took the same name (雙喜樓). I'm not sure how long before its demolition the restaurant was still operational. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - Western Police Station, Sai Ying Pun

On his arrival back in Hong Kong, Jimmy is arrested by the local police on a made up charge, which Benton later finds out was to take him into protective custody. The Police Station he is being held out is supposedly Western Police Station on Des Voeux Road West at the bottom of Western Street. Of course, only the outside is seen on film. Other than a brief glimpse in Double Impact, I don't think this place has been seen in a foreign movie before.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - Sheung Wan Waterfront - Fireboat Alexander Grantham

I can't figure out the exact location of this one, but the interesting feature of the first image is the fact that just there in the background is the Fireboat Alexander Grantham, which was decommissioned in 2002 and now serves as a permanently grounded exhibition in Quarry Bay Park. I suspect this was somewhere close to the Harbour Office between Rumsey and Wing Wo Streets, but I am not sure if that area was a permanent berth for the boat or just a temporary one for fueling/loading etc. Anyway, if you look centre left off the end of the pier, you can see a ferry in the distance, so I suspect that is the location of the Central Vehicular Ferry Pier. If anyone knows a more accurate location, then please feel free to comment.

Anyway, this scene is when Don Benton (Basehart) sneaks out of Hong Kong and up the Pearl River Delta in order to rescue his downed pilot adopted brother, Jimmy (Burt Kwouk).

Monday, 29 March 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - 28 Tai Hang Road, Tai Hang

In the film, Richard Basehart's character is friends with a family who supposedly save him when he was shot down during the war, and so he has become and adopted "big brother". The family seems to be well to do and live in a rather large property somewhere. The establishing shot for their home is a rather grand looking place with some art deco styling and two Chinese characters embedded into the roof. This one took a while to locate because these screenshots were the only clue I had and thankfully I recognised Grandview Mansions on the hilltop in the background.

Anyway, it runs out that this property was located at #28 Tai Hang Road. The site is now occupied by a mid-60s era mid rise residential block called "Kan Oke House". As I sometimes do when I find something interesting on film, I posted the house on Gwulo.com and a local historian filled in the background details (and at the same time was obviously in awe of my location detective skills).

So, the house was built by a local merchant called Kwok Hin Wang in 1928 and the two characters in the roof, that you can't really make out in these screencaps (I believe there is a HD bluray release though, so perhaps that would be clearer) are 勤屋. In Cantonese this is pronounced as "kan uk" which basically translates to industrious/hardworking house. So the current building name, Kan Oke, is (and this happens a lot in Hong Kong) a name homage to the former occupant of the site.

Looking at the aerial images of the area, there are none available between 1960 and 1962, and by the time 1963 comes around the house had already been demolished and the plot was sitting empty. It was still empty in 1964 and by 1966 Kan Oke House had been built.

The first image obviously shows the view looking down Tai Hang Road. I probably shouldn't need to mention that the area looks vastly different today.

Or how about this for a nicely cleaned up stitched version.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - View from the Peak

Another view from the Peak for this film, except this time we are looking west towards Central. This view reminded me slightly of the opening scenes for Enter the Dragon which, if you remember, were reused for Robert Clouse's follow up movie, Golden Needles. You can view that old post here.

This view from Visa to Canton though looks to be on a higher elevation and slightly south which makes me think it was most likely shot from Mount Cameron, either from Cameron Mansions or #30 Magazine Gap Road.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - Central Fire Station, Connaught Road

For the third and final view from this same camera position, the camera has now rotated once again to the right and is now looking east along Connaught Road Central. In the distance on the left, at the end of block, is the old G.P.O. The closer building, centre frame on the opposite side of the road, is the old Central Fire Station. This was knocked down in 1982 to make way for the current Hang Seng HQ building.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - Central Vehicular Ferry Pier, Connaught Road

Following on from the previous post, the camera is turned to the right and we can see the old Central Vehicular Ferry Pier. Built at the end of a triangular causeway, this was the Hong Kong end of the route linked to the vehicular ferry pier at the end of Jordan Road in Kwun Chung.

In the later part of the 60s, the area of harbour to the left of the pier was reclaimed and at some point modifications were made to cater for the newly introduced double-decked ferries, including the construction of a single lane ramp that allowed cars to enter/exit from the top deck.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - Connaught Road Central

The next few posts show the same stretch of Connaught Road Central but all viewed from various angles. I've broken them down into three separate posts, one for each angle. The camera location is essentially on the waterside pavement, close to Central Vehicular Ferry Pier (as you'll see in the next post) and in terms of today's location, my best guess would be somewhere around here (it's a GoogleEarth Chrome link).

This first angle shows the view looking west along Connaught Road with the Macau<>HK Ferry pier coming into view as the camera pans to the right. Note the ship at berth, it's the Tai Loy (before it was renamed Chung Shan). Gwulo.com has some amazing images of this ferry being constructed here.

Visa to Canton - Richard Basehart (1960) - View from the Peak

Unbelievably, to me at least, I have stumbled upon yet another 60's era film that, although shot at Bray studios in Windsor, used proper location footage shot in Hong Kong for its various establishing shots. The film is Visa to Canton (a.k.a Passport to China) and is a Hammer Film production directed by Michael Carreras (who also directed another Hammer Hong Kong film: Shatter). According to various Hammer histories, the film was shot as a pilot for an intended US TV series followup that never happened. Perhaps the lukewarm reception of Hong Kong, shot the same year, turned the US execs off?

The plot is simple enough. Richard Basehart plays Don Benton, a former US pilot who has set up in Hong Kong after the war to run a travel agency. His adoptive family, headed by Mrs Mao (Athene Saylor in, sadly, 'yellowface'), ask him to help rescue their Kuomintang pilot son Jimmy (Burt Kwouk), who has been shot down in Mainland China.

Principal photography was done in June 1960 at Bray, but I can't find any mention of when or who shot the Hong Kong footage. The film was given a December release in the UK that year and, perhaps due to its reception, was released in cheaper black and white only format in the US a few months later.

It has some nice colour imagery of Hong Kong but starts with this nice panning shot looking over Wanchai from the Peak.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Something Good - Luca Barbareschi (2013) - Hong Kong's most prolific graffiti artist - Mr Yim Chiu-tong

I will finish the posts for the film on a capture taken some point in the middle of the movie as Matteo walks through one of Hong Kong's many back alleyways. It's a location that is too difficult to pin down but I though it was interesting to share because it features some graffiti on a wall that will be familiar to anyone who has been in Hong Kong over the past 15 years or so.

The graffiti (通渠 92263203 免棚) has been done by a plumber, Mr Yim Chiu-tong, who simply leaves his number and services on what must now be thousands of locations all over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. You can be out on a hike somewhere fairly difficult to reach and just towards the end as you descend back into civilisation, there on the roadside is Mr Yim's recognisable calling card. This guy's handiwork is everywhere.

I recall Chris Dewolf wrote an article about him on his Urban Photo blog several years ago. Sadly the blog appears to have been removed but good old Mr Dewolf appears to be moving some of its content over to Zolima City Mag where he has written many great pieces on local history and culture. Coincidentally, he has redone/rewritten his article about Mr Yim and it can be seen here: https://zolimacitymag.com/meet-plumber-king-hong-kong-unexpected-graffiti-icon/.

I've been keeping my eye out for a while to see if Mr Yim's painting efforts have ever made it into one of the more recent movies and am pleased to see that it has now been preserved in all of its celluloid digital glory.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Something Good - Luca Barbareschi (2013) - Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei

Trying to draw out this film as much as I can (because I have nothing in backup after running out of sources) and figured I would give this rather difficult location a stab. After a few minutes (!) I realised this is the rooftop of a building located on the corner of the junction between Saigon Street and Temple Street.

You can't actually see Temple Street in this shot because it is below the frame of the shot but the rooftop the two are talking on has a Temple Street address (#151). The street that is implied by the gap in the buildings behind Gary Lewis is in fact Saigon Street running from bottom right to centre frame. The two buildings on the opposite side facing Saigon Street stand at either side of the junction with Shanghai Street.

In addition to the above rooftop shot, in another part of the film is a shot used as part of a transition sequence that shows what I believe to be the view to the north from this exact same spot. You can just make out the red/orange paint job of the Alhambra Building behind the netted scaffolding on the left, followed by Honour House in the middle (behind the green netting) and finally the stripey exterior of the Hang Shing Building on the right.