Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Ferry Point Estate, Yau Ma Tei

There is a part of the film when our young couple take a trip on a boat - I'm assuming it's a ferry but the route it takes is perhaps not the most efficient way across the harbour because it ends up at the waterfront in Yau Ma Tei (I guess it could have been the old vehicular ferry). Well, it doesn't matter but one shot does show some buildings that can still be found.

The buildings at the back of this shot are the Ferry Point Estate along Man Cheong St - a street that, as you can see, was once right at the water's edge. The west Kowloon reclamation has put a stop to that and they are now marooned 300 metres inland.

These buildings make up the Ferry Point Estate. All eight of them are called Man...something and were built in stages throughout the 60's - the oldest ones were actually built circa 1964 and the last completed circa 1970. So they were fairly new when this film was made.

Judging from the angle of this shot the boat must have been somewhere off the eastern side of Tsim Sha Tsui - probably the area where the iconic Arch now stands (on solid ground!). The nearest is the Man King Building followed by Man Fai, Man Yiu and finally Man Cheong Buildings. These four are the ones that used to face the water and another four older ones on the right of these facing Ferry St. Here is a more recent picture courtesy of hmachan on Panoramio.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Deepwater Bay, Hong Kong Island

At the beginning of the film, after the boys follow the girls from the Castle Peak Hotel, they have a bit of a race along what looks like Castle Peak Road before coming to a stop in...Deepwater Bay - yes, all the way over on the south of HK Island without even using the vehicular ferry to cross the harbour. Ah! the wonders of film reality.

Of course they have just collided their cars and all jump out to see the damage and have a bit of a set to. First we see them driving into a roadside parking area. Actually believe it or not this parking area is still around and there are still trees growing out of the middle of it (can't confirm they are the same ones though).

You see the very steep hill in the background above? Well this is also known as Brick Hill and these days has the Ocean Park cable car going up the side of it.

In the background of the above shot we can see the golf course for the Hong Kong Golf Club - a venerable HK Institution that although only having 9 holes, gets an extra 'hole each day when Li Ka Shing goes and plays his morning round.

In the background of our last screen grab we can see Middle Island, the home of the south island venue of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. To round it all off here is a modern day grab courtesy of Streetview.

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Lung Cheung Road, Kowloon

This scene is the end of the section when he goes to meet his mother and they drive through various parts of Kowloon before pulling in to stop at a sandy quarried hilltop. I can confirm that this sandy little area was just off Lung Cheung Road, about 100 metres west of the famous Lung Cheung Lookout. I live nearby here and have had a jolly good look around and can tell you that although some large boulders remain, the sandy area has long been excavated to make way for various CityU associated dorms and buildings down the hill. However, look at the shot below and you can see the shaved hillside in the background which IS still around and forms the edge of the road immediately north of the aforementioned lookout.

The car almost immediately turns off the road onto the sandy area and this is where the rendezvous between Chin Pei and his onscreen mother takes place. The thing I hadn't realised before is that the famous Checkerboard Hill in the background (you can see a checkerboard at the top of the picture immediately below) actually had two checkerboards. It had one facing south which can still be seen from various parts of Kowloon despite the weather's best attempts (the the Govt's lack of willingness to preserve it) and it also had a west facing one that can be seen in the shots below as well as in this photo over on These days it is almost completely covered in tree growth and thus is out of site (but perhaps better preserved as a result?)

Lion Rock at the back

We can also make out various aspects of Kowloon Tong in the background including the barracks.

The west Checkerboard in the background

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Perth Street, Kowloon

One of the benefits of going back over stuff I did a few years ago is that I have the chance to reassess some of the locations I did then. I do sometimes get stuff wrong and unless I go back or someone points out a mistake they tend to get left up here. Here's a perfect example that I initially put as Ho Man Tin Hill. After reviewing the film in better definition something struck me about the background and it turns out that although I had the angle from the mountain fairly well, I had gone south too far by about 300 metres.

It turns out that the hill that Ching Li runs up after visiting Zhongkang's house used to sit just to the north of King George V school on a plot of land now occupied by the Shun Tak Fraternal Association Seaward Woo College at the end of Perth Street.

A good clue is seeing the south facing checkerboard in the background (above) which gives a general impression of which way we are facing, but the detail I noticed second time around was the presence of the various Chinese-styled buildings of Kowloon Hospital in the background. You can see the ridge of a roof in the centre left background of the picture below and between the actors heads in the second photo below is the distinct shape of what I believe is Block A of the Kowloon Hospital buildings. This means that the building that can be seen behind the actors in both captures below is the precursor to today's The Astrid development. The address now is 180 Argyle Street, but I have no idea if that was changed when the plot was redeveloped.

Further confirmation can be found below when the two turn back to run down the hill and a few buildings seen in the background including St George's Court on Kadoorie Hill (immediately above their heads). In fact you can see some of the houses that line Kadoorie Avenue below it. Also the tall buildings on the left hand side are a development called Mount Trio. Far right is Kowloon Hospital West Wing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Film Pilgrimage by Gary Wong

For those with a HK film locations bent (which I assume you have if you are reading this blog) I can wholly recommend a new book out by Red-Publishing called: 電影朝聖 (English: Film Pilgrimage). It's been put together by Gary Wong who has been blogging about this kind of stuff for substantially longer than myself. You can find his similarly-named blog here:

Red Publish website:

Okay, this is a Chinese book but if you don't read Chinese the book will still be helpful because the locations are identified in English at the top of the page and of course each film shot at the location is also listed with it's English name (incl. actors and director) in the text. There are some great photos and Gary has literally been all over HK (as well as Macau, Taiwan, China and even to Hungary) to compile this very impressive list. Obviously this is a HK released book, it costs HK$98.00 and I got my copy from The Commercial Press, but you should be able to buy it at any bookshop with Chinese titles (e.g Poplar etc).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Enter The Dragon - Bruce Lee (1973) - Tsing Shan Monastery, Tuen Mun

The location for one of Bruce's most famous scenes involving the 'pointing finger' lesson. This place, other than the greenery being cut back, hasn't really changed at all. It's a hell of a traipse up the hillside to get to the location (best to get a cab if you are a bit of a wimp) and you'll be sweaty when you get to the monastery, but arriving at the filming location is well worth the effort.

Let's look at the locations as they are today. First off (top photo) we have the area where Bruce teaches the young Lao (played by Tung Wei) the finer points of emotional content.

Although a slightly different angle to that seen on film the area, including the wall and the tree you see above, are both original elements that can be seen on screen at various points. Pretty much unchanged but as mentioned much of the tree growth has been cut back either due to it becoming uncontrollable or perhaps due to the effects of HK's notorious typhoons that blow through most summers (the location is fairly exposed on a hillside). Anyway, moving left in the above shot we have a flat area where Lee had earlier taken tea with Mr Braithewaite (some tea, Mr Bwaithwaite?) played by Geoffrey Weeks (Weeks can also be seen in the WB produced That Man Bolt, but according to EtD Assistant Director he was actually a radio presenter at Radion Telecom Hong Kong).

In the film you don't get to see much other than the roof top of a temple/shrine behind Lee, but actually from this vantage point is a great view across the Tuen Mun valley. Again, lots of greenery now missing due to the ravages of time. Moving on up the hill to the next terrace up we go to the location of the reinstated (for the 25th anniversary release) scene involving Lee's dialog with the ubiquitous Roy Chiao playing the head monk.

Coincidentally, Lee's dialog on the DVD release was provided by John Little doing a not-bad impression of Bruce and Roy Chiao re-looping his lines via satellite phone from HK. When John was here filming in August 2009 it was the first time he had visited the location so I guess it must have been nice to see the place his voice 'virtually' went to several years before :-)

Anyway, as you can see, other than a huge tree that went missing in the background the concreted pathway remains virtually the same including the small stone table and stools which can be seen on film. The green railings are fairly new.

Enter The Dragon - Bruce Lee (1973) - Tai Tam Bay, HK Island

 The location used in the film to represent the waterfront on Han's Island was a small bay at the foot of the Lo mansion on Tai Tam Road. The bay is still there and fairly unchanged despite the massive redevelopment that the former tennis courts and mansion underwent just up the hill. These days access is from two directions - either by copying Bruce and going by boat (as John Little does in his "Pursuit" documentary) or via a small gateway on the main road next to the monstrous Pacific View apartment complex (the development that eradicated forever all traces of the tournament grounds - i.e. tennis courts - from the film). Here's a reminder.

...and here is how it looks today (although the jetty has collapsed somewhat and needs re-concreting in one spot).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Aberdeen Harbour, HK Island

Aberdeen is just one of those places that keeps cropping up again and again in films - particularly ones aimed at foreign audiences. Probably because until recently it showed a very different side to Hong Kong with its floating shanty town - now disappeared.

It appears again at the beginning of Solder of Fortune and we see an angle taken from what I believe is Hong Kong side looking south towards Ap Lei Chau in the background. The presence of the northernmost corner of the Aberdeen Seminary (top left of the top picture) tells me the camera is sited along what is now Wong Chuk Hang Road (was it the same name in 1955, or all just part of Aberdeen Praya?).

Anyway, there is some familiar scenery in the bottom two pictures which show the various fishing and living vessels that still occupy Aberdeen Harbour even today.

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Stanley Bay, HK Island

One of the travelogue-style glimpses of the territory that we see during the opening scenes is of Stanley Bay on the southside of Hong Kong Island. Long before reclamation put paid to the beach here you can see it was a reasonably busy bay with lots of small fishing vessels moored in the shallows.

The strip of land in the background is the Stanley peninsula which houses a prison and PLA barracks (formerly Stanley Fort) as well as the famous military cemetery.

The World of Suzie Wong - William Holden (1960) - Star Ferry, Tsim Sha Tsui

Still one of the top boat rides in the world (so I keep reading, at least) and I suspect William Holden would have agreed (he owned a house on Lantau Island with Stephanie Powers) because it's where his character, Robert Lomax, meets Suzie for the first time.

The boat you see featured in the film was the "Radiant Star" which sadly saw its last trip in 1971 (its first trip was in 1956 - so it was a fairly new boat when the film was made). I'm not sure but I think most of the boats that plow the harbour these days were all inaugurated in the 1960's - but there are three that are still Suzie Wong 'vintage': Celestial Star (天星 1956), Meridian Star (二代 1958) and Solar Star (日星 1958).

Below is a dialogue scene between Holden and Kwan that was actually filmed in the studio (as all dialogue scenes were done this way). The background is back-projected but it's still interesting to see how low-rise the HK side of the harbour was in 1959/1960 and it's nice to see the sadly missed Star Ferry clock in the lower picture.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The World of Suzie Wong - William Holden (1960) - Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui

Immediately after crossing the bus terminus, Holden enters the TST Star Ferry pier. Although it looks as though the entrance he used is the one that is now used for entering the harbour tour ferry. I could be wrong as I rarely use the ferry these days - if I go to HK Island it's almost invariably to Quarry Bay over to the east.

The World of Suzie Wong - William Holden (1960) - Bus Terminus, Tsim Sha Tsui

Not much has changed here since 1959/60 when the film was shot, however, one major change is the rebuilding of Star House at the back from this humble two-storey place into the 18+-storey place it is today. Plans were afoot to turn the bus terminus into a plaza and move the buses to Mody Rd, but I believe this stupid idea has been thwarted by some people with rather more common sense than is usually shown by HK Govt bureaucrats. It's a good job because moving the buses away would almost certainly finish off the Star Ferry once and for all.

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - So Kon Po Stadium, Happy Valley

The location of the two lovers first official rendezvous looks as though it may have been held at the previous incarnation of what is now known as HK Stadium i.e. the location where the Rugby 7's is held every year. Back in the early 70's it was still a concrete monstrosity.

In case you didn't realise that this is what the So Kon Po stadium used to look like there is a good clue in the second screencap which shows the external wall of the neighbouring South China Athletic Association sports ground along Caroline Hill Road. The small building behind Paul Chin Pei's head is the Indian Recreation Clubhouse. He's standing in the east side stands.