Monday, June 27, 2011

The Protector - Jackie Chan (1985) - Shum Wan, Lamma Island

JC fans will know that there are in fact two versions of The Protector. There's the US version released internationally (that even did a stint at my old local Odeon Cinema back in Coventry when I was a schoolboy - though sadly I was too young to get in thanks to its 18 certificate) and the rewritten HK version that JC did because he was so pissed off at James Glickenhaus, the director. Due to the rewrite a bunch of scenes got chopped from the HK version and the following scene is one of them. It's when JC and gang go to meet Moon Lee's uncle on his junk only to find he has been killed and the boat set on fire (in the HK version he is found at a dockyard and Bill Wallace turns up again for another rumble). Here is a grab from the scene in the US version when they go to the bay and find uncle's boat on fire.

Check out the rock formation on the left hand side. This is important because it was key to identifying the location. So here is the same location today complete with the rock formation - although my camera hasn't stretched it the way the film's camera has (plus I was slightly further around as you can see by the angle).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

There is a scene at the end of the Soldier of Fortune when Hank (Clark Gable) is watching Hoyt (Haywood - or at least her double) board a PanAm bus on the Peninsula forecourt. The camera then pans left and we get a view of Salisbury Road in its former low rise glory. Behold! unspoilt view of the clock tower when it was still part of the train station.

Here's a shot of my own (for a change) showing a similar angle. Can you still see the clock tower?(Answer: No, you can't :-( ).

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Son A-Chang - Bruce Lee (1950) - Old KCR Railway in Shatin Valley, New Territories

Many people aren't aware of the numerous childhood films made by Bruce Lee, this one is perhaps one of the more famous ones. I'm not sure why but actually I'm quite impressed by the acting ability he showed as a fairly precocious 10 year old - certainly better than when he was a teenager.

Anyway, like many early films in HK the outdoor locations are fairly sparse (most were shot in the various studios dotted around the Diamond Hill area) but this film has a great scene at the end where everyone is walking along the KCR railway track somewhere I think would be the current Tai Wai area. Cue views of the Shatin valley when it still had a natural shoreline and views unspoilt by the numerous highrises that clutter the view now. Hard to believe that this seeming sleepy and unspoilt part of the NT is now the biggest urban area outside of Kowloon and HK Island.

This shot above shows the troupe walking along the track (it was a legal and commonplace practice until the line was electrified simply because it was often the quickest route to your destination) looking northeast towards the distant hillsides of Ma On Shan (Ma On Shan is in fact the saddle shaped ridgeline at the top).

Another northeasterly-angled screen cap, this one again shows Ma On Shan as well as a smaller dark island behind the main actor. This in fact was an island called Yuen Chau Kok. The island still exists today but is now part of the eastern riverbank reclamation. If you have ever stayed at the Regal Riverside Hotel in Shatin then you would have stayed right next to this place.

This shot above shows a view a little over to the left of the last ones (still not directly north though). I believe the hillside in the background is where the current "The Great Hill" complex is located. So it is likely the buildings on the hill (top left) are part of Tao Fung Shan.

The last shot shows us looking back down the track in a south westerly direction towards where the Beacon Hill tunnel is. Essentially Shatin Heights in on the right and the slope rising up on the left is the NT side of Beacon Hill itself. It's really quite astonishing to see how this area has completely changed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Private Eyes - Hui Brothers (1976) - Chater Garden, Central

Okay, granted you can't actually see Chater Garden on the next shot but it looks to be the approximate position (perhaps slightly more to the east) from where this shot was filmed. I believe this film was made just after the old Cricket Club grounds were turned into what we now know as Chater Garden circa 1975.

What we have here is a view of Central, lower left you can see the top of the old Supreme Court building which became the Legislative Council building and will soon again become law courts. Above that we have the Princes Building and to the right of that is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel followed by the iconic Jardine House (though at the time was still known as the Connaught Centre) with its round windows - HK's first official skyscraper. Moving on to the right we have the old Hong Kong Club building (such a shame that place was demolished) at the bottom of the screen and hiding behind that is the tower of City Hall. Next to the HK Club we have a building called Sutherland House which stood on the spot that was until recently occupied by the Ritz Carlton (it's currently an empty space).

With two exceptions: the HK Club and Sutherland House, all these buildings remain.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Private Eyes - Hui Brothers (1976) - Pedder Street, Central

Classic Cantonese comedy from the mid-70's with a catchy theme tune sung by Sam Hui. The opening titles of the film have various snap shots of buildings until stopping on this junction that is actually where Pedder Street crosses Chater Road and Des Voeux Road.

Look carefully up Pedder Street (the road that leads of to wards the top left) and you should be able to make out the Pedder Building. Look right and you can see the old General Post Office with its colonial facade. The GPO was knocked down and replaced by Worldwide House but strangely several of the old columns from the Post Office were preserved and hauled half way up Kwun Yam Shan (behind Kadoorie Farm) where they form part of some bizarre misplaced memorial - perhaps to remind everyone just how crap at preservation HK truly is.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Protector - Jackie Chan (1985) - Man Mo Temple, Sheung Wan

Perhaps one of the most famous temples on HK Island rears its head in The Protector - 25 years after it appeared in The World of Suzie Wong, but looking very similar to how we now it today. You also get a nice shot looking up Ladder Street. Visitors to the area today will recognise the red-tiled round window of the neighbouring antiques emporium.

What has disappeared in the intervening years are the octagonal headed fire hydrant (a increasingly rare relic of  HK's past) and of course the red pillar box. Both were also seen on The World of Suzie Wong, but have since been replaced/removed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Enter The Dragon - Bruce Lee (1973) - Aberdeen Harbour, Hong Kong

Okay, I am repeating myself here a bit because I quickly covered Aberdeen Harbour for Enter the Dragon in this post - however, that post was merely to point out the fact that the film makers inadvertently captured the burnt out wreck of Jumbo Floating Restaurant Mark 1 (mark 2 - the current version - actually opened in 1976).

Of course the Aberdeen scene in Enter is quite crucial because it's where all the fighters board the junk bound for Han's Island. There are two shots in particular I would like to show you, the first taken when Bruce is sitting at the front of the sampan getting rowed to the junk. You need to look at the hillside on the right hand side to see what is the Old Aberdeen Police Station.

Believe it or not this building still exists and after several incarnations and usages it now seems to be some sort of youth centre called "The Warehouse". I wrote an article for Time Out Hong Kong a few months ago and needed a comparison shot, so out of the kindness of his own heart Thomas Ngan provided me with one. As you should be able to see the amount of development in Aberdeen has been considerable - not surprising considering the Govt had to rehouse several thousand boat-dwellers over the past couple of decades. Anyway, trust me when I tell you the Old Police Station is still there, just hidden behind those block you can see on the opposite side of the harbour (in fact behind the brown highrise that i sitting above the two side-by-side boats on the water).

Photo courtesy of Thomas Ngan

The next shot was taken - I believe - from one of the tall buildings that line the Aberdeen Praya Road i.e. the road in front of the aforementioned Police Station. It shows a great view of the whole harbour from 1973 in which we can see several points of interest.

The first is the power station in the background on Ap Lei Chau. This was HK Electrics power station, it was diesel-powered (see Thomas's comment below) and sat on the spot for quite some time before the powers-that-be decided to shift it over to Lamma Island and ruin the natural scenery over there instead. The site was then used for the development of what is now called South Horizons. Yes, if you live in South Horizons you are sitting on the site of an old power station. Don't worry, I'm sure they decontaminated the earth before they built it :-)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Enter The Dragon - Bruce Lee (1973) - Kau Yi Chau, Outlying Islands

Despite the fact that all of the filming of Han's Island actually took place at a private property in Tai Tam called Palm Villa, there was an real island used for the black and white photo shown to Lee during his mission briefing with Braithewaite (played by Geoffrey Weeks).

The picture was an aerial shot taken - according to Paul Heller's film commentary - from a plane flown by Roy Chiao. Chiao, of course, played the head monk in the film who is seen at the beginning of the film, but was a noted Chinese actor of high repute as well as being a top class pilot.

What we see on film though is actually a composite photo containing three elements: a real island (Kau Yi Chau), Palm Villa's stepped tennis courts and King Yin Lei (used in the film to represent Han's mansion).

Unfortunately I don't have the resources to rent a helicopter and try to reproduce this angle for you, but courtesy of GoogleEarth we can get a computerised approximation - obviously minus the superimposed elements of the tennis courts and mansion, but otherwise looking just the same as it did in 1973. No surprise really because I don't think this island is actually inhabited. The first shot is to give you some context so you can see where the island actually lies within HK waters. For those who aren't familiar with the geography you can see HK Island at the right hand side, the c-shaped island on the left is Peng Chau and the development to the north of there is, believe it or not....Disneyland.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Man with the Golden Gun - Roger Moore (1974) - R.M.S Queen Elizabeth, Hong Kong Harbour

When I did a locations thread for this film on Gwulo a while ago, this was by far the most interesting one - mainly because no one knew where it had finally sunk. Anyway, the guys on there got their resourceful hats on, as always and finally nailed it as being a part of the sea off Stonecutters Island that now sits under a bit of reclaimed land.

Of course everyone who has seen the film knows this location served as the covert HQ of Bond's boss in HK but, in reality, it was the old Queen Elizabeth ship that had been bought by the shipping magnate C.Y Tung (the father of HK's first lame duck Chief Executive - Tung Chee Hwa - the first of many I suspect). He bought the ship and was in the process of turning it into a floating university (called the S.S Seawise - C.Y's...geddit?) when it caught fire under mysterious circumstances in January 1972 and was burnt to the rusty hulk you see on film.

The main part of the superstructure that was above water was broken down and (I believe) was used to form some of the ground on which Chek Lap Kok airport now stands whereas the remaining part remained on the seabed until the area known as CT9 was built over it (CT stands for Container Terminal) at the SE tip of Tsing Yi island (the new Stonecutters Bridge virtually passes over the top of the area now).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Man with the Golden Gun - Roger Moore (1974) - HK->Macau Ferry, Sheung Wan

Well, seeing as I mentioned this place yesterday I figured we may as well post it up properly. Of course these days the huge Shun Tak Centre sits on top of the site and the view down Connaught Road is no longer open due to the construction of the flyover (which means these days you can only see Western Market with great difficulty).

The Man with the Golden Gun - Roger Moore (1974) - Western Market, Sheung Wan

Yes, believe it or not Western Market has been on a James Bond film, albeit in the background of the scene when Bond arrives at the Macau <-> Hong Kong hydrofoil jetty. Look carefully in the background of these shots and you should recognise its distinctive patterned brickwork.

The only question I have is...did it have complete and utter crap in it back in 1974 too or was it put to a more worthwhile use?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Bowen Road, Wanchai - Hong Kong

Immediately prior to the scene where we see Hank Lee's (Clark Gable) stupendous house in the guise of King Yin Lei, we are treated to a quick car tour which includes a short trip along Bowen Road.

More famous these days as a jogging spot and place to go and get your pet dogs killed by the infamous Bowen Road dog killer, the place is still quite picturesque and provides a great scenic walk that provides nice and cool shade on even the hottest of days.

The top shows nice views over Happy Valley, and look closely on the second pic and you will see the roof of King Yin Lei sticking out above the trees - much as it still does today.

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Barker Road Peak Tram Stop, The Peak

This location is actually used twice in the film - both at the beginning and end. It's where Hank Lee stands surveying the harbour just before the opening credits, and, in the final scene.

I've included the back-projected scene with hayward because it shows off the house on the Peak behind her head. Also note the green tram car - one of this vintage is now on display in front of the Peak Galleria - and a worthy addition to another wise tacky tourist area.

Barker Road Tram Stop was opened at the same time as the tram line itself - in 1888 - and is still there and in daily use by the people who live around Barker Road and surrounds. Incidentally, if anyone has read Martin Booth's Gweilo (or Golden Boy) childhood memoir, there is a chapter where he describes riding the tram with his mum as they were filming these scenes at Barker Road.

Enter The Dragon - Bruce Lee (1973) - Muslim Cemetery, Happy Valley

In the scene where Lee goes to his mother's grave to beg forgiveness for his impending resort to extreme violence, the Muslim Cemetery was used to as the location for this scene. Like many other places of religious and/or spiritual significance in Hong Kong, the place has managed to stay fairly untouched over the years.

The location used is on the very top tier of the terraced cemetery and offers some great views over the racecourse and surrounding area. Here is what it looks like today. Look carefully and you will see many of the same headstones.

And in case you were wondering what is written on the front of the gravestone Bruce was looking at, here is a snap of the front. So now you can see what Bruce was looking at all those years ago.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Enter The Dragon - Bruce Lee (1973) - Wholesale Fruit Market, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

It's a fleeting glimpse but it's there nonetheless. During the opening credits when Jim Kelly's character Williams is wandering around Kowloon he takes a short trip down the middle of the wholesale fruit market.