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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Waterloo Road nr Lion Rock, Kowloon

Here's another shot taken on Waterloo Road on the corner close to where the road enters the Lion Rock Tunnel - again it's during the scene when Zhongkang is followed to their rendezvous by his mother.

Compare it to the Streetview shot I have below, you can see that many of the buildings seen on film are still around - even further down the road are some buildings that are still standing (and I think they are part of the Baptist Hospital and University). Also note that the second picture, which is looking up Waterloo Road in the other direction, the petrol station is still there, albeit noi longer run by Texaco.

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Shaw Bros Dorms, Clearwater Bay

In the scenes when Ching Li is rushing in the rain to try and meet up with Paul Chin Pei she supposedly leaves a 'clients' house (nope, not what you are thinking - she was a clothes designer in the film) in the pouring rain and heads to the car driven by her colleague (who also fancies her and has been waylaying her deliberately so she misses her date).

The building she is leaving is actually next door to Movietown and was one of the dormitory buildings that all the contracted staff lived in. The pebble-dashed panels on the front are quite distinctive. I went to the old studio site a couple of years back and these old dorm blocks were still there at the time in 2009 - though I believe they may be scheduled for redevelopment at some point.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Waterloo Road, Kowloon Tong

Just after Zhongkang departs Ocean Terminal with his mother following behind we are treated to various shots of roads around the territory as they drive towards their destination. Here is one that is easy to identify thanks to the brown building that can be seen in the background on the left.

There are various elements in this screen grab that remain intact even today, despite other radical changes. Let's start off by naming the brown building I just mentioned, it's the Mary Knoll Convent School that sits on the block of land where Waterloo Road intersects with Boundary Street. The school is one of the so-called HK 'elite' schools that sees local parents climbing over each other to send their kids to - many converting to Catholicism just to improve their chances! Anyway, here is a grab from Google's excellent Streetview.

As you can see the school's low wall on the left can also still be seen, as can the white building at the far end of the wall. What has changed is that Waterloo Rd now has a flyover as it crosses Boundary Street. I don't know when it was built but you can see the slight slope on the more recent shot as we go further into the background. In 1971 it seems that traffic for straight on still had to stop at whatever traffic lights were at the intersection.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Here's a view we've seen before but this time 16 years later. To be honest this area didn't really change that much until the late 70's when the original KCR Terminus, in all its colonial glory, was demolished leaving just the clock tower. Look at the bottom right of the screen and you will see where the kerb curves into the Peninsula's driveway (you still drove into the hotel in a clockwise direction then). Actually, this same angle is used twice in the film, in the lower (later) image you can see slightly more of the old YMCA building.

Other things to note are Star House in the far distance with a blue sign hanging on it. This building remains the same today (but for how long I don't know?). The closer building with the rather ornate entrance cover is actually the previous incarnation of the YMCA - now known as "The Salisbury". The current version was built in the early 90's (and opened by HK's last Governor Chris Patton) and has nice elements to it such as the rounded corners but it's not a patch on the building it replaced.

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Ocean Terminal carpark, Tsim Sha Tsui

In Sunset, Zhongkang has arranged to meet his mum up here. He waits in the car and we see her car drive up with the Hongkong Hotel in the background, as well as Star House and the clocktower of the old KCR terminus in the background.

We are then treated to a shot of both cars leaving the car park by its Canton Road exit. Any visitors to modern day HK will recognise this place along Canton Rd where it's virtually impossible to cross the entrance to this place without the assistance of some guard with his whistle. What can I say, it's a popular car park and no one likes to give an inch.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Shaw Bros House, Clearwater Bay

Speaking of the Shaw Bros house (as I just was), the iconic building can be see a bit later in the film when Zhongkang turns up to give out some tickets to his brothers violin recital. The oval doorway you can see is actually the house's main entrance, but has been altered with the words Concert Hall stuck above the curved lintel.

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Shaw Bros House, Clearwater Bay

I'm not doing these scenes in any kind of order so here is a shot from a little bit into the film when we find out where Zhongkang (Paul Chin's character) is working: at a car workshop.

The clue for this location can be seen in the background and perhaps is only obvious to people who have been to the location. It's changed a lot but the house in the background is unmistakable and can be seen when a taxi is called for one of the workshops clients who also happens to be Zhongkang's estranged mother.

Of course it's the Shaw Bros house with its odd window shades and smaller arched window openings underneath. The terrain has changed quite a bit because the new office block was built at about the same location where the workshop would have been built but the embankment seen behind the taxi cab is still there - albeit on the other side of a concrete wall.