Monday, January 30, 2012

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Des Voeux Road, Hong Kong

There's another great section of this film where Susan Hayward's stand-in (Dale Logue) rides a rickshaw around town in a vain search for her missing husband.

At one point we see her on a stretch of the Des Voeux Road which is almost as recognisable today even though all the buildings along it have changed - Hong Kong can be a bit weird like that. One feature that helps us place this shot is the building in the far background which is the old Wing On building. Wing On still occupies the same site today, albeit with a slightly more modern building.

The second recognisable part is the intersection of Des Voeux Road and Wing Lok Street which joins at a tangent to the left of the curved building in the background. The Streetview grab below shows pretty much the same angle as the film - the gold-windowed building (above the jaywalking pedestrian) being the modern day replacement of the curved one in the 1955 picture.

The bottom screen grab shows a closer view of the aforementioned Wing On building that can be seen in the background of the top picture. It is a good example of how film makers mess with geography because this second shot occurs almost immediately after the top shot even though Hayward's character can be seen moving away from it in the top shot.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - KCR Train Terminus, Kowloon

A shot from the opening credits of Soldier of Fortune. The angle indicates this shot was taken from the roof of either the YMCA  or the Peninsula Hotel. It was a sad day when the Colonial Administration took the decision to knockdown the train terminus building in 1978.

It's not just the clock tower that can still be seen today, but also the small white tower that once supported the time ball in the grounds of the Marine Police HQ. The hillside it was standing on has been excavated - a terrible, terrible decision in my opinion and is now supported by its own little pillar so that lots of really REALLY useful* high-end jewellery shops can be squeezed into the space around the ground level.

* If you can't tell that I am being sarcastic, then perhaps you shouldn't read this blog.

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Queens Building, HK Island

Here is another shot from the intro taken from the harbour right in front of Queen's Building - once again showing the large COOK'S sign on the harbour-side of the building.

It's not just the old buildings that I find fascinating, but also the almost complete lack of development on the hillside at the back. It's difficult to see anything through the hundreds of high-rises these days. There are a few other things to spot though including the old HSBC building, the old Bank of China building, The Hong Kong Club (far left), what looks like the pitched roof of Blake Pier in the foreground and the former LegCo building (aka Supreme Court) behind it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Soldier of Fortune - Clark Gable (1955) - Connaught Road, HK Island

There are lots of scene-setting shots in Soldier of Fortune that reveal a great deal of what HK was like in 1955. The following is from an extended view along - a then harbourfront - Connaught Road including one of the old police platforms used by traffic constables for directing traffic.

Being on the waterfront, as it was, Connaught Road is unrecognisable today and I've included a streetview grab below so you can see what the same stretch of road looks like today. Look carefully on the film grabs and in the distance you will see what was Queen's Building on the corner of Statue Square (just to the right of the police platform). Of course this was replaced by the Mandarin Oriental about 10 years later. This view is impossible now.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The World of Suzie Wong - William Holden (1960) - The Chartered Bank, Hong Kong

The south side of Statue Square was - and still is - fronted by the various major banks. There is a point in the film when Lomax (Holden) realises he needs a bit of cash - strapped as he is as a freelance artist - so off he heads to try and get a loan. Where does he go? The Chartered Bank. Formerly known as The Chartered Bank of India Australia and China (it went on to become Standard Chartered circa 1970).

The first shot shows Holden standing on a very familiar spot (familiar to anyone in HK at least because the building in the background is the former Supreme Court building, subsequently the former Legislative Council Building and soon to reappear as a law court when the Final Court of Appeal moves there from the former French Mission building at the top of nearby Battery Path.

Both the Chartered Bank building and HSBC behind it have since been rebuilt but the Bank of China building at the far end of the row is still standing. The BOC created their new HQ on a different site (the site of the Murray Building that now - or at least a 70% new version of it - stands in Stanley).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The World of Suzie Wong - William Holden (1960) - Statue Square, Hong Kong

Actually, this area was and still is dissected by Chater Road and the part featured below is really the area next to the Cenotaph (though we don't see this on film), I've used Statue Square in the title because it's perhaps more familiar and we still get to some see the buildings that encircle(d) it anyway.

Well, immediately after crossing Connaught Road from Edinburgh Place, Holden (as Robert Lomax) walks to ask directions to the Nam Kok Hotel. Unfortunately the filmmakers at this point thought it would be more interesting to have a rickshaw blocking the foreground whilst the fantastic old Queen's and Prince's buildings get largely obscured in the background and as such we get only glimpses of how impressive these buildings were.

Queen's Building was of course replaced by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in 1963, not long after this film was made (the COOKS sign above can be spotted on almost any old photo of the place) and the Prince's Building still exists - albeit in name only.

Interestingly, on this last shot above we can see the former versions of both the Standard Chartered Bank Building (then just known as "The Chartered Bank") and part of the previous (and much more pleasing to me) HSBC building.

The World of Suzie Wong - William Holden (1960) - Old Star ferry Pier, Hong Kong

This place has only just recently moved into the history books because it was still around until the Wanchai->Central reclamation started in 2006 when it was - after huge demonstrations by the public - finally closed and then demolished to make way for...a road *sigh*.

Anyway, immediately after alighting from the previous mentioned Star Ferry, we see Lomax (Holden) making his way towards Statue Square via the Edinburgh Place ferry pier. More on Statue Square later but here are some grabs of how the pier used to look.

There are still a few remnants of the old ferry area still being used such as the Edinburgh Place car parks but everything else has been ripped out and gone. Here is Holden crossing Connaught Road Central - not something I would recommend anyone attempt today.

See all the buildings in the background? A couple are still around and I talked about them here not so long ago. The one right next to Holden's head is the impressive and still standing Chinese Chamber of Commerce building. The most striking building for me is the old GPO - the smaller building on the left behind the lamp post - with its colonial style columns and you can see the mail tower to the left of Holden where mail was loaded on and off boats at the harbour front via a conveyor belt mechanism.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The World of Suzie Wong - William Holden (1960) - Hop Yat Church, Hong Kong

Speaking of Hop Yat Church - as I just recently mentioned the Kowloon version here - here is a grab from The World of Suzie Wong which depicts William Holden as Lomax just arriving at the Nam Kok Hotel and going out on the roof to admire the (admittedly very impressive at a time before highrises obscured it all) vista.

The image below shows Holden in a studio set with a projected background view of the mid-levels (when they were still low-rise!), but it's worth showing because the filmmakers captured the Hop Yat Church (a.k.a Church of Christ in China) on Caine Road in their back-projected film.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sunset - Paul Chin Pei (1971) - Princess Margaret Road, Kowloon

Here is one found inadvertently thanks to Dan Thomas managing to spot a difficult location from Police Story. I've never been to this part of Kowloon and was thrown for a while by the Chinese writing on the wall of the building in the right of the shot which (I think?) says "Mongkok" - or at least the proper Chinese equivalent.

I can't recreate the exact angle but here is a shot from street view where you can see that the church above is still around. The church is the Kowloon namesake of a perhaps more famous one on HK Island called Hop Yat Church. Here is the (Chinese) website:

The next shot afterwards is a bit wobbly (I had de-interlace turned on and only later realised that for moving screenshots it wasn't so great) but you get to see the corner with the small low-rise Kowloon Hospital out clinic tucked into the bend. It's still there, by the way but the flyover has an additional flyover built over the top of it now running east to west along Argyle Street.