Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Taxi Driver - David Chiang (1975) - The Hyatt Hotel, Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

An unmistakeable place thanks to its unique ramped entrance from Lock Road. The hotel was recently knocked down (in 2006, the same year I moved to HK) and replaced by the godawful iSquare mall. Prior to being the Hyatt it was originally called The President Hotel and opened for business in 1963.

I'm not sure when it was rebranded as a Hyatt (i.e. so was it still The Preseident or The Hyatt when this film was made in 1975?) but it remained so until its demolition which is when Hyatt moved their main Kowloon-side hotel over to The Masterpiece (above K11 mall). Judging from the screen grabs below, it looks as though the up ramp started at the Peking Road end of the building. In the first screen grab below, the building to the right of the flag poles (to the right of the taxi) is the Universal Commercial Building which still stands, and the doorway immediately behind those flag poles was the basement entrance to Club Tasagore (now Delaney's) whose sign can be seen in films such as Enter The Dragon and The Protector.

Bottom picture shows the down ramp with the buildings of Lock Road on the opposite side of the street. From what I can tell, all of those buildings are still standing.

As an interesting and film-related aside, it was this hotel that served as one of the early meeting places between Bruce Lee and Raymond Chow, and also where Lee was first introduced to Betty Ting Pei. The hotel had a rather famous restaurant bar called Hugo's which seems to have been one of Bruce's favoured watering spots.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Taxi Driver - David Chiang (1975) - Waterloo Road, Kowloon

Yes, another one for Waterloo Road except this time we are at the section that sits between Argyle Street and Prince Edward Road West. Specifically it's the part where the Prince Edward Road flyover begins. The scene involves a guy who is obviously a bit on the stingey side who is riding in a cab that is stuck in a jam and his fare keeps ticking up. In 1975 the metre ticks over by 20 cents at a time - not bad considering the flag fall has almost doubled just in the past 7 years I have been living here. But then again we are talking about the 1975 value of 20 cents which I guess was much higher.

Anyway, the exact spot is pretty much at the start of the flyover and there are still some recognisable buildings to be seen. The historical point to note - well, at least for me - is that this was filmed whilst the flyover was still under construction.

It looks like the above shot was taken from the under-construction flyover, looking south towards Argyle St direction. The streetview grab below is about as close as I can get, but note that the building behind the low red wall in the lower shot is the same one with the pedestrian standing next to it in the screen grab. It's called May Moon House and was built in circa 1959). Likewise, a bit further down the road is a low rise building - very typical of the area post-war before all the high stuff started going up - and its red window frames can be seen in the screen grab above. It doesn't have a name but the address is 93 - 95a Waterloo Rd and was built a few years earlier circa 1956.

This shot above is actually looking the other way - towards Prince Edward Road - and if you look in the distance you can see the front (or at least part of) St Theresa's Church. Below is another southward looking shot. Other than the flyover, this area doesn't seem to have changed much since the film was made.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Taxi Driver - David Chiang (1975) - Tai Po Road Interchange, Kowloon

We get around quite a bit in this film - well, it is about a heroic taxi driver after all - and here is a place that hasn't changed much since it was filmed. It's the Tai Po and Ching Cheung Roads' interchange above what was the So Uk Estate. Speaking of the So Uk estate, here is a quick glimpse of it in the background below. The place is famous as one of Kowloon's early Govt estates and for giving us the likes of the Hui brothers, but was slated for redevelopment a while back and is currently (I say 'currently' but most of it has already gone) being demolished.

More of the So Uk estate below as well as the road's complicated flyover system. Basically Ching Cheung Road continues on into NW Kowloon but if you take the flyover you continue up to Tai Po Road (Kowloon section) as it heads up past what was once the Carlton Hotel (now a development called Carlton Villas), on past Caldecott Road and the Kowloon Reservoir and on past the Shatin Inn into the Tai Wai section of Shatin district.

Anyway, enough of the geography lesson, here is the same interchange now courtesy of the ever reliable Streetview (best angle I could get without physically going there - although practically this place is just down the road from where I live, there isn't an obvious pedestrian route to get there).

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Taxi Driver - David Chiang (1975) - Cornwall Street, Kowloon Tong

Back to Kowloon Tong for another scene (seems to be quite a few scenes were filmed in and around the Cornwall Street area). This time it is another out of the taxi window shot as a couple of Chiang's taxi driver buddies are on the lookout for the robbers who have framed Chiang for a bank robbery.

Here is the first shot of one driver followed by two of the second driver. I've lumped them all together because these scenes were actually filmed along the exact same part of Cornwall Street. In front of #s 8 & 10 to be precise. The top shot here shows the facade of #8 Cornwall Street

These subsequent shots show the west side of #8 and the front of #10.

You may remember #10 from a previous post concerning another Chiang film called Friends. There was a fairly decent snap of it opposite Kent Road (you can also see a bit of #8 too).

Anyway, these are both low rise blocks that were built in the 1960's (actually, #8 was built circa 1970, #10 1963). They are still there today in their high-ceilinged-low-rise splendour.

The Taxi Driver - David Chiang (1975) - Argyle Street, Mongkok

Here is a shot that is still fairly recognisable even today. It's the junction of Nathan Road and Argyle Street in Mongkok. The reason it's so easily recognised is because of the HSBC building on the opposite corner. It was built in 1969 and still looks pretty much as it did back then.

Here is a modern view courtesy of Streetview.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Taxi Driver - David Chiang (1975) - Waterloo Road, Kowloon Tong

Waterloo Road is a pretty long road by Hong Kong standards so I should perhaps be more specific. In this scene Chiang and his buddy pull up at some lights and have a chat. You may not be able to recognise it now but it happens to be at the junction with Cornwall Street before the flyover was built.

There are two giveaways in the bottom shot, the first is the long building in the background which is actually part of what is now called Kowloon East Barracks, but back in the 70's was known as Osborn Barracks. This building still stands (in fact the whole barrack area seems to have been left empty since the handover - a location in the middle of prime real estate and I understand from friends who used to live in the barracks - it was the married quarters - that the flats inside the barracks are ABSOLUTELY HUGE by HK standards).

Anyway, the second giveaway is the wall behind the pedestrian on the right hand side. This wall is still there and like our last blog post concerning Devon Road, the wall seems to be still painted in the same colours now as it was nearly 40 years ago!! Here are some recent streetview snaps.

As you can see, the flyover pretty much obscures the view these days, but note the wall in the second shot (it's off the right hand side in the upper one) looks pretty much the same as it did in 1975.

The Taxi Driver - David Chiang (1975) - Devon Road, Kowloon Tong

A bit of a change as I delve into this film from 1975 which, by virtue of its taxi-centric nature, is revealing much about the landscape of 1975 Hong Kong. The basic premise is David Chiang as a taxi driver for "The Blue Taxicabs Ltd" company (a real taxi company) who is also an expert in kung fu and is on the right side of virtue (in other words it's pretty much all the other characters he has played but in a taxi environment). Lots of places to see, some of which I have been able to identify and some are real stumpers. I like a challenge.

But anyway, let's kick off this film with a couple of shots from Devon Road in Kowloon Tong. This one was identified by the wall of "Air House" the former residence of the Air Commander in HK. Judging from the screen shot it still has the same paint work now as it did in 1975. The background is interesting because it shows us what was there before the Mormons (or whatever silly religious group it is) built their buildings along Cornwall Street at the back. Anyway, here are the shots...

So here is Mr Chiang himself driving the taxi up Devon Road and as he pulls in to pick up the couple at the side of the road we can see the two-tone wall to their back. Look at the shot below and you'll see the wall hasn't changed a single bit - still the same two-tone paint job. The place is now known as 1a Cornwall St but under British rule was nicknamed Air House. I did take some shots of the place for my other blog a while back which you can see here.

As mentioned, there are newer buildings at the back (along the north side of Cornwall Street), but it's interesting to note that the pink and white wall on the left above (also seen in the film grabs) also houses one of the Kowloon Tong Estate's original houses. I will try and grab a picky of this place at some point because I am here almost every day as I catch my shuttle bus back home.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Double Impact - Jean Claude Van Damme (1991) - Canton Road, Kowloon

An easy one to identify the street but very difficult in [pinpointing the exact spot along, what is, a very long and similar road. Canton Road to be precise. The signboard clutter has been cleared up significantly in the intervening years but Canton Road is still very popular for 1). its Jade Market at the southern end and 2). its metal workshops (usually containing the two characters 五金 'five metals', which is Chinese for 'metal work').

Look closely on the screen grab below and you will see several signs with these two characters included in the shop name.

However, luckily for us there is an English signboard that still exists. Look right and you can see a blue sign for "BONS DRY CLEANERS" - it's obscured but it's there.

Look at the screenshot below from Streetview and you can see this is one of the only remaining signs - the blue rectangle centre right. There are a few remaining white signboards but in general these have pretty much all gone - the Govt had a much publicised crackdown on them a couple of years back but I have no idea when Canton Road was 'tidied up'. Anyway, it looks like the circular cornered building in the left of the screen shot above (with the bat-holding-coin-shaped pawnbrokers signboard) may have been removed to make way for a 'sitting out area' (HK's ubiquitous drab concreted 'gardens' with seats for oldies to sit on) and a municipal toilet/refuse collection building.

Oh, I forgot to mention this is the section of Canton Road sitting between Nelson Street and Shantung Street in Mongkok.

Double Impact - Jean Claude Van Damme (1991) - Garden Road Flyover, Central

An easy one to identify here but still worthwhile including 'cause you never know when a building may disappear...

It's just an establishing shot with no actors on screen and is used a couple of times in the movie (though both times at slightly different angles). The first one shows a good view of what is now called the Lippo Centre, but at the time of filming was only a few years old (completed in 1988) and still called the Bond Centre.

The second time the shot is used we see it from a location slightly further to the south so that the front part of the Bank of China building can be seen on the right.