Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kill a Dragon - Jack Palance (1967) - Tonnochy Road, Wanchai

Jack Palance's character has a girlfriend who works at "The World of Suzie Wong Ltd" nightclub - in fact a real place that was situated on the corner of Tonnochy and Jaffe Roads. The truck is Leyland FG, apparently.

Anyway, Palance decides to pay her a visit at the bar and finds her trussed up by the baddies, but before we get there we catch some great late 60's glimpses of the area.

Red mean, a Leyland FG
 Yes, it was a real bar.
Gilman Motors next door along Jaffe Road

Now, Doug Price, possibly the world's expert on Wanchai girly bars and sometime poster on this blog, has a great little map from one of his many matchbook/bar card pictures on FLICKR that show a nice map of this place:

Note that Gilman Motors is also marked on the map, but if you see the comment I also put on the picture I mention that AA Hall can still be seen in the signage. AA Hall was the name of this bars precursor and I guess the new management either couldn't be bothered or weren't able to remove the previous bar name.

The change that has undergone this whole area is, as expected, huge. The girly bars as well as general drinking establishments are still to be found, but the whole character of the area has changed and all these older buildings have been replaced. Check out the modern view of Tonnochy Road courtesy of Streetview.

And here is the view of the space once occupied by the bar and Gilman Motors next door. Note that the Gilman Motors place is now a Volvo showroom, it's more than feasible that the same company that owned Gilmans also owns the local Volvo franchise - that tends to be how things work here in HK.

By the way, does anyone know why Jaffe Road was blocked off in the screencaps? I am guessing it may have been a temporary precaution related to the proximity of Wanchai Police Station and the 1967 communist riots in HK.


  1. The car dealership is an interesting coincidence, it seems. Gilman Motors -- which doesn't exist any more, it was founded in 1969 and wound up in 1990 -- was part of Inchcape. Inchcape also owns Crown Motors, and until 2012 owned Mazda Motors Hong Kong.

    Volvo is represented in HK by Wearnes, and has been since 2003. Before that, Swire was the Volvo distributor, through its subsidiary Taikoo Motors:

    Inchcape and Swire were competitors, so Gilman and Taikoo would have been too. I doubt the property was intentionally transferred from one to the other -- at least, beyond one of them offering the landlord more rent to displace the other. ;-)

    By the way, I think the Leyland FG is the one parked by the side of the road. I believe the one with the white front is a Commer FG. The Commers I don't really remember, but the Leylands were still all over the place when I was a kid. I believe there were also FGs sold under the Austin, BMC and Morris brands.

    Oh, and trucks, trucks, TRUCCKKSS!!! ;-) Yeah, I'm a bit of a softie for old HK vehicles, too.

    1. Actually, I tell a lie. It's a Commer FG in the foreground, and a Morris FG by the kerb. Neither is a Leyland -- at least, unless Leyland had the same grille styling at any point. (But they don't seem to have from a Google search.)

  2. your knowledge of these things never ceases to amaze me, however, I suspect Gilmans has been around a lot longer than since 1969 since there is the odd photo of the various outlets knocking around (e.g from the early 50's and Kill a Dragon was filmed in 1967.

    It's perhaps just happy circumstance that has led a car dealership to be here all these years later - I guess not surprising seeing as this whole protion of Gloucester Road (where the Gilman Motors/Volvo building faces onto) is littered with middle and high end brand car showrooms.

    As for the time you are in HK let me know because you and Pete Spurrier will have a lot to talk about...:-)

    1. Yes, Gilmans have been around a lot longer, that's just when Inchcape took them over and formed Gilman Motors Ltd. Gilmans are one of the early Hongs, formed in the 1860s as a tea trader.

      It's little bits of knowledge mixed with mucho Googling, by the way. You post interesting things, they make me want answers -- and then I share what I find. :-)

      I have a small obsession forming with tiny models of Hong Kong vehicles. At the current count I have six buses, two trams, seven trucks, three minibuses, three taxis, a police van, a Star Ferry, two Cathay 747s, and the pride of my collection, a Government Flying Service search-and-rescue aircraft that I think is *possibly* a one-off hand-made model.

      They form the bulk of what I consider to be my shrine to Hong Kong. I don't get back home often enough, and boy do I ever miss it. Would love to move back, one day...

  3. "World expert" - I'm honored, but really, I'm an amateur compared to Vanessa S. I do like to document a long-gone area of HK that I once experienced briefly.


    1. Hi Doug
      Yes, Vanessa has always been friendly and helpful to me behind the scenes on both of my blogs.

  4. Cimbria Motors 益成汽車 (subsidiary of Jebsen & Co.) was the distributor of Volvo cars in Hong Kong from no later than the late 1970s to 1997, when distributorship was sold to the newly formed Taikoo Motors. See

  5. 3 minutes after this part of the movie, they exited the bar and got back onto the truck and left, across the street on Tonnochy Road, you can see 2 buses parking, those were the CMB route #11 at Wanchai Pier bus terminal back then. The actual #11 bus terminal located on Tonnochy Road north of the Jaffe Road intersection, and buses also parked on south of the intersection after off boarding all passengers as shown on this movie. Would you like to cut that bus terminal screen shot and post it out?

  6. Hi Anon
    Many thanks, I will do that when i return to HK in a couple of weeks.
    Cheers, Phil

  7. Thanks, Phil.

    BTW, Jaffe Road was shut because Gilman Motors occupied that part of Jaffe Road next to its building for car parking, like a private parking lot. Back then, vehicles could only use Marsh Road to get into that part of Jaffe Road, then back out to Marsh Road when leaving. Pedestrians on Tonnochy Road had to circle around Lockhart Road and the Goble Cinema alley into that part of Jaffe Road.

    1. Aha! That's interesting, any idea when it was opened up?

    2. in the 1970's when Gilman Motors building tore down

    3. I also found this little snippet courtesy of Guy Shirra's "The Accidental Prawn" - his HKPF memoir (very entertaining if you get the chance to read it):

      "[in 1967] I lived in Eastern (later Wanchai) Police Station Officer's mess, and here the whole of Jaffe Road between the station and the quarters opposite was ... blocked off and closed to the public"

      So I guess it wasn't just this part of Jaffe Rd that was closed to the public.