Dang doi lai ming (Hong Kong 1941) (1984)
Director: Po-chih Leong.
Starring: Yun-Fat Chow (Yip Kim Fay), Cecilia Yip (Han Yuk Nam), Alex Man (Wong Hak Keung), Kien Shih (Chung Shin), Ma Wu (Chairman Liu Yan-Mau), Paul Chun (Sergeant Fa Wing), Feng Ku (Shui).
three friends suffer under Japanese occupation on the island of Hong Kong
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Anna says that she has survived many a dark night, but the day she remembers the most was the one in 1941 when all seemed lost.
Flashback. On the radio the news is that the British have sent HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse to the Far East. British government workers must stay, but their families are being evacuated to Australia. A young man named Yip Fai wants to be one of those going to Australia. He gets aboard the ship leaving for Australia and hides in one of the rooms as a stowaway. But the little girl in the room finds him. He tells her what he is doing, but she wants to abuse the situation and make him her personal slave in return for her silence. Fai says no way and the girl starts yelling. Fai has to jump off the ship.
Three friends who work as stevedores dealing mostly with rice are selling some of the rice to people who need it. They have many more customers than rice. The leader of the group is Kong who is kind of a tough guy in the area. Some bullies are going to steal the rice from a customer and Kong and his buddies stop them.
Fai sees Anna who seems to be having some type of mental attack. Anna screams and looks like she is going crazy. The head of a brothel and Fai help calm Anna down. After she returns to normal she tells Fai that she has a boyfriend that her dad does not approve of. The boyfriend is Kong.
Fai goes home. His uncle wants him gone. His aunt says that Fai just missed the boat, but he'll get the next one. Fai says he will get a job and he goes down to the docks and starts work as a stevedore. He sees Kong and his buddies at work there. He also sees them stealing rice and then selling it. Fai introduces himself to the guys, but they are suspicious of him. The new guy, however, has such a winning way that Kong takes a liking to him.
Anna's parents are arranging a marriage for Anna to the son of dad's business partner, Paul. Neither Anna or Paul want to marry each other. Anna even tells Paul's parents that she is going to die. But dad intervenes telling his daughter to stop that nonsense. Anna's father, Chung Shin, has hoarded rice to make high profits. By doing so he is violating the government's system of price controls. Then he lays his workers off without pay. Anna comments that little did her father know that this behavior would actually draw Kong, Fai and her close together.
The stevedores demand to be paid, but the managers have instructions not to pay them. Kong starts objecting and becomes an informal leader. The managers become afraid and call the cops. When the cops arrives fights break out between the workers and the police. Fai and Kong grab two large bags of rice and leave. The cops chase the two men. Fai gets away but Kong has to get rid of his bag of rice in order to escape the police.
Looking for Kong, the cops come down to a very poor area demanding to know where the hell is Shui? The people just yell insults at the police sergeant. The police leave empty-handed. Fai goes down to the area looking for Kong. He still has his bag of rice and tells the leader of the group that he will give them his bag of rice if they will help him find Kong. So the group accepts Fai as one of them. And Kong comes out of hiding.
The leader speaks with Fai about the damn Japanese. He has two sons that are in Manchuria (occupied by the Japanese). He would like to reek vengeance on the Japs. Fai and Kong get a bit drunk and go to Anna's place. Fai is really drunk and he starts singing to let Anna know they want her to come down to them. Anna sneaks out to talk to them. Anna tells Kong that her dad is arranging a marriage for her. Fai talks about going to Australia and Anna asks him to take her with him when he goes. Fai talks about all three of them going. So they decide to leave the next morning.
Anna comments that they could not have picked a worse day to leave. The Japanese attacked Hong Kong. Fai runs down to the dock and jumps onto the boat. Anna runs down there, but won't get on until Kong arrives. Fai keeps telling her to jump aboard, but she waits. Kong finally shows up, but tells her that he can't go. He has to stay and fight the Japanese. Anna won't leave without him. The boat leaves with Fai on it. Fai keeps thinking and finally jumps off the boat and swims back.
With bombs dropping on Hong Kong, the three go down into the church cellar. There the police sergeant grabs Kong and take him to jail. Anna starts freaking out and Fai has to calm her down once again.
The city is in turmoil. Anna says that everyone there in the basement for the time they were there became equal. The police sergeant starts ransacking and looting houses with his own little gang of thieves. Fai returns home and Anna goes to her home. The police sergeant brings his gang of thugs to Anna's house. He slaps Anna's father in the face and then gives the order to his men to loot the house! "Take everything!"
The sergeant takes Anna upstairs to a bedroom where he proceeds to rape her. Kong arrives and starts fighting the looters. Anna's mother tells him that the sergeant took Anna upstairs. Kong rushes upstairs, but he gets hit with a two by four piece of lumber. Fai comes in a little later, but the sergeant has already finished with Anna. The sergeant shoots Fai in the right forearm. Kong recover and fights with the sergeant. The sergeant does well at first but Kong prevails. He then picks up the unconscious sergeant and throws him off the second story to the courtyard below. Fai puts his shirt on Anna's naked back. She grabs his hand. Kong comes in to comfort her and Fai leaves.
The Japanese parade their British P.O.W.s through the streets. They also start giving out rice to the city residents at the church.
Anna's dad says that no decent family now wants his daughter. Fai comes to visit Anna and she is very happy to see him. Kong arrives and dad takes him into another room to speak with him. The young man comes out of the meeting with a smile on his face. He tells Fai, but not Anna, that Anna's father has agreed to their marriage. The three friends go for a walk. Anna looks into the Japanese compound from a small opening and sees a beautiful garden. Fai climbs up the wall to take a peek into the garden. There he sees the Japanese behead two young Chinese men. This sight disturbs him greatly.
The three find a mentally ill man who they call the Emperor dead. This upsets Anna and then she is further upset by seeing a picture of a Japanese soldier with a Chinese baby stuck on the end of his bayonet. The Japanese take propaganda film of the Japanese soldiers playing with the Chinese children. The Japanese officer says there is free rice for everyone if they sing a traditional Japanese song. He forces all the Chinese to one side of the courtyard. He starts leading the singing. He is getting very little cooperation from the group until Fai starts singing loudly. Soon almost everyone is singing. Anna comments that at the time she did not realize that Fai was just trying to protect them from the Japanese.
Anna complains to Kong about his telling everyone else but her about her father granting him permission to marry her. Kong says he was looking for the ideal time to tell her. He tells Anna that he is going over to Yuen Long to take advantage of the black market.
Anna asks Fai why is he avoiding her? He says he has not been avoiding her. Fai also says that he is not going to Australia now. Anna sees that he has on his left arm a Japanese armband. She says: "You both are crazy!" She has one of her mental attacks.
Fai is working with the Chinese collaborators to round up Chinese Resistance people. Fai goes on a round up, but helps the Resistance get away. He gives his pistol to one of the leaders and tells him to strike him with the butt of the pistol. He does so. For his being wounded, the Chinese collaborators promote him to agent with the right to go anywhere in the city. Fai leaves a note for the Resistance at the pick-up place.
Over in Yuen Long, Kong sees two of his buddies in a bamboo cage with other prisoners. He sells old clothes for some money. Kong then gambles his money and wins quite a bit more money. He buys a pretty necklace for Anna. On his way back he sees his buddies forced to kneel in an apartment courtyard. He goes over to the man in charge, a Mr. Liao, and offers him a bribe to let his buddies go. Liao takes all of Kong's money. But instead of letting his buddies go free, the men put firecrackers in their ears. Liao chooses just one of the buddies and the firecracker in his left ear is lit and explodes leaving him with an extremely bloody ear. The fellow seems to go crazy. Liao then starts shooting the fellow in the back with his pistol. Kong tells his other buddy to run and they both start running. Kong sacrifices himself to their pursuers so that his buddy can escape.
The Japanese officer talks with Anna's father telling him that the Chinese as Asians should cooperate with Japan. Dad just keeps agreeing with everything the Japanese officer says.
Kong's surviving buddy makes it over to Anna's place. He tells her that Kong is in trouble. Anna runs to get Fai. She runs into the Japanese officer. He recognizes her. She keeps going. She tells Fai that Kong is in trouble.
As an agent Fai gets himself introduced to the bad guy Mr. Liao. He gives the men around him some American cigarettes. He tells Liao that he just stopped for a social visit. Fai says he remembers Mr. Liao, who was once known as Showbiz Liao. Fai wildly compliments Liao and says as a young fellow he was one of his greatest fans. Fai hears Kong Huan shouting out of pain and anger. He asks who's that? Liao brings Kong out and has a firecracker placed in his left ear. Fai asks to light the firecracker. He taunts Kong saying that Anna belongs to him now. Kong says: "Bastard! You traitor!" Fai lights the fuse. He had hoped to save Kong by grabbing Liao's pistol, but Liao puts his hand on the pistol. The firecracker goes off and Kong jumps up, crazy with pain. Now Fai can grab the pistol. He does so and shoots Liao dead. He then grabs Kong and in the confusion and the smoke from the fire cracker in the ear and the other popping firecrackers the two men get away.
Fai takes Kong to Anna's place. Fai and Anna work to clean and bandage his wounds. Anna goes to the brothel to get an opium pipe to lessen Kong's pain. She breathes the opium smoke in and then blows it into the mouth of Kong.
Anna kisses Fai a couple of times and then starts kisses him repeatedly. After awhile, Fai joins in and kisses her. A watching Kong, says in a low voice: "How could you?"
The Japanese officer visits Anna's father again. He has a marriage proposal from the governor. He wants to marry Anna. But dad says that he has already promised his daughter to another man. The Japanese officer is furious and leaves in a huff.
Kong tells Anna that he is sorry. He lost all their money. Thinking about what he saw between Anna and Fai he cries. Anna tells him not to cry. She says: "We'll get more money later." She says they will go with Fai to Gold Mountain. Kong gets so mad that he throws his rice bowel down on the floor breaking it into pieces.
Later Anna comments that inside her she knew that Fai would be leaving them.
The Japanese officer comes to see Anna. Fai tells him that she is out. He draws his sword and puts it to the throat of Fai. He tells Fai that he is helping the Resistance. So he is going to cut off Fai's head. But Kong saves the day by running and then throwing his body into that of the Japanese officer. The officer goes sprawling on the ground. The Japanese officer recovers and seems to get the upper hand, but Anna hooks Kong's stevedore hook into the officer's throat. The officer the manages to place his sword on her shoulder and cut the side of her neck. Fai grabs the officer's sword and runs it through him.
Now the three definitely have to leave Hong Kong. They go down to the docks and are put on a boat leaving for Australia. In the morning Kong shouts: "We did it!" But not long afterward, they see a Japanese military boat coming their way. The Chinese prepare to fight. Fai proves to be the hero. He grabs the officer in charge and holds him hostage. He holds a German-made grenade in his hand and threatens to kill himself and everyone else on the small boat. The Chinese boat moves away from the military boat.
Fai tells all the Japanese and Chinese collaborators to jump into the sea. They don't need to be told twice. He then takes the cap off the handle end of the grenade and pulls the cord on the grenade. The grenade explodes and that ignites other explosives on the boat, blowing it to pieces. Kong yells toward the burning boat: "I'm sorry! See you at the Gold Mountain."
Back to the present. Anna says that Kong led a happy life in the years that followed. She also says that now she is all alone, just her and her memories. And she is still telling the same old stories about the two wonderful men in her life.
Good movie. And a simple, straightforward movie. It is set against the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. As they did everywhere, the Japanese bring their racist brutalism to Hong Kong and lop off quite a few Chinese heads. The film deals a bit with the Chinese Resistance to the Japanese with the two heroes working against the Japanese. The love story is interesting, but it is a bit complicated, as most triads are.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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