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March 14, 2006

Two films starring Linda Lin Dai


Love without End/Bu liao qing
Doe Chin (Tao Qin) - 1961
Celestial Pictures Region 3 DVD


The Last Woman of Shang/Di ji
Yueh Feng - 1964
Celestial Pictures Region 3 DVD

After seeing and writing about Les Belles last July, I got around to seeing a couple more films starring Linda Lin Dai. I had compared her at the time to Doris Day, but Lin was also Hong Kong's equivalent to Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. This is based on not only the magnitude of her stardom in Chinese language film, but aspects of her dramatic personal life.

Of the two films here, The Last Woman of Shang is the real treat. I was not familiar with director Yueh Feng but his filmography at IMDb is very incomplete. The film is part of the time-honored genre of films about an emperor and a woman who causes his downfall, usually a courtesan. Lin is the last queen of the Shang Dynasty. The film resembles the big budget epics of the early sixties usually produced by Samuel Bronston with the hundreds of extras in the battle scenes. Joseph Mankiewicz' Cleopatra certainly had an influence with a scene of Lin taking a bath while surrounded by her hand-maidens, and in a scene in which she wears a diaphanous gown. Everything you would want in a movie is here: singing, dancing, sword fights, a decapitation, whippings, and a flaming arrow in the back. The bad guys are easy to identify because they are the ones who are always laughing and having a good time. Even when his palace is burning around him, the emperor is chuckling over his good fortune to have conquered neighboring states, hoarded more jewels than he would ever need, and have a couple of attractive wives. The running time is 103 minutes, but there may have been at least two longer versions when The Last Woman of Shang was initially released.

Love without End is so beloved that the title song is a Mandarin pop standard, and the film was remade less than ten years later. The film is something of a Dark Victory retread with Lin as a nightclub singer bravely facing an incurable disease while trying not to disappoint boyfriend Shan Kwan. The film is resolutely old-fashioned beginning with shots of a confused looking Lin superimposed over shots of the neon Hong Kong nightclub signs. The passage of time is indicated with superimposed shots of a calendar. Tao Qin must have sat through a couple of Warner Brothers "weepies" from the Forties before writing his screenplay. The film's ending is sillier than that of Bette Davis and Paul Henreid's awkward cigarettes and poetry in Now, Voyager. The love might be without end, but for me the end was with laughter.

Posted by peter at March 14, 2006 10:01 PM