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March 18, 2010

Umetsugu Inoue: 1923 -2010


What little I know about Umetsugu Inoue's life is thanks to the wonderful Sabrina Baracetti of the Udine Far East Film Festival. Through her, I was able to get a copy of the book, Asia Sing! A Survey of Asian Musical Films. It is a terrific book that ideally would be more widely available. Prior to this book, my limited introduction to Inoue was through two of his Chinese language musicals, produced by the Shaw Brothers, Hong Kong Nocturne and Hong Kong Rhapsody. Both films were seen on Region 3 DVDs. What I was unaware of at the time of seeing the films was not only the extent of Inoue's career, but also how much of it was invested in the movie musical, both in Japan and Hong Kong. I had found out about Inoue's death by accident, researching something else online.

The following are some passages from a recent interview with Inoue, conducted by Mark Schilling, from Asia Sings!:

I managed to sneak into a screening of Yamanaka's Humanity and Paper Balloons. I was really impressed by that film - it made me realize how wonderful movies were. I became an enthusiastic film fan and snuck into theaters in various ways , . . but I never thought in a million years I would enter the film world myself.

Run Run Shaw asked me to come to Hong Kong. He even met me at the airport when I first came over. After that Raymond (Chow) handled all the negotiations. But Run Run Shaw talked to me about films. He asked me to watch the American film How to Marry a Millionaire, about three air stewardesses. He wanted me to remake it. I said there's a problem with the rights. He said "We don't worry about that in Hong Kong." I said "You say you don't worry, but I'm in Japan, so there's no way I can remake it just as it is." Then he said "We want you to make it any way," so I said I would change the stewardesses to dancers and have them go to Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. He said OK - and the film (The Millionaire Chase/Diao Jin Gui - 1969) became a big hit.

umetsugu inoue.jpg

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 18, 2010 12:17 AM


Thanks so much for reporting this sad news, Peter! I only discovered the directors films thanks to your blog posts but I absolutely love Hong Kong Nocturne and I've been wanting to write something about it for awhile now. It's a shame that his work isn't more widely known in the US.

Posted by: Kimberly Lindbergs at March 19, 2010 02:14 AM