A Movie A Day: Quint on TERROR OF THE TONGS (1961)
The Red Dragon knows only one reward for failure, Mr. Harcourt.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Hammer regular screenwriter Jimmy Sangster bridges us from yesterday’s not-Hammer BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE to today’s TERROR OF THE TONGS from Hammer Studios.
I came into this one a little apprehensive. It had Christopher Lee so I knew there’d be something to enjoy, but as you can see from the DVD cover it’s the fourth film of a 4 movie collection (on 2 discs) and I had visions of THE HELLFIRE CLUB (the 2nd of a double feature collection) running through my brain.
So count me pleasantly surprised to find a really enjoyable crime flick presented in a gorgeous transfer that captures Arthur Grant’s beautiful color photography. Grant shot the great little British Noir HELL IS A CITY that we discussed last week.
Essentially we have a crime film taking place in 1910 Hong Kong as the people are terrorized by an organized crime organization called The Red Dragon Tong whose members are fast with the hatchets if anybody refuses to pay for their protection.
Geoffrey Toone stars as a British Captain returning to Hong Kong (a British colony at this time) and his lovely young daughter. On his way home he transported an enemy of the Tong who is killed upon his arrival. He was carrying an important document that could comprise the Tong and when they don’t find it on his person they begin killing anyone he would have had contact with.
This leads them to Toone’s house. Rightly, actually. The document was hidden in a gift to Toone’s daughter, intercepted by one of the underground resistance who works as housekeeper.
It was about this time that the movie really grabbed me. Here they introduce an adorable girl (Barbara Brown), give us a few scenes to like her in all her innocence and then these dudes show up to look for the note. Sure, here’s where she’s kidnapped and strong jawed Toone has to destroy the Tong to get her back.
Nope. The bitch is stabbed in the tit and she’s dead before the first reel is over.
You see how this made me sit up and really take notice.
Add on to that Christopher Lee playing Chinese (with some f’n awesome make-up), the evil leader of the Tong, years before his iconic turn as Fu Manchu and you have a damn fine movie.
Sure, Toone is… well, British. He shows no emotion, even when his daughter is killed. It reminds me of the Eddie Izzard bit about a completely British Star Wars. “It’s the rebels, sir. They’re here.” ‘Good God, man! Do they want tea?’ He’s one note through the whole movie, but he does his job, acting as the catalyst to get the poor impoverished Hong Kong citizens to stand up to the horrible gang.
And Lee has enough charasma to fill five movies.
Once you get over the mainly British cast with make-up Chinese eyes (speaking in their natural accents, no less) you get a real fun story of a man on a mission to avenge his daughter, taking on a power much bigger than himself.
Director (and actor) Anthony Bushell does a fine job keeping the camera moving and the film pace lively. Despite the one-note performance of the lead, there is some very good performances throughout the movie, including the beautiful Yvonne Monlaur as the Tong woman who helps Toone, Charles Lloyd Pack as a killer doctor and Marne Maitland, a leader of the resistance disguised as a beggar. I’d wager the strength of these performances is due in no small part to having an actor for a director.
Final Thoughts: Lee steals the show, as expected, but thankfully some gorgeous photography, fast pace, interesting story and some genuine thrills keep the film having to rest solely on his shoulders. If the rest of the movies in this collection are as good as this one, then count me happy. If you’re a Hammer fan, a Lee fan or just like a good little crime flick then definitely seek this one out.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Saturday, August 16th: PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER (1962)
Sunday, August 17th: THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES (1964)
Monday, August 18th: JESS FRANCO’S COUNT DRACULA (1973)
Tuesday, August 19th: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)
Wednesday, August 20th: THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960)
Thursday, August 21st: MAN, WOMAN & CHILD (1983)
Friday, August 22nd: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976)
Tomorrow we hit Pirates of Blood River from the same writer (Sangster) and star (Christopher Lee) as today's flick! See you then!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 16, 2008, 3:56 a.m. CST
Aug. 16, 2008, 4:13 a.m. CST
this sounds like a nice little twisted noir, will have to check it out
Aug. 16, 2008, 5:20 a.m. CST
From back in the day when Britain had a film industry...
Aug. 16, 2008, 5:46 a.m. CST
Hi Quint, love your column. I am only now starting to explore Hammer and those british horror icons and I will definitely check this movie out. Your list of previous movies is starting to get longer than the actual articles. How about giving them an own page, so that you have only one link at the end of the article which leads to the list? just an idea. keep up the good work
Aug. 16, 2008, 5:52 a.m. CST
...that one scene of this movie, where a man's hand get cut off, was shot in three different version. One out of frame for the american audience, one explicit for the european audience and one gory for the japanese audience. Could be another movie, but I think it was Terror Of The Tongs.
Aug. 16, 2008, 7:02 a.m. CST
New to this site, I somehow assumed (even with the spelling) that amad was written by Tarantino. If you go back and read it with that in mind it is plausible. It's not as fun now.
Aug. 16, 2008, 7:08 a.m. CST
Aug. 16, 2008, 7:11 a.m. CST
Creepy as fuck little film. Early teens Jodie foster + Martin Sheen. I believe it was made for TV though. Enjoy!
Aug. 16, 2008, 8:18 a.m. CST
that's cool dude and I may start readin AMAD as if Quint WAS QT
Aug. 16, 2008, 8:52 a.m. CST
And he would celebrate even the biggest pile of cinematic trash as brillane masterpiece.
Aug. 16, 2008, 9:29 a.m. CST
Got a lot going for it, incl. Guy "Mr. Sardonicus" Rolfe and Terence Fisher, a mongoose and a cobra too. The whole set is a lot of fun. The Pirate flicks are good matinee fun.
Aug. 16, 2008, 9:57 a.m. CST
Should finish waking up before I go on a PC. Damn.
Aug. 16, 2008, 10:05 a.m. CST
Aug. 16, 2008, 10:21 a.m. CST
That's pretty much it.
Aug. 16, 2008, 3:46 p.m. CST
the bald guy on the bottom poster, he used to pop up all the time in Brit movies, quite a scary looking bloke. A wrestler turned actor, like Harold 'Oddjob" Sakata who he used to fight in the ring. Reid played toughs in Dr. No and Spy Who Loved Me, as well as popping up in Blood On Satan's Claw, Dr. Phibes Rises Again and numerous tv roles. Been dying to see this movie again for years, Reid and the mongoose/cobra bit is all I can remember.
Aug. 17, 2008, 7:07 a.m. CST
Aug. 17, 2008, 11:33 a.m. CST
A sort of Brigitte Bardot, groomed as "the girl next door". Along with TONGS, she made equally indelible impressions in CIRCUS OF HORRORS (cast with the tempestuous meltdown, Yvonne Romain) and BRIDES OF DRACULA (in my humble opinion, the best of the Hammer movies).
Aug. 17, 2008, 11:52 a.m. CST
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