The featured image is from the long-lost version of Eastern Condors. I’m surprised that Jet Li attended the première.
Hong Kong movies are comparable to newspapers in that the most significant ones are always preserved in their original state, whereas the rest are either available online or discarded. Unfortunately, the most famous of movies have reels which have been destroyed or kept by greedy collectors who treat footage like interest in a bank. The most profitable of Hollywood movies are like issues of Rolling Stone.
Critically acclaimed Hollywood movies are like issues of Time. As for Euro films which are the equivalents, they are like issues of National Geographic. As for films which don’t have accolades or mainstream appeal, they are like books i.e. many are available but just as many are out of print – no matter what library that you go to. For example, I would like to know about this missing scene from Carry On Pickpocket.
However, there is an American actor (a Jon Bernthal lookalike named Mark King) who doesn’t think that H.K. movies should be compared to books. He worked in H.K. and thought that those movies are comparable to comic books. To a certain degree, he is correct. Even still, comics books are treated with more respect by the publishers. I’m genuinely surprised that no-one ever thought of preserving deleted scenes for video releases or TV documentaries. Due to the DVD and Blu-Ray era, there are regrets from former employers and employees.
When it comes to movies being disposable, Hollywood is to be blamed for the sheer waste that H.K. cinema has produced i.e. what H.K. lacked in budgets, they tried to make up for in quantity of productions. Attempting to flood the market only results in the diamonds in the rough shining ever so brighter. The second half of 1984 was when two Hollywood productions (Weird Science and Back to the Future) decided to shift gears after weeks of filming so that they can be remade with different (and more bankable) stars.
In that same period, Sammo Hung decided to scrap Winners and Sinners 2 so that it could be remade as My Lucky Stars (which Lau Kar-Wing had worked on as an assistant director as seen above). The difference was that John Shum (the focal point in the below pic) was replaced with Stanley Fung (who was a member of the original Winners and Sinners) because the movie needed a snarky straight man. Stan wasn’t in the original shoot because it wouldn’t have made sense for his character to return following the events in the predecessor. When assessing the tastes of audiences, a lot can happen in a year or two years rather (especially given how fickle the H.K. market can be).
At first glance, Winners and Sinners 2 began filming a year later but it was almost two years later. The first movie began filming in the spring of 1983 whereas the sequel began filming in the winter of 1984. The former had the look and sound of a `70s U.K. sitcom but the humour of a `70s U.S. one. By the time that Sammo scrapped the linear sequel, sweet-natured comedies were becoming passé. It’s kind of like what happened with Cheers. The first two seasons were fairly congenial but the swift inclusion of Frasier Crane in the third season gave it a more dry edge. This was a couple of months before Sammo began filming his sequel.
The below still is part of a deleted scene in Project A II (1987) which was replaced by an adventurous one, where Jackie Chan is tied up in a sack and thrown into the river before being saved by a group of right wingers. In this alternate scene (which was only seen in Japan via cinemas), him and his captured police squad were about to be executed but are then saved by the aforementioned group. The removal of this scene kind of points out how Jackie’s screen image went from being a part of a heroic group in part one to being some sort of lone hero in the sequel. Many fans complained about the absence of Sammo and Yuen Biao in part two. Literally casting them aside, the sequel is better since it’s a riff on the dynamics that we saw in Police Story.
The literal stunt casting was also designed to remind people of Armour of God. Back to Eastern Condors (also released in 1987), the pre-production started in July of 1986. Hung started filming in November. Instead of filming in the Philippines, he began in Canada because the first third of the film is set in a U.S. prison. After a month of filming, he spent another month filming the basketball scene between the racially segregated prisoners. Golden Harvest wanted the maximum length to be 100 minutes, but he had already filmed 44 minutes. Something had to give. What he should have done is assemble a director’s cut to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. The original movie was a perfect balance between plenty of action and a profusion of characterization.
In January of 1987, he took his H.K. cast and crew to Bangkok for a month of filming. In February, they went to the Philippines to spend four and a half months there. Despite finishing the movie in the middle of June, he managed to get it edited for a release in July 9. In uneasy contrast, The Millionaire’s Express (1986) took 3 months to prepare and 5 to shoot. Eastern Condors is one of the very few ’80s H.K. films which had the potential for global theatrical distribution on a mainstream level. It was less successful at the H.K. box office because, despite the darker material, the audience was deprived of the character-building scenes which permeated the first half of the film (the bonding of The Deer Hunter with the training of Full Metal Jacket).
Suspiciously, the truncated version foreshadows two deleted scenes of Bullet in the Head (another war epic). The first scene involves gangsters forcing a character to drink a foul liquid. The second involves Russian roulette, like The Deer Hunter, except the lives of the captives depend on Vietnamese boys pulling the trigger. To put your head around the context, the boys are working with the captors. John Woo would retaliate by adapting a scene from Pedicab Driver (1989) for the ending of The Killer (1989). To understand how this could happen, bear in mind that The Killer was released on June 6 whereas Pedicab Driver was released on February 4. The scene that was adapted was the last moment between two lovers.
10 years later, I noticed this because I saw Pedicab Driver before The Killer. Oliver Stone went as far to declare Eastern Condors as the beginning of a new wave in H.K. cinema. For this great director to compliment this movie is profound because he served in the Vietnam war (Eastern Condors takes place after the war). Sam’s military masterpiece has been marketed as a mixture of The Dirty Dozen and Rambo. Eastern Condors would influence Jackie’s Operation Condor (featuring the aforementioned Mark King as seen below). Jackie was also keen to rival Pedicab Driver with the similarly-set Mr. Canton and Lady Rose. This wasn’t the first time that Chan was keen to rival Hung.
Armour of God had a vehicle chase which was obviously designed to outshine the one in Wheels on Meals; this is because The Millionaire’s Express was Hung’s attempt to outclass Project A. Back to Eastern Condors, it was disappointing for many fans that the Taiwanese version didn’t contain more footage as is the norm for H.K. movies (this is like how the Japanese versions of albums have more songs). The removed scenes of Project A (which had less income but more recoup) were reinstalled for a DVD edition. Like how the missing reels took 30 years to be seen (30th anniversary special), what’s left of Bruce’s Game of Death took less than that to be seen in the West where it received long-overdue fanfare.
Still, money-grubbing collectors spoiled the experience. This wasn’t the case when the original version of the teahouse house fight in Drunken Master II was canned. Coarse disbelief has been expressed by Mark Houghton, who left the project after the firing of Liu Chia-Liang a.k.a. Lau Kar-Leung (the brother of Lau Kar-Wing a.k.a. Liu Chia-Yung). However, Jackie spent three months filming Dragon Lord in Korea before starting from scratch by heading over to Taiwan. In his memoir, J.C. described Dragon Lord as the most expensive H.K. movie of its time. He distilled the entire experience by simply saying that miles of footage was thrown into the garbage.
As a Jet Li fan, I find it disappointing that we will never see the original version of High Risk. Let’s face it – it seems weird that Wong Jing seemingly never made fun of Jackie’s singing career or outtakes montages. There were two stills of deleted scenes which can no longer be found elsewhere on the internet. They were originally on the French Jet Li website which vanished.
The first still takes place in a police station because Chingmy Yau has a police sketch of Jet Li, who is awkwardly sitting next to her because of getting some dogs to go after her and her cameraman. The second still takes place some time after the men’s room scene. The insinuation is that Cheung is panicking about the size of his manhood after his encounter with the robber/rival played by Billy Chow.
As for other H.K. movies which have long lost deleted scenes, there’s the explosion of a living room in Stephen Chow’s From Beijing With Love (1994) and Yuen Biao being tied to a crucifix which he is facing while being mocked by Fan Mei-Sheng (as a leading detective) in Dreadnaught. In Yes Madam, Michelle Yeoh had Kung Fu duels which differed from the modern style of the movie. Chuck claimed that he appeared in a few more scenes than what is shown in The Way of the Dragon.
One scene involved him attacking one of the waiters. This explains why we don’t see the waiter as one of the survivors at the graveyard. There are two missing waiters – Wu Ngan is waiting in the car to drive Bruce to the airport whereas Robert Chan is long gone. The California-bound remake would definitely have Malisa Longo playing the hooker because Bruce had rapport with her. In an Italian interview, she claimed that their affair lasted till September, 1972 (when Game of Death began filming to such a degree that it deserves its own article). He ended the affair because he couldn’t risk gossip affecting his H.K. homelife, although that excuse turned out to fall flat.
She agreed since she was on the verge of mainstream stardom in her home country. Despite her film role being small, her commitment to him was three weeks because he always wanted her available. In Italy, they did cha-cha dancing at a bar and dined at a Chinese restaurant. After the movie, they would have the occasional phone call. Before he died, she signed a three picture deal with S.B. One of the movies was to star him as her partner. After he died, she received a phone call from her Chinese friend. His version of Bruce’s death was a plaguing one that left her reeling (sort of like the above deleted scene from John Woo’s acclaimed Bullet in the Head).