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From Wake Island to Gamera to Perry Mason

23 Nov

In 1942, Hollywood made WAKE ISLAND to commemorate one of the earliest battles in the Pacific War. As depicted in the film, the American marines on Wake Island, vastly outnumbered by attacking Japanese in the early months of the war, fought back valiantly for weeks before finally being overrun and killed. In the film, Brian Donlevy plays Major Geoffrey Caton, the Marine commander on the island, and Albert Dekker plays Shad McClosky, a civilian engineer heading all construction on the island. McClosky resents having to take orders from Caton, but when the fighting starts, he demands weapons for himself and his men. Caton says no. When the Japanese finally storm the beaches en masse, Caton and McClosky man a machine gun together in a foxhole and fight to the death.

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PAINTED FACES (1988) – The early days of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung

30 Jun

I bought PAINTED FACES (1988) on VHS at a Chinatown video store in 1999 and only just got to see it a week ago. It’s a drama about a Peking Opera troupe in Hong Kong in the 1960s and the efforts of its stern instructor, Master Yu, to train a group of boys, all sent there by their hard-pressed parents, in the dying arts of Peking Opera performance. Three of the boys just happen to be Jackie Chan (called “Big Nose” by the other characters), Sammo Hung (called “Sammo” by the others although he didn’t get that name in real life until he was an adult), and Yuen Biao, three performers who would revolutionize Hong Kong cinema in the 1970s and ’80s with their stunt-filled action and martial arts comedies. The three starred together in a number of 1980s films themselves, including PROJECT A, PROJECT A II, DRAGONS FOREVER, WINNERS AND SINNERS and WHEELS ON MEALS. Chan and Hung became important directors of their films as well.

L-R: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao in PROJECT A (1983)

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Newly discovered Star Wars / Star Trek family connection

3 Aug

Turner Classic Movies was running A MAJORITY OF ONE (1961) earlier today and I just happened to come across it in the middle. In the film, Alec Guinness, under heavy makeup, plays a widowed Japanese man who has a relationship with a middle-aged American Jewish woman played by Rosalind Russell.

In the scene I stumbled on, there was a genuine Japanese-American actor playing Guinness’s Japanese-speaking son.  He was none other than George Takei, as seen in this still:

Takei, of course, went on to play Sulu, the helmsman on board the U.S. Starship Enterprise, on the original “Star Trek” TV series, as well as six subsquent Star Trek movies.

Guinness, of course, went on to play Obi-Wan Kenobi, the famed Jedi Knight in STAR WARS (1977).

So who else knew that Sulu was the son of Obi-Wan Kenobi?