Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)

While there are ridiculous elements in this Hammer movie, it gets beyond an unsteady start to become a surprisingly solid revenge flick. This is Death Wish before people had heard of Death Wish.

Geoffrey Toone is the hero of the piece, Captain Sale, a man launched on a mission by the murder of his beloved daughter. This murder was arranged by the dastardly Tong crime family (led by Christopher Lee). They are, basically, an early 20th century, Hong Kong version of the yakuza and will do anything to protect their identities. Sale starts to upset the Tongs, picking fights with people he suspects will lead him up the chain of command and stubbornly refusing to die, and the stage is set for a confrontation that Sale is unlikely to walk away from.

Directed by Anthony Bushell and written by Jimmy Sangster, this is a colourful and exotic movie, with visuals, tension and thrills taking precedence over things like plausibility and historical accuracy. It doesn't even show that much of Hong Kong, so I don't want people mistakenly thinking they could watch it as some travelogue time capsule. Oh no, all that's shown is all that needs to be shown. Just a few sets and no major exterior shots (well, none that come to mind anyway).

Toone is good enough in the main role, he's believably strong and brave, while Lee does fine in the role of the main villain. It has to be said, however, that this is one of those movies from a past era, with the majority of the Chinese characters being portrayed, unfortunately, by the British actors that Hammer could enlist to work for them. The main female character, a woman named Lee, is actually played by the gorgeous Yvonne Monlaur, a French actress (see picture below). Roger Delgado, Charles Lloyd Pack, Ewen Solon and many others populate the Hong Kong shown onscreen, while the ubiquitous Burt Kwouk lends his authentic ethnicity to a minor role.

This may not be one of the best from Hammer, but it's still decent entertainment if you're in the right mood for it.


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