Back Alley Princess (HK 1972)

Rating: *
Review Date: 10/1/00
Director: Lo Wei
Cast: Polly Shang Kwan, Sam Hui, Angela Mao, cameo by Carter Wong

AWFUL! Apart from a half dozen well orchestrated kung fu brawls, this film is an atrocity. Polly Shang Kwan and Sam Hui are a couple of con artists who end up befriending a family of street venders and entertainers. But money is always a problem - one of the young girls has her school fees stolen by thugs, the family car breaks down, the landlord is raising the rent, and one of the girls' sleazy boyfriends has a large gambling debt. So Ms. Kwan (who portrays a man for the entire film!!!) lies, cheats, and steals to come up with the cash that everyone needs. Things get more serious when triad thugs kidnap the schoolgirl and sell her to a nasty gang boss, killing Carter Wong in the process. Then the group devises a plan - they decide to dress up Ms. Kwan as a girl (!) and sell her and lovely Angela Mao to the gangsters in order to infiltrate the organization and free their friend. A furious kung fu frenzy goes down with Ms. Kwan and Ms. Mao beating the crap out of the evil bad guys. The film ends with Polly proclaiming that she really is a girl, much to the astonishment of the entire cast. Ugh.

Okay, we've seen this "girl dresses as boy and fools everyone" gag dozens (and maybe hundreds) of times, but this time it's painfully obvious. Polly Shang Kwan is too cute and far too busty to come off as a man. Especially in the tight early 70's fashions that she's wearing. Even in loose fitting clothes you can tell she has a sizeable chest. And to have her pretend to be a man for the entire film? What's the point?!? And then there's the mind-boggling aspect of having her pose as a girl in order to fool the bad guys? What could the filmmakers possibly be thinking? "We need a woman to play the part of a man so that we can have her pose as a woman in the last twenty minutes of the film, and then she can surprise everyone by actually being a woman in the first place." Sure, it makes perfect sense... But regardless of what gender she's supposed to be, she and angelic Angela Mao kick glorious ass throughout the film, and they're the ONLY reason to sit through this abomination - or at least fast forward through it.