The Lucky Stars Series - with Pom Poms thrown in for the hell of it
I had recently watched the latest Sammo Hung film, My Beloved Bodyguard (2016). The film opened to some unfavourable reviews and made me realise how out of touch I am with what modern audiences look for in a film. Because of this I began to look at Sammo Hung’s earlier films, and decided to revisit one of his best known series of films.
The Lucky Stars Series is one of the more popular action comedy series from Hong Kong. Beginning in 1983 and finishing in 1996, it starred some of the biggest stars in the Hong Kong film industry of the time, namely Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan and also gave early roles to future Hong Kong superstars such as Andy Lau, Rosamund Kwan & Michelle Yeoh. The series has gone through lots of ups and downs, with certain entries being better than others. The series has also had a number of tie-ins and spin offs which I have tried to include, although I may have missed some out due to them not officially being part of the series.
The plot lines of most of the Lucky Star films all centre round the same thing, with the gang getting involved in a criminal case and assisting in the capture of the film’s villain usually a renowned criminal, gangster or something similar. Most of the movies run for at least 40 to 45 minutes before they get to the main plot, and they almost always have the characters lusting over younger females, with them creeping about a house trying to trick them into bed. The earlier films in the series have a better balance between action and comedy, with the balance changing as the series went on, due to the changes with the main cast. Apolgies beforehand, as I have been guilty of rambling.
Winners and Sinners – 1983
The first entry of the series. Director & Star Sammo Hung originally got the idea for Winners and Sinners from an old television program that he had been watching, which had a group of policeman coming together and displaying their differing skills. Similar to films such as The Magnificent Seven (1961) or The Dirty Dozen (1967), which also focus on putting a team of individuals together, the film is tonally different from these films, more interested in silly hi-jinks than a coherent story.
The Chinese title of the movie is Five Lucky Stars. Hung thought that the title was appropriate as it was similar to the title of Seven Little Fortunes, the troupe that Hung was part of in the Peking Opera School, which also included Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Yuen Kwai, Yuen Tak, Yuen Mo, Yuen Tau and Yuen Wah.
The plot is based around five prisoners who meet in prison and become friends. They are Teapot (Sammo Hung), Exhaust Pipe (Richard Ng), Rookie (Stanley Fung), Curly (John Shum) and Vaseline (Charlie Chin). Rookie appoints himself as the leader, with Teapot being the resident punching bag, and butt of the gang’s jokes. When they are released from prison they form a company called the Five Star Cleaning Company, which also includes Curly’s sister Shirley, played by Cherie Chung. In typical Lucky Stars fashion, the whole gang act like dogs in heat, vying for Shirley’s attention.
Due to the actions of another criminal who had also recently been released from Prison, the Lucky Stars end up in possession of a briefcase of counterfeit currency. This leads to the second half of the movie, where most of the action takes place. Before this there are a number of smaller action scenes, two of which involve Jackie Chan, who stars here as inept police officer CID 07, who is on the case of the counterfeiters.
All the performances are great. Each of the main gang contributes to the film, with none of them feeling as if they are surplus to requirements. Sammo Hung does have more of a leading role than the other cast members. Hung also doubles as the film’s director and does excellent work, and would only get better. He also co wrote the movie along with Barry Wong, who he had worked with the year before on Carry on Pickpocket (1982). Wong would go on to write a number of films for Hung, not only in the Lucky Stars series, but also Heart of the Dragon (1985), Millionaires Express (1986) and Where’s Officer Tuba? (1986) amongst others.
Some of the other characters can appear sleazy (but funny), especially Charlie Chin as Vaseline. Watching the film in this politically correct generation a viewer has to remember the time these films were made and just go with the flow.
Richard Ng is one of the undisputed stars of the series, and along with Stanley Fung, are the only actors to be appear in every movie of the series. John Shum also makes an impression as the unfortunate looking Curly. Cherie Chung doesn’t get much to do in the film, other than be an object of desire, which can’t be denied, she is good at.
In some countries the film was sold as a Jackie Chan movie. Those expecting this will be disappointed, as he is just a supporting player in the film, and isn’t even part of the main team. His role could probably have been written out of the film, with not much change to the overall film. He does however make quite the impression with his fight scene and crazy stunt sequence, which involves him chasing cars whilst he is on roller skates. Yuen Biao also makes a brief appearance in the film as another police officer who gets into a fight with Chan’s character. Appearing with Biao as his girlfriend is female action star Moon Lee.
Yuen Biao was also involved in the action choreography in the film, working with his Prodigal Son (1981) co-star Lam Ching Ying and Billy Chan. Although this isn’t anywhere close to their best work, there are still a number of excellent fight scenes throughout the film. Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Ying and Billy Chan went on to win Best Action Choreography at the Hong Kong Film Awards for their work on this film.
Fans of Hong Kong action cinema should also keep their eyes peeled for other notable performers such as Mars from The Young Master (1980), James Tien from Lee Rock 1 & 2(1991), Wu Ma from Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) and Dick Wei, from pretty much every Hong Kong action movie in the 80’s.
Pom Pom – 1984
Sharing a lot of the same production team and also plot similarities, the Pom Pom series is considered by many to be an official spin off from the Lucky Stars Series. Produced by Sammo Hung through his own company, Bo Ho Film Company Ltd, the Pom Pom series is another enjoyable Hong Kong comedy series, let down slightly by its obvious lower budget than the Lucky Star series.
Pom Pom stars two of the original Lucky Stars line-up, Richard Ng and John Shum. This time they both play Hong Kong police officers, Chau and Beethoven, on the trail of a drug lord. Unfortunately they are terrible at their jobs, and go on to ruin the case numerous times, be it ruining fingerprints, getting into fights or just pissing of their superiors. Luckily they are backed up by the excellent Deannie Yip, playing an Inspector that takes a fancy to Richard Ng’s character Ah Chau.
I would highly recommend the Pom Pom series to lovers of Hong Kong cinema, but warn them that the Pom Pom series are not action movies. Any action that takes place in the films is well done, but there are no lengthy fight scenes like the lucky Stars series. In this film there is really only one fight scene that takes place between Richard Ng and Dick Wei. Even this is just a scene of Ng getting his ass kicked by Wei. Other action in the movie consists of short scenes of gun fire. Surprisingly, considering the lower scale of action in the movie, it was choreographed by producer Sammo Hung.
As well as starring Ng & Shum from the Lucky Stars series, Sammo Hung, Charlie Chin and Stanley Fung also briefly show up during the film, appearing as their Winners & Sinners characters. James Tien, who played the villain in Winners and Sinners, plays Ng & Shum’s boss as well as Yuen Biao and Jackie Chan making cameo appearances as a truck driver and a police officer. Viewers should also look out for Lam Ching Ying, Wu Ma and the underrated Chin Kar Lok. Best of all is Chung Fat’s cameo as Detective Columbo.
The film is competently directed by Joe Cheung, although he doesn’t do much to distinguish himself from other similar directors of the time. The Chinese translation of Pom Pom is Supernaturally Brave Artillery. Co-incidentally Cheung went on to direct the Yuen Biao vehicle Rosa (1986) which translated in Chinese was Supernaturally Brave Artillery Sequel. Although Rosa is a good movie in itself, it has no connection to the Pom Pom series. Cheung would also go on to direct the enjoyable action comedy Pom Pom and Hot Hot (1992), starring Jacky Cheung and Tung Wai. Despite its title, this again has nothing to do with the series, although I would highly recommend it as a standalone film.
There is no individual script writer listed, with the screen listing being credited to the Bo Ho Writing Team.
Pom Pom has more in common with the films of the Hui Brothers such as The Private Eyes (1976) or Security Unlimited (1981), than it does with the more action orientated Lucky Stars films. As long as you have this in mind there is fun to be had.
The Return of Pom Pom – 1984
Due to the success of the first Pom Pom, a sequel was inevitable. Released in the same year as the first film, The Return of Pom Pom is pretty much more of the same. Both Richard Ng and John Shum return, along with Deannie Yip.
The plot this time involves Chau and Beethoven joining forces with their boss to track down the Flying Spider, a famous criminal who they suspect of stealing government money. Of course this so called plot is just an excuse to join the many scenes of our cast being silly together. Along for the ride this time round is the excellent Kara Hui as Mimi. Fans of Hui will sadly be disappointed by her role here. Mimi is not an action role, even though Mimi is a stunt woman, and is mainly the love interest of John Shum’s character. Her part does add some intrigue into the film when we find out her relationship to the Flying Spider.
Chung Fat also appears once again in another humorous cameo, this time as famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.
The film, even though it has a flimsy plot, does move the characters along, and there is development in their relationships since the first movie. Richard Ng and Deannie Yip’s characters are now married, and this brings some humour and emotion into the film. Unlike The Lucky Stars films, the characters and relationships carry on throughout the series.
Philip Chan takes over directing duties from the first film’s Joe Cheung. Stylistically there isn’t really much change, as both direct in a very workmanlike fashion. Philip Chan is also an actor. As well as appearing as Inspector Chan in the four Pom Pom films, fans of Hong Kong cinema will also recognise him from films such as Flaming Brothers (1987), The Tigers (1991) and Hard Boiled (1992) amongst others. He also wasn’t relegated to only starring in Hong Kong movies, as he also appeared in Hollywood production such as Bloodsport (1988), Double Impact (1991) and even made an appearance in the television series Dallas (1978).
Sammo Hung also returns to produce the film, although unlike the first film which was produced by Bo Ho films and distributed by Golden Harvest, this sequel was distributed by D&B Films, his other production company. D&B films were co-founded in 1983 by Hung, John Shum and Hong Kong business man Dickson Poon. They would go on to distribute the remainder of the Pom Pom series as well as other Hong Kong movie classics such as Yes Madam (1985), Tiger Cage (1988) and In the Line of Duty 4 (1989).
This time the action, what there is, was left to actor Lam Ching Ying to choreograph, a role he has carried out in a number of Hung produced films.
The Return of Pom Pom is another enjoyable Hong Kong comedy, on par with the first in the series.
My Lucky Stars – 1985
My Lucky Stars has the same framework as the first in the series, but there are considerable differences to the plot and characters. The film is not a direct sequel to the first film as the cast play different characters, even if they are only slight variations on what they had played in the previous film.
This time round, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao play Muscles and Ricky, partners in the Hong Kong police force. They travel to Tokyo to capture a corrupt police officer played by Lam Ching Ying, who has joined up with gangsters. The opening action scene takes place in an amusement park, which also secretly houses the gangster’s lair underneath. The action is terrific and an improvement on the already impressive action of the first film. During the fight, Yuen Biao’s character is kidnapped, and Muscles brings in his orphanage friends, the Five Lucky Stars to assist, as he can’t trust other police officers.
This is where the film begins to differ from the original. In the first film, Jackie Chan didn’t know The Lucky Stars, where in this they are friends from their orphanage days. The character names are also different than the first. The gang is now made up of Kid-stuff (Sammo Hung), Rawhide (Stanley Fung), Herb (Charlie Chin), Sandy (Richard Ng) and Roundhead (Eric Tsang), who replaces John Shum from the original film. Shum couldn’t appear this time round due to his work at the time as a political activist. Their roles within the group have also changed with Hung’s character now being the leader of the group, and Stanley Fung is no longer an undercover police officer.
Sibelle Hu was also added to the cast as Barbara Woo, a rookie police officer assigned to The Lucky Stars to keep them in line. This really amounts to the same situation of them all vying for her attention and trying to get her into bed. Although these scenes are humorous, they can become repetitive, as they are in almost every entry of the series.
As in the first movie, this is primarily a Sammo Hung film, with the rest of the Lucky Stars in support. Hung also once again directs but handed over writing duties to Barry Wong, who he co-wrote the first film with. Wong co-wrote the film with Szeto Cheuk-Hon who had also wrote other Sammo Hung movies such as Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind (1980) and Dragons Forever (1987).
Jackie Chan has more screen time than he did in the first film, although there are large parts of the film that he doesn’t appear, with the majority of his screen time being taken up with the action packed finale. Unfortunately Yuen Biao is absent for the majority of the film, as he gets kidnapped in the opening scenes and only shows intermittingly throughout. Japanese actress Michiko Nishiwaki makes an appearance as a gang fighter who takes on Kid-stuff in the finale. This scene is played more for laughs, and those expecting a lengthy fight between these two will be disappointed. Like in the first film there are also a number of appearances from other Hong Kong stars such as Lau Kar Wing, Yuen Wah, Bolo Yeung and once again Dick Wei.
As mentioned before, the action scenes are excellent, as had come to be expected from a film directed by Sammo Hung. Yuen Biao and Lam Ching Ying were once again on action choreography duties, which earned them a nomination for best action choreography at the Hong Film Awards. They sadly didn’t win this time.
My Lucky Stars was the first film in Hong Kong to gross more than 30 million Hong Kong dollars at the Hong Kong box office.
Mr Boo Meets Pom Pom – 1985
The third in the Pom Pom series changes things up a little, with the main focus of the film being split between the original stars of the series and comedy superstar Michael Hui. It is understandable why the producers would want to involve the talents of Michael Hui, as at the time he was one of Hong Kong’s foremost comedians. It also had him reprising one of his more popular characters; Mr Boo teaming up with the series already established stars, Richard Ng & John Shum. Mr Boo Meets Pom Pom should have proved to be the best of the series.
The plot involves Mr Boo teaming up with Chau and Beethoven to uncover and capture a diamond smuggler. Unbeknown to Chau and Beethoven, Hui’s real motives for catching this smuggler are that he thinks the smuggler is trying to steal his wife. This is pretty much it for the plot. Just an excuse as usual for the characters to get involved in various comedy sketches. Taking the trio to Japan, this looks to be one of the more expensive entries in the series.
Although still successful as a Hong Kong comedy, and as even part of the Pom Pom series, the main problem with Mr Boo Meets Pom Pom is the different styles of acting incorporated by its stars. Michael Hui is a very gifted comedy performer, as is Richard Ng and John Shum. The issue is the differing styles of comedy with Ng and Shum’s over the top physical comedy jarring with the more subtle comedy of Hui. Due to this the film can feel disjointed, and proves to be the weakest of the series. There are some very funny scenes however including a hilarious dinner scene and a fight scene between Hui and a Sumo wrestler being two of the highlights.
As well as Ng, Shum and Hui, Deannie Yip is also back as Chau’s long suffering wife, although does seem to take a back seat this time, possibly due to the cast additions. The usual faces are also present. Philip Chan is once again Chau and Beethoven’s boss, and Chung Fat makes his obligatory cameo appearance.
Directing duties are taken over this time by actor/director Wu Ma. Like Joe Cheung & Philip Chan before him, he doesn’t bring anything new to the plate. Like Chan, he was much more successful as an actor than as a director. Ma is probably best known in the West for his role in Ching Siu Tungs A Chinese Ghost Story(1987), as a Taoist priest. Ma acted in over 260 films in his career. The best of his films as a director would be The Dead and the Deadly (1982) which he also co starred in with Sammo Hung, Picture of a Nymph (1988), which he also co starred in with Yuen Biao and the John Woo movie Just Heroes (1989) which he co-directed and once again co-starred in.
Sammo Hung is once again back as producer, with action choreography being carried out by the Sammo Hung Stuntmen’s Association. Action once again is limited to a few scenes throughout the movie.
Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars – 1985
The third in the Lucky Stars series is probably the best. Although still essentially a comedy, there seems to be a stronger focus on action this time, with a number of excellent action scenes throughout.
The Lucky Stars this time are assigned a job by the police. They are to let an actress, played by Rosamund Kwan, stay with them for her protection. This is due to her having information on a crime syndicate, who have sent three assassins after her. At the same time Ricky (Yuen Biao) and Barbara (Sibelle Hu) stay at her home in order to capture the assassins that are sent after her. To be honest she may have been safer with the assassins, as the Lucky Stars do their usual and chase the poor women about the house, whilst she has to spur their sexual advances. Sibelle Hu must have been glad though, as the same thing happened to her in the previous film.
Sammo Hung once again does double duties, starring as lead character Kid-stuff and also working behind the camera as director. Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao also return from the previous movie. Biao’s role is especially larger than what he had played in the previous entry, taking part in a good amount of the films action scenes. One of his most memorable scenes in the film is his first appearance alongside Jackie Chan and a very youthful Andy Lau. All three of them take part in an excellent fight scene. Chan & Biao are expectedly great, but Lau also displays considerable skills. Unfortunately, other than a small appearance towards the end of the film, this is Lau’s only appearance.
As well as having the main cast from the previous movie, John Shum, who starred in the first entry Winners and Sinners, also returns. This time Shum isn’t part of the Lucky Stars team, instead playing a supporting role as an out of work actor. Charlie Chin’s appearance as Herb in the film is also limited to no more than a cameo appearance, where he hands over the reins to his brother Pagoda played by Michael Miu. Miu is decent in the role but doesn’t make as much of an impression as Chin had in the previous two films.
Chung Fat, Richard Norton and Yusuaki Kurata play the assassins that are sent after Rosamund Kwan’s character. Each of them gets to take part in the films action and show off their skills, especially during the action packed finale. The end fight scene is between Richard Norton and Sammo Hung. Apparently the fight was originally to be between Norton and Jackie Chan, but due to Chan having injured himself previously, the film had to be reworked and Hung replaced him.
The excellent Richard Norton has had a varied career as an actor, stuntman and fight choreographer. As well as working in Hollywood, he has appeared in a number of Hong Kong action movies. He would go on to work with Sammo Hung again in Millionaires Express (1986) and Mr Nice Guy (1997), both of which Hung directed. He would also co star alongside Jackie Chan in City Hunter (1993) and the mentioned Mr Nice Guy.
Yasuaki Kurata should be well known to fans of Hong Kong cinema. Although hailing from Japan, he has appeared in numerous Hong Kong action movies. As well as working again with Sammo Hung on Millionaires Express & Eastern Condors (1987), he has also made appearances in films such as Aces Go Places 2 (1984), Fist of Legend (1994) and Conman in Tokyo (2000).
Chung Fat is also a face that any viewer of Hong Kong cinema throughout the 80’s and 90’s should recognise. A lot of people may not remember his name, but he always brightens up a film when he appears. Appearing in over 90 films, he was never the leading man, but always gives able support in such films as By Hook Or By Crook (1980), Mr Vampire Part 2 (1986) and the Haunted Cop Shop (1987).
Writers Barry Wong and Szeto Cheuk-hon also return from the previous movie, but are joined by additional writers Barry Haigh and Kin Lo. Haigh (credited in the film as Barry Huigh) seems to have worked more as a voice over actor, with this being his only movie as a credited writer. Kin Lo is somewhat more prolific working as both a director and writer. He worked again with Sammo Hung, having had a hand in the writing of Pedicab Driver (1989). He also directed the lesser known films Into the Fire (1989) and the supernatural comedy Banana Spirit (1992), starring a pre stardom Francis Ng. I wouldn’t recommend either of these films, unless you are extremely curious.
Pom Pom Strikes Back – 1986
The fourth and last part of the Pom Pom series. Once again Richard Ng and John Shum return as bumbling cops Chau and Beethoven, with Deannie Yip backing them up as Anna, Chau’s long suffering wife. Series regular Philip Chan also returns as their boss, Inspector Chan.
The plot has Chau and Beethoven being assigned to protect a witness from a gang boss’s henchmen, who don’t want her to testify in court. Add in Chau being mistakenly diagnosed with cancer, and all matter of mayhem ensues. Although having the plot concerning cancer, this is probably the best of the series, and a major improvement on the previous entry. There is also more action compared to the previous movies, which is an added bonus.
The Director this time round is Teddy Yip, who directed the excellent Shaw Brothers movie The Black Tavern (1972), amongst others. He is probably better known as an actor, making appearances in some of the more famous Hong Kong action movies of the 80’s and 90’ such as Legacy of Rage (1986), The Killer (1989) and She Shoots Straight (1990). The film was once again written by Jo Chan, who had written parts 2 & 3 of the series. This was the last film he worked on as a writer although he worked as a script consultant on Michelle Yeoh’s Magnificent Warriors (1987).
Although distributed by his company D&B Films, Sammo Hung did not return to produce the fourth film. Producing duties were left this time to star John Shum.
As mentioned before, there is a slightly stronger focus on action this time. Action choreography is carried out by Tung Wei and Kong Tao Hoi. Although the action scenes are good, both have done better work.
Tung Wei, or alternatively Stephen Tung has been action choreographer, director and actor since the 1970’s. He has worked as an action choreographer on a number of excellent action movies such as Crocodile Hunter (1989), Downtown Torpedoes (1997), Purple Storm (1999) and more recently Reign of Assassins (2010), working alongside Donnie Yen. He has also worked as a director on Magic Cop (1990), Fox Hunter (1995), Hitman (1998) and Extreme Challenge (2001). The best of these four films is the action classic Fox Hunter, where I would give Extreme Challenge a miss, unless you wish to see an early performance by martial artists Scott Adkins.
Kong Tao Hoi has also worked in the Hong Kong film industry for a great number of years, alternatively as an actor, director and action choreographer. Some of his more notable films as an action choreographer are Seven Warriors (1989), Black Cat (1991) and also worked on Tung Wei’s Fox Hunter. He also directed the movie Twins Mission (2007), but the less said about that the better.
Lucky Stars Go Places – 1986
Part four in the Lucky Stars series was a slight departure from the previous three movies. Sammo Hung returned to front the franchise, but only in an actor/producer capacity. The director’s chair was filled by his co-star Eric Tsang who fills in for Hung admirably, but with a larger focus on comedy than before. Although the film does have appearances from Lucky Stars Richard Ng, Stanley Fung, Michael Mui and the already mentioned Eric Tsang, the fourth entry focuses mainly on a new Lucky Stars gang.
The movie was also an attempt to combine the Lucky Stars series with the equally popular Aces Go Places series. Director Eric Tsang had previously directed the first two entries in the Aces Go Places series, so would have been the obvious choice to helm the film that would bring the two franchises together. Karl Maka, the star and producer from the Aces Go Places and Sylvia Chang are the only stars from that franchise that appear in Lucky Stars Go Places, with lead actor Sam Hui nowhere in sight.
The plot this time has Kid-stuff being asked by the police to assist in the investigation of an illegal arms trade between a group of terrorists and the Yakuza. Whilst Kid-stuff visits the police station he meets Quito (Sylvia Chang) who he has known since his orphanage days. As they hug each other, Quito’s husband Albert, played by Karl Maka, witnesses this and assumes the two must be having an affair. This leads to Albert trying to spy on the two of them, and involving him in the main case of the arms dealers.
Kid-stuff tries to recruit the usual Lucky Stars, but refuse to help him this time. Kid-stuff then has no choice but to recruit a new gang. The new gang has Top Dog, played by Alan Tam. He isn’t called Top Dog because he is the leader of the gang, but due to his ability to talk to dogs. Other members include Libogen (Billy Lau) and Long Legs (Anthony Chan), two cowardly police officers, Fat Cat; a greedy policeman played by Kent Cheng and Lambo, the ladies man of the group played by Andy Lau. Maria Tung is the last addition to the group, playing Yum Yum whose job it is to get the team in shape. From this they get involved in the same kind of hi-jinks as the previous Lucky Stars Team. Andy Lau had appeared in the previous film in the series, but plays a different role this time, with a lot more screen time.
Everyone in the cast seems to be enjoying themselves, and audiences know what to expect by this point in the series. Certain fans may be upset by the lack of Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao this time. Unfortunately Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars proved to be the last entry in the Lucky Stars series that the two of them took part in.
Karl Maka and Sylvia Chang pretty much play their characters from the Aces go Places series, although the character names are slightly different due to this series being produced by Golden Harvest. Karl Maka would partner up once again with Sammo Hung in Skinny Tiger & Fatty Dragon (1990). Anyone who is a fan of either the Lucky Stars or Aces series should give it a look.
As already mentioned, Eric Tsang takes over directing duties this time. Tsang has had a varied career in the Hong Kong movie industry, working as an actor, director, producer, writer and surprisingly stuntman. Final Victory (1987), Gen X Cops (1999) and the Infernal Affairs Trilogy (2002/2003) is just a few examples of his work as an actor. As a director he has worked on a number of popular films such as Fatal Vacation (1990), which he also starred in, The Tigers (1991) as well as the already mentioned Aces go Places movies.
Barry Wong also once again returns on writing duties, although it seems a number of people had a hand in constructing the story this time including director Eric Tsang, stars Sammo Hung & Karl Maka and a number of other people. Due to the hyperactive nature of the series this never becomes noticeable, as the films have always felt disjointed to an extent.
Action Choreography was carried out by the Sammo Hung Stuntmen’s Association. As previously mentioned, there is less action than before, but there is still a good number of action scenes through-out, and the lengthy action climax includes a number of well choreographed fight scenes including Andy Lau fighting with a three section staff which is impressive (this scene is cut from certain releases of the film).
Considering that Lucky Stars Go Places combines two big Hong Kong franchises, it is disappointing that it is one of the poorer entries. Although it is enjoyable, you can’t help wonder how good it would have been if they were able to tempt back Jackie Chan & Yuen Biao and also have Sam Hui make an appearance. The film probably would have become the most memorable of the series. Instead it is an enjoyable addition to the series with some major drawbacks mainly being that the original Lucky Stars only appear in what amounts to cameo roles.
This is also the last entry of the series to be distributed by Golden Harvest.
Return of the Lucky Stars – 1989
Number five in the series, and the first in the series not to include series stalwart Sammo Hung. His absence is surely felt, although considering the amount of changes from the previous films in the series, Return of the Lucky Stars turns out to be one of the better entries of the series.
Although Kid-stuff (Sammo Hung) doesn’t return, Rawhide (Stanley Fung), Roundhead (Eric Tsang), Pagoda (Michael Miu) and Sandy (Richard Ng) all return from the previous movie as the Lucky Stars. Unlike the previous film, they are all back to being the main focus, with the younger gang that was introduced in the last movie being absent. Although somewhat slower than their younger counterparts, it’s great to have them back and none of them disappoint.
This time the Lucky Stars are coerced by Supt Walter Tso (Cho Tat Wah), to go undercover in prison in order to rescue Big Dai (Lo Hoi-Pang). Big Dai is a reformed gang boss, who is betrayed by his brother Richard (Wong Ching) and ends up sent to prison. It is up to the Lucky Stars to save him. This means the usual crazy escapades taking place such as the Lucky Stars dressing as women to get close to someone, or pretending to be a ghost to scare their secretary into bed. This is pretty much par for the course by now, and to be expected.
Stanley Fung, who plays Rawhide, also co-wrote and directed the movie. As well as acting in over 120 films, he also directed a number of Hong Kong movies. Unfortunately none of his films as director, other than Return of the Lucky Stars or possibly The Goofy Gang (1987) are worthwhile. Luckily as an actor he is much more dependable and is a worthy addition to mostly any film he appears in.
Wallace Cheung takes over as producer this time. Cheung produced a number of disposable but enjoyable Hong Kong movies during the 80’s and 90’s. The most enjoyable of these are probably being Magic Crystal (1986), Runaway Blues (1989) and The Last Blood (1991).
The film was also co-written by star/director Stanley Fung. The other writer on the film was Wong Jing, who was yet to become the prolific filmmaker he has become. In the same year he would write and direct his most popular film, God of Gamblers (1989), which he would return to again and again through the years, with varying results.
Although there is an absence of proper martial artists in the film, there is still a decent amount of action throughout, a lot of it played for laughs. The action scenes were choreographed by the excellent Lau Kar-Wing, who has choreographed some of the best action scenes in the business. He has worked with Ringo Lam, choreographing the action scenes in both Prison on Fire (1988) and Full Contact (1992). He has also worked on Aces go Places 2 (1983), Armour of God (1987) and Once Upon a Time in China (1991) amongst others. In addition to acting in over 120 films, he has also worked as a director. The most notable films he has directed are Odd Couple (1979), which he also co-stars in, Those Merry Souls (1985), the excellent heroic bloodshed drama, The Dragon Family (1988) and the afore mentioned Skinny Tiger & Fatty Dragon.
Ghost Punting – 1992
Ghost Punting signals a change of genre for the series. The sixth part of the series changes from the usual crime caper and becomes a supernatural comedy. This actually works well, partly due to the return of a number of the series regulars.
The Lucky Stars are on vacation this time and spend it in a spooky castle, haunted by a nymphomaniac ghost. Four policewomen are sent to investigate, and you can pretty much guess the rest. The film ends up having the team having a showdown with the ghost’s killer.
Sammo Hung is back leading the team as Kid-stuff. As well as Hung, we also have the return of Charlie Chin. This is his first appearance in the series since Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars. Unfortunately this was also the last film that he acted in. Due to Chin taking his place in the gang, Michael Miu doesn’t return as Pagoda. Sibelle Hu once again stars as Barbara Wu, a role she hadn’t played since 1985, although it could be argued that it is the same character that she appears as in The Inspector Wears Skirts (1988), which was produced by Jackie Chan. As well as Hung, Chin & Hu, series regulars Richard Ng, Stanley Fung and Eric Tsang are also back and do their usual good work.
Unlike the previous films, Ghost Punting is the work of four different directors. Sammo Hung, Eric Tsang, Yuen Kwai and Ricky Lau all participated in the directing of the movie. This is actually common with a lot of Hong Kong films, such as the Jackie Chan movies Drunken Master 2 (1994) and Thunderbolt (1995) which both have a number of directors.
Teddy Yip, the director of Pom Pom Strikes Back, produces this time. This wasn’t the only supernatural comedy he produced this year, with him also working on Banana Spirit and Mr Vampire 1992 (1992).
Barry Wong, who had written the first four films in the series’ returns once again as script writer. This would be the last film that Wong wrote before his untimely death in 1991, at the age of only 45.
Action choreography was once again carried out by Sammo Hung’s Stuntmen’s Association. In addition to their work, Co-director Yuen Kwai also assisted in the action choreography.
How to Meet the Lucky Stars – 1996
The last film to date in the Lucky Stars series. Made four years after Ghost Punting, it was released as a benefit for the film director Lo Wei, who passed away the same year of the film’s release.
The plot revolves around the death of the King of Gamblers, played by Shaw Brothers legend Chen Kuan Tai. After he is beaten by The Gambling Flower (Kung Suet-fa), he commits suicide. His daughter decides that she is going to get revenge against Gambling Flower and gets help from her father’s friend, returning character Inspector Wah (Cho Tat-wah). Wah then enlists the Lucky Stars to help him. From there it’s the usual silliness but nowhere as inspired as in the past, and is the first film in the series that is actually boring.
How to Meet the Lucky Stars is definitely the poorest of the series, with lower production values than previous entries. Sammo Hung, Richard Ng, Eric Tsang and the returning Michael Mui as Pagoda return as the Lucky Stars. They also have the new addition of Vincent Lau as Leung, an attempt to inject new blood into the team, although it seems too late at this point in the series. Francoise Yip also appears to play the usual female role, which means she is the potential love interest of the whole team. It is obvious that the cast are just going through the motions, and probably only agreed to appear due to the circumstances of Lo Wei, a director a number of the actors had worked with in the past.
There are a number of cameo appearances from old time Hong Kong movie stars such as Nora Miao, probably most famous to Western audiences as the female star of the Bruce Lee movies Fist of Fury (1972) and Way of the Dragon (1972). Also look out for Cheng Pei-pei, star of countless Hong Kong martial arts movies, the most famous of these being King Hu’s Come Drink With Me (1966) and its sequel, the Chang Cheh directed Golden Swallow (1968). More recently she appeared as the villain in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
The film was directed by the excellent Frankie Chan. Chan has acted in some great films throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, most notably as the villain in The Prodigal Son (1981) and also leading roles in films such as The Good, the Bad & the Beauty (1988), The Outlaw Brothers (1990) and A Warriors Tragedy (1993), the three of which he also directed. The main problem with Chan as a director is that he hasn’t evolved with the times and his films still feel as if they belong in the 1980’s. Even his most recent output, The Legendary Amazons (2011) is guilty of this. In Hong Kong, Chan is probably best known as a film composer, composing music for over 350 films throughout his career.
Eric Tsang, who as well as starring as Roundhead, produced the film. The film had three script writers, Lee Chi Wai, Lee Bing Gwong & Ivy Lee Mo-king. Neither of them really does much with the script, but were possibly restricted with what they could do with the low cost production. Lee Chi Wai only ever worked on this one film. Lee Bing Gwong is slightly more prolific, co writing Frankie Chan’s earlier movie A Warriors Tragedy as well as directing a number of Hong Kong movies, the most notable of these being The Lord of Amusement (1999), made in the same vein as The Lucky Stars films. Ivy Lee Mo-king is credited as writer on three other films, the most famous probably being Black Cat 2 (1992).
Action choreography was carried out by Yuen Cheung Yan & Mars. This is neither of their best work, but there is just enough action involved to keep you satisfied. Yuen Cheung Yan is part of the famous Yuen Clan and brother to Yuen Woo Ping. He has been action director on over 100 films, a good number of them being directed or produced by his brother. Some notable examples of his work are Iron Monkey (1993), Tai Chi Master (1993) and True Legend (2010). He has also worked in Hollywood on the Charlie’s Angels films.
It is unfortunate that this turned out to be the last film in the franchise. The film feels more like a rip off of the God of Gamblers series than a Lucky Stars film. This would have been due to the popularity of gambling films of the time. Unfortunately this can’t live up to God of Gamblers, and isn’t even as good as Saint of Gamblers (1995), the God of Gamblers series’ worst film. Hopefully it isn’t too late to get the old gang back together to do one last film together with the original line-up, and end the series in a positive note.