The third installment in the Lam Ah-Chun franchise (1978-1982), directed by John Woo, Plain Jane To the Rescue (1982), is unique among Hong Kong films because most of them are still escapist stuff. On the other hand, from The Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984) to the handover of Hong Kong to China (1997) dramatically weakened the HongKongers’ political capability to cope with monopolists. Hence, this film could only be replicated according to the exact same script yet without its societal momentum and vitality in contrast today.
Simply, you can’t find those fantastic cast and crew of the golden era, such as the protagonist, a boisterous child, young Josephine Siao (Jane) and Ricky Hui (Fang), even though the greatest Hong Kong film director, John Woo, redirects it in 2024 because the entire personnel and quality of people’s livelihood have been degraded by the neoliberal corporatist oligarchy of this city.
However, it still could be a creative experiment to remake it in the way of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (1998) by using exactly the same script and mis en scene. Then, it makes the point clearer to every Hong Kong film fan about what malicious external and internal factors ruined the brand ultimately.
Furthermore, this slapstick comedy is not only in the tradition of Charles Chaplin (Modern Times, 1936) and Michael Hui’s Cantonese slapstick comedies (The Private Eyes, 1976) of the 70s, but it is also a creative response of Hong Kong filmmakers to Vittorio De Sica’s The Roof (1956) with Hong Kong characteristics.
Interestingly, the protagonists, Lee Kwok-kit (Sam Hui) and Pighead (Ricky Hui) in The Private Eyes (1976) became the female version, Jane/ Lam Ah-Chun (Josephine Siao; this iconic female character was from her popular TV series and earlier films, Lam Ah-Chun, 1978 and Lam Ah-Chun Blunders Again, 1979) and Fang (Ricky Hui). Similarly, the antagonist of The Private Eyes (1976), a petty bourgeois, Wong Yuk-see (Michael Hui), became the antagonist of Plain Jane To the Rescue (1982), Sand’s Son, CEO (Charlie Cho) of the Z-Corp.(a caricature of the big four real estate conglomerates later successfully replaced leading British conglomerates in the 80s).
When the audience sees the first Kai Tak Airport sequence, in which illegal housing units of a poor resident are violently removed by the landsharks of the Z-Corp. Not only is this Plain Jane To the Rescue (1982) and The Roof (1956) in similar inhumane conditions, but it also indicates a certain media custom of this city of not reporting landsharks and their behavior. This kind of media custom of deliberate avoidance of certain social entities and their behaviors is in other places seen as deliberate avoidance of reporting yakuza group trips in Japan and the opposite custom of Taiwan. In the latter, yakuza group visits to Taiwan are reported as diplomatic VIPs’ trips to the island. This is why Plain Jane To the Rescue (1982) is significantly important, like Juzo Itami’s A Taxing Woman's Return (1987) in social reality.
The narrative is that straggling proletarians, Jane and Fang face threats from the landsharks of the ‘wanna-be-an oligarch’ Z-Corp. CEO. At the end, Jane and Fang get legal documents necessary to protect their small relatives signed by Sand, the abandoned father of the CEO, via the tunnel incident accidentally caused by a mad fugitive who lost his baby in a fire incident in the past. In the course of the improvised hostage negotiations, Jane and Fang intelligently use the Hong Kong British police to rescue Sand from illegal detainment by the Z-Corp. The ending is like the resolution of The Goonies (1985), yet it does not mean the collapse of the Z-Corp. and its greedy CEO.
In conclusion, Dir. John Woo bravely criticized the Z-Corp. as ‘wanna-be oligarchs’ in the transitional period (started by the official visit of the best Hong Kong Governor, Crawford Murray MacLehose, to Beijing in 1979) , who later replaced the British leading conglomerates by highlighting the humanitarian crisis of the poor and crimes of bloodless landsharks of unrestrained real estate mafias of this city. Unfortunately, the media custom of this city is still unchanged after the release of this film in 1982, the Hong Kong media’s avoidance of reporting landsharks of oligarchs.
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