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  5 Billion Dollar Legacy, The Break out the Scooby Snacks
Year: 1969
Director: Umetsugu Inoue
Stars: Margaret Hsing Hui, Chin Feng, Wang Ping, Kuo Man-Na, Lee Ho
Genre: Horror, Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Crippled billionaire Lin Zhongyuan mails a letter to each of his long-lost daughters, hoping he’ll find an heir worthy to inherit his vast fortune in Japanese real estate. Good girl Peifang (Margaret Hsing Hui) hopes to enlist daddy’s help and care for her sick mom. Money-grubbing floozy Li Rong Rong (Kuo Man-Na) ditches her day job seducing rich sugar daddies for her thug boyfriend to blackmail. Blind orphan Jingxian (Wang Ping) is just happy to find a family. The sisters finally meet aboard their plane to Japan, where Peifang is also quite taken with handsome Dr. Zhang Bin (Chin Feng), en route to investigate the death of his lawyer uncle in a mysterious hit-and-run.

After an emotional reunion with Lin at his creepy mansion near Mount Fuji, the girls meet cousin Peter, a swarthy, sports car driving, medallion man with a porn star moustache. He isn’t satisfied with a piddling share of uncle’s fortune. He wants the whole enchilada. As does shady lawyer Hei Yinghui (Lee Ho). While Li Rong Rong irks her boyfriend by cosying up to the scheming Peter, Peifang and Jingxian are freaked by spooky sounds at night. Bodies start piling up. And a hideously disfigured monster lurks in the shadows.

Shaw Brothers produced this Scooby-Doo style haunted house murder mystery, a throwback to gothic thrillers like The Cat and the Canary (1927). It’s another leftfield item from Japanese writer-director Umetsugu Inoue (who worked under a Chinese pseudonym at Shaw’s), who made female James Bond caper Operation Lipstick (1967) and sci-fi thriller The Brain Stealers (1968) between his regular output of splashy musicals like Hong Kong Nocturne (1966) and We Love Millionaires (1971) that were very popular with Hong Kong youth audiences in their day.

Inoue takes to the genre with gusto, borrowing from Alfred Hitchcock, James Whale, Agatha Christie and Wait Until Dark (1967) for the nerve-jangling climax. He makes good use of the fog-filled forest and eerily lit mansion, using Dutch angles, garish colours and crash zooms onto the bug-eyed monster to create a comic book mood. However, the pace slackens amidst soap opera romance and his tendency towards heavy-handed moralising. Never a subtle writer, Inoue's heroines might as well have halos over their heads. Sweet-natured Jingxian spends most of her screen time knitting a blanket for daddy’s legs and plans to donate her fortune to the orphanage. Peifang just wants to settle down with nice guy Zhang Bin.

By contrast, Li Rong Rong is a hilariously OTT caricature of a backstabbing bitch, whose attempts to convince Lin she does not want his money (“Oh papa, let me be your legs!”) are unintentionally funny. No surprise she gets knifed in the chest, although oddly the film wheels out another blackmailing hussy (Zhang’s uncle’s mistress) to disrobe for a shower scene before being strangled by the mystery killer. The plot throws a few nice surprises including a big twist near the end that, although guessable, remains satisfyingly perverse in light of the filial theme. Although mostly centred around erstwhile musical stars Margaret Hsing Hui and Chin Feng, it is Wang Ping - who retired after winning a best actress award for Tiger Killer (1982) - who proves the most actively heroic during the well-staged climax. The film has moments to cherish, like the knife fight scored with duelling bongo drums, or a creepy scene where blind Jingxian edges near a window, unaware she is inches away from the monster with the melting face. Yikes!

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Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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