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  Lizard, The Who was that masked man?
Year: 1972
Director: Chu Yuan
Stars: Connie Chan Po-Chu, Yueh Hua, Lo Lieh, Yeung Chi-Hing, Gu Wen-Zhong, Lydia Shum, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Chan Ho, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Wu Ma
Genre: Action, Martial Arts, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Prowling the streets of Hong Kong at the turn of the century, a masked thief known as the Lizard robs from the rich to feed the poor. Gutsy kung fu gal Xiao Ju (Connie Chan Po-Chu) and her pals (including a young Wu Ma) reckon the Lizard is a righteous hero socking it to the corrupt Colonial authorities. But he is a pain in the ass for her police detective grandfather (Yeung Chi-Hing). He and his stuttering, slow-witted partner Cheng Long (Yueh Hua) are always two steps behind the wily super-thief, much to the frustration of Chief of Police Chen Can (Lo Lieh). If Chief Chen's badass white suit makes him look like a pimp, that's because he is one. He not only smuggles girls overseas but exports stolen antiques and handles the local gambling racket. Only the Lizard knows the full extent of his evil and resolves to take him down. During a daring jewel heist at the Japanese embassy, it looks like the Lizard is going to get caught until Xiao Ju deduces the hero is really mild-mannered Cheng Long. She not only helps him escape but joins his fight for justice.

Strangely enough, Shaw Brothers and star Yueh Hua made a movie almost identical to this one five years earlier called Sweet is Revenge (1967). Hua even wore the same black mask and outfit. No-one ever admitted The Lizard was any kind of a remake. Superior direction by the great Chu Yuan makes a significant difference although this remains one of his lesser movies. In Hong Kong The Lizard is remembered for one thing only which is being the last film for beloved teen idol Connie Chan Po-Chu. In fact Connie handles as much, if not more of the action than Yueh Hua rendering the film somewhat akin to a Batman movie told exclusively from Batgirl's point of view. Known affectionately as the 'Movie Fan Princess' by legions of Cantonese admirers, she was daughter of famed opera star Chan Fei-Nung and already a seasoned stage performer by the time of her film debut in 1959. Throughout the Sixties Connie supposedly made more than two-hundred and thirty films, most notably Chu Yuan's seminal superheroine adventure Black Rose (1965), its sequel The Spy with My Face (1966) and the archetypal 'Jane Bond' film, er, Lady Bond (1966). At twenty-four she moved to America to further her education, returning briefly to round off her movie career with The Lizard. Then in 1999, after a twenty-five year absence she made a spectacular comeback on the stage followed by another triumphant return two years later. For a nostalgic older generation Connie Chan Po-Chu remains the embodiment of a golden age in Cantonese cinema.

Tapping a similar theme of Chinese pride and anti-colonialism found in Fist of Fury (1972), The Lizard spins a pantomime yarn that is less than subtle. Every rich person in the story is a self-serving scumbag inviting the viewer to cheer their downfall at the hands of a righteous Robin Hood-like hero. It is also a variation on the old Zorro story with the hero posing as a simpleton. Things get off to a rather racy start when Cheng Long sneaks into a bedroom to steal some jewels and spies a voluptuous, naked European woman getting it on with her (fully clothed) lover. However, aside from this saucy intro and one sadistic scene where the captive heroes are whipped the tone is almost family friendly. There is a lot of goofy comedy and saccharine romance ("You are the cutest lizard in the world"). Though not a long film by any means the pace tends to lag despite the feel-good factor in watching Cheng Long and Xiao Ju distribute stolen wealth among the poor. In an interesting twist the cops frame Cheng Long as the thief so Chen Can can marry Xiao Ju, little realizing he really is the Lizard. Thereafter Xiao Ju and her grandfather hatch an elaborate scheme to prove the Lizard is still at large, but the film exhausts plot a third of the way through and resorts to endless punch-ups to pad things out. After a relatively light-hearted two-thirds the brutal finale, which packs multiple casualties, only adds to the film's uneven nature.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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