Why going to stay with your in-law’s can have a terrible effect on public and private property…
Comedies of errors have been around for a long time, with the works of George Cukor, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges being good examples. All it takes is one normal thing being viewed, interacted with or come into collision with an abnormal thing for the laugh to begin. My Young Auntie’s hook is the arrival of Cheng Tai-nun (Kara Hui, Wu Xia, Rigor Mortis, The Brave Archer, Dirty Ho) to her nephew’s house in Canton and finding herself out of step with Charlie Yu Tao (Hsiao Ho, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, Iron Monkey, One Nite in Mongkok), her nephew’s son, who has come back from the metropolis of Hong Kong. Of course, a lot goes on before Tai-nun gets there. Namely, getting married to her master so that the master’s brother can’t get his hands on the land the family owns for his own evil purposes. The master asks her to take it the deeds and the plan to his nephew Yu Cheng-chuan (Lau Kar-leung, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, The Trail of the Broken Blade, The Twin Dragons, Seven Swords) for safe keeping. Her evil brother-in-law, Yu Yung-Sheng (Johnny Wang Lung Wei, Death Duel, Crippled Avengers, The Five Venoms, Dirty Ho, Tiger Cage, Project A II), sends his men after her and a demolition derby begins.
The film spends the first ten minutes or so setting all this up and then lets the yuk-yuk’s happen. Charlie is a spoiled ne’er do well who is upset that he has all these rules to follow now that Senior Auntie has come to live with him. Charlie tries to embarrass her for her bumpkin attitudes and then tries to make her leave by herself so he can have the lord of the manor title back. Over time, though, an undeniable attraction goes on between them. Tai-nun is a much better martial artist than he is but he’s no slouch himself. One of the highlights of the two leads fighting together is when the elder Yu makes Charlie take Tai-nun into town to do some shopping. After kitting herself out in a scandalously revealing Cheongsam, the comments and stares of the local men become too much and Tai-nun breaks out some whoop arse. Charlie who was kind of rooting for the local guys gets dragged into it when he goes to Tai-nun’s aid and the whole thing turns into a brawl. The quick manoeuvres and fight choreography are really impressive but that’s only a taste of what’s to come.
The banter and quick fire dialogue between Tai-nun and Charlie and with the rest of the cast is great. They start out perfectly normal but as the scene goes on, one person says the wrong thing or takes something up wrong and people are shouting at one another, then you’re laughing that they got to this place so quickly. Charlie brings his friends from Hong Kong in on his quest to get rid of Tai-nun and this is where the film’s spine starts to develop. An elaborate plan to embarrass Tai-nun with a full ballroom dance complete with garish Western fashions suddenly turns into a free-for-all. The gang and Charlie are having such a great time watching Tai-nun being thrown around by her suitors (also in on it) while dancing, that they don’t notice that Yung-Sheng’s men, who are looking for them, have come into the dance hall. Pretty soon they are fighting for their lives and the dance hall is wrecked. Then everyone’s dragged off to jail. All while Kara Kui and Hsiao Ho move around the room taking on everyone using swords, objects and their bare hands. Lau Kar-Leung’s (Liu Chia-Liang, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, The Spiritual Boxer, Executioners from Shaolin, Legendary Weapons of China) direction keeps the pace up and it doesn’t stop until the police, literally, pour into the scene. Wang Lung Wei is a good villain with plenty of henchmen and toadies to do his bidding but when he is pushed into a corner has enough kung fu skill to make a showdown not only inevitable but enjoyable too. Lau Kar-Leung also peppers the rogues gallery with louts, thugs and assorted ruffians who come across Kara Hui’s fists and come off worse for having done so. Incidentally, during the ballroom scene keep an eye out for Mr. Shaolin himself Gordon Liu in the film as James, one of Charlie’s friends, in an understated but succinct performance.
Where the film’s cast keep your attention, Lar Kar-Leung’s been working on his big set piece. With a film that has the main villain setting it up so attacking means going through the end stage of Double Dragon, the ending was always going to be a brawl. Tai-nun and Charlie break into Yung-Sheng’s house and try and retrieve the deeds that were stolen earlier in the film, Tai-nun is captured and Charlie barely gets away. He finds his father who has been training with the rest of the senior family (Tai-nun recruited them earlier) to take on Yung-Sheng. The lot of them invade the house again and it becomes a royal rumble. It’s a good end with a fantastic fight between Lau Kar-Leung and Wang Lung Wei.
The film is a good introduction to Kara Hui and Lau Kar-Leung’s filmography. Lady is the Boss also with the same two will revisit the same kinds of themes but I have not seen that yet. In My Young Auntie, Ms. Hui holds her own and elevates her performance to be tough as nails, catty, capricious and stubborn as anything. But never arrogant, prideful or rude which is a hard thing to pull off. She has a leading performance in a film where everyone is having the time of their life. Check it out.
My Young Auntie is currently available on US DVD from Dragon Dynasty. Other films from the Shaw Brothers library are available via iTunes in the UK.
Home media details
Distributor: Dragon Dynasty (US)
Edition: DVD (2007)
The transfer from DD is nice with good contrast and excellent colour balance. The print itself looks a bit ropey with some damage to the film in places. Overall, it’s a pleasant experience. In terms of the audio, Mandarin is OK with great translated subtitles for English and Spanish speaking peoples. As to the English dub, well, it’s a dub for a film released in 1981. Take it or leave it. In the extras department, we get some nice interviews with Kara Hui and film experts David Chute and Andy Klein. I liked her interview better. We also get Elvis Mitchell and Andy Klein on a commentary track. It was nice but I’m a snob for liking Bey Logan’s tracks more.